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By Mike Baker, Director of VFIS Risk Control

Frigid temperatures, heavy snow, icy roads, strong winds, flooding and more can make winter particularly dangerous. Make sure your emergency service organization (ESO) is prepared for hazardous weather by checking your station for the following items: 

1. Roof: Remove debris from gutters to allow winter’s rain and melting snow to drain effectively. Clogged drains can form ice dams and allow water to seep into the building. Make sure the downspouts are carrying water away from the foundation or it may cause flooding or other water damage. Also consider a plan to remove snow from roof tops if it appears to be excessive and unsafe. 

2. Exterior Walking Surfaces: Make an effort to repair potholes, depressions and cracks where water could accumulate and freeze, and otherwise form a tripping hazard even without ice. Cracks in walkway surfaces and roadways will likely worsen throughout the winter season if not properly fixed. 

3. Exterior Walls and Windows: Check for cracks on outside walls and window sills and properly seal them to avoid further damage from expansion when penetrating water freezes. 

4. Vegetation: Make sure trees and vegetation are trimmed and away from power lines and buildings. 

5. Interior Flooring: Install proper door matting to protect floors and reduce the chance of slip and fall incidents resulting from tracking outside precipitation into the building. 

6. Carbon Monoxide: Replace batteries in carbon dioxide detectors and maintain open exhaust vents during heavy snowfall events. 

7. HVAC System: Have your HVAC system and vents cleaned and inspected by a professional technician. Keep all combustibles at least three feet away from any heat sources like radiators and space heaters.

8. Develop a Snow Removal Plan: Have a storm maintenance plan and/or equipment in place to deal with timely removal of snow, sleet and ice. When clearing snow, pile it in areas where pedestrian traffic and drivers wouldn’t necessarily come in contact with it. In the same regard, avoid piling it in any sloping areas as to avoid melting snow traveling downhill and refreezing. 

Keeping an ESO facility up and running in winter requires careful thought and planning. With these tips, your department will be better prepared for winter.

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