Fairfax County Government Offers Snow Clean-Up Safety Tips
Office of Public Affairs
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 551
Fairfax, VA 22035-0065
Feb. 14, 2003
Fairfax County Government Offers
Snow Clean-Up Safety Tips
Cleaning up after a snow storm is a lot easier if everyone shares the work. Fairfax County government is asking citizens and businesses to help in the clean-up effort by clearing snow:
off the sidewalks in front of your property so children and other
pedestrians have a safe place to walk
around fire hydrants so emergency responders can easily find them
away from road curbs and storm drain inlets to reduce flooding caused
by melting snow
- away from bus stops used by children and commuters
While shoveling is important, Health Department officials caution that it can be dangerous if you are not in good physical condition. Shoveling snow is a stressful activity and you should warm up your muscles with light exercises before starting. Work in short intervals and take frequent breaks to prevent injuries and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. If you have back problems or other medical conditions that prevent you from participating in strenuous activities, ask a neighbor for help or consider paying someone to shovel for you.
County building officials also caution residents that heavy snow should be removed from rooftops, especially flat roofs, as well as decks attached to the house. If you are equipped to access the roof and can do so safely, use extra caution on slippery surfaces and check for overhead power lines before placing or moving ladders. If you are not able to safely clear your roof, get professional help.
Deep snow left to melt on rooftops can stress the structure and cause leaks not normally found with rainfall. Snow drifts that accumulate at roof/wall intersections and melting snow can work its way past the flashing, resulting in water damage inside the structure.
Snow melting from the roof and freezing in the gutter is an additional danger. Water can build up behind the ice and back up under shingles which can cause leaks into the structure. The weight of the ice in the gutter can also stress the gutter system causing gutters and drain pipes to sag or fall off.
Gas utilities recommend using a brush or broom - not a shovel - to clear meters and pipes of snow and icicles to prevent water from leaking into the equipment. Be sure snow is not blocking intake or exhaust vents that go through outside walls. Residents are also encouraged to shovel snow away from foundation walls to limit melting snow from seeping into the structure. And finally, clear snow and ice away from downspouts so that melting water has a path to flow away from the house.
Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is a special risk. CO is a colorless, odorless, toxic gas created when fossil fuels are not burned completely. Several residents have been overcome with CO poisoning as they sat in their cars in a confined area with the motor running. If the area is not well ventilated or the exhaust pipe is blocked CO gas can build up quickly causing a serious medical risk. CO can also be a risk in the home if appliances malfunction or are used improperly. Early symptoms of CO poisoning can include dizziness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, headaches, blurred vision, and confused thinking. If you suspect CO poisoning, leave the area immediately and call 911 from a neighbor's house.
As residents begin to venture out on the roadways, the Fairfax County Police Department reminds drivers to proceed slowly and look out for pedestrians who might be walking on or near the roadway. Snow piled along the road and at intersections may limit visibility for both pedestrians and drivers. If you must walk to your destination, wear bright colored clothing and walk in the direction of oncoming traffic. Stay out of the roadway if possible and realize that drivers might not be able to stop due to road conditions, even if they see you.
For more information, visit the Emergency Information page on the Fairfax County Web site at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/emergency/ or call 703-324-3187, TTY 703-324-2935.