Being prepared for winter

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An Arctic blast that swept into Texas and other parts of the Deep South is something everyone, including those of us who live up North and are more accustomed to wintry weather, should take seriously.

Officials are always concerned about fires this time of year, as people use heaters — sometimes for the first time in a while. Causes varied but include unsafe smoking practices, improper electrical wiring and dangerous home-heating practices.

Many deaths occur in homes that lack working smoke alarms. Make sure you have one, and check to ensure the batteries have power. Among other tips from state and local officials:

— Place space heaters 3-5 feet from combustible objects like blankets. Plug electric heaters directly into wall outlets and not power strips or extension cords. Don’t use stoves or ovens to heat homes, and don’t leave candles or open flames unattended.

— Make sure your loved ones are in a place with safe and adequate heating.

— Brings pets inside or give them warm shelter.

— Insulate exposed outdoor and attic pipes with weather-resistant material.

— Experts caution that freezing weather, coupled with the wind chill, can cause bridges to freeze. If that happens, state and local agencies will decide whether to close any bridges or roads. In the meantime, avoid unnecessary travel during the freeze.

— If you do drive, reduce speed, allow extra time to reach your destination and increase the distance between you and the car in front of you.

— Expect road closures and treacherous conditions. Keep track of road closures by downloading internet advisories or checking with 800 numbers.

And remember the Boy Scouts’ motto: Be prepared.

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