PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The city of Pittsburgh is in a deep freeze, which can create serious hazards for people, pets and pipes.
KDKA’s Jessica Guay picked up some tips from the Pittsburgh Firefighters’ Union and Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh on how to stay safe in single-digit temperatures with sub-zero wind chills.
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Bundle up with several layers because these freezing temperatures can be dangerous.
“You could end up hypothermic before you know it if you don’t cover your skin and limit your time outside in these temperatures,” said Tim Leech, vice president of the Pittsburgh Firefighters’ Union.
Leech said not only should you limit time outdoors and cover exposed skin, but you should also check in on your neighbors, especially older people, regularly. You may be able to ask them for help if their furnace stops working or the pipes burst.
Don’t forget our four-legged friends either. The biting cold is hard on them too.
“If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pets. If you’re not going to be able to comfortably stay outside for 30 minutes, then neither are they. Keep walks to a minimum, put coats on them if they have them, especially if they are short-haired or finer-haired dogs. And then be really aware of their paw pads. Everyone is putting in salt right now to try to keep the ice from building up. There’s also sharp ice and other stuff on the floor,” said Dr. Ariella Samson, chief veterinarian at Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh.
In Pennsylvania, it is illegal to leave your dogs tied outside for more than 30 minutes when the temperature is below 32 degrees. Anyone who violates this law can face up to seven years behind bars and a $15,000 fine.
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“We see hypothermia like we do with humans, unfortunately. Their core body temperature can drop very low causing their metabolism to shut down and major organs to shut down, their heart slows down dramatically, their breathing slows considerably,” said Dr. Samson.
Before starting a vehicle, knock on the hood because small animals like cats sometimes try to warm up near the engine.
As for your home, make sure the water pipes are well insulated and run a slow trickle of water to keep them from freezing. There are other things you can do to protect the pipes.
“Especially at night when temperatures drop into the single digits, you can open your kitchen cupboards to help the hot air out of your furnace. And any pipes that are on the outside wall of your house are going to freeze faster than those on interior walls,” Leech said. “If you don’t heat your home or building to that temperature, your pipes will burst.”
Snuggle up with your dog or cat, turn up the heat safely, and remember if you use a heater.
“Plug directly into an outlet, never plug into an extension cord, and keep at least 3 feet away from anything flammable,” Leech said.
Leech shared statistics, including that there are 52,000 heating-related home fires each year and that radiators are one of the leading causes of home fires.
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He said don’t use a furnace to heat your home and make sure your furnace is properly vented.