It’s Bitter Cold Outside: 5 Things You Should Know

shiny clear ice icicles hang on a clear day

We didn’t get the large snow amounts many of our neighboring areas did, but we sure are experiencing the bitter cold temperatures! And forecasters are calling for even colder temperatures through Sunday.

There are many things you can do to keep your family, home and pets safe until we start thawing out next week. Here are our top five.


1. Take Steps to Avoid Frozen Pipes

Fairfax Water reports that they have already responded to about 250 frozen meters since the cold weather set in. They recommend you take the following steps to avoid frozen pipes:

  • If your water pipes do freeze, never try to thaw a pipe with an open flame or torch. Always be careful of the potential for electric shock in and around standing water.
  • If you will be away from your home, keep the thermostat at a reasonable temperature to make sure all areas with water pipes are kept above freezing.
  • If you haven’t already, make sure the water line to outside faucets is turned off and the line is drained. Drain each outdoor spigot after turning off the valve to prevent any remaining water from freezing and bursting the pipes. Some spigots have anti-siphon devices that must be opened to properly drain the line.
  • Eliminate drafts. Check around the home for areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas and take measures to prevent the flow of cold air in these areas. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated. Insulation supplies are available at your local home improvement or hardware store.
  • If you have questions or need assistance, contact Fairfax Water at 703-698-5800 during normal business hours or after-hours/emergency number 703-698-5613.

Watch video for more tips from Fairfax Water:


2. Dress Warmly to Avoid Frostbite and Hypothermia

We are experiencing unusually cold temperatures for our area and need to be prepared for being outside for any length of time, including if a car breaks down or other unexpected reasons. Hypothermia and frostbite can affect someone quickly in these weather conditions. Here’s what you can do:

  • Avoid overexertion. Cold weather itself, without any physical exertion, puts an extra strain on the heart. If you add to this the strain of heavy physical activity such as shoveling snow, pushing an automobile or even walking too fast or too far, you risk damaging your body.
  • Dress warmly in loose-fitting, layered, lightweight clothing. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Wear a hat. Protect your face and cover your mouth to protect your lungs from very cold air. Wear mittens instead of gloves — they allow your fingers to move freely in contact with one another and will keep your hands much warmer.

How to dress for cold weather.

  • Keep yourself and your clothes dry. Change wet socks and all other wet clothing as quickly as possible to prevent loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.

Watch video on what you should know about hypothermia from our Health Department nurse practitioner:


3. Keep Pets Safe

Animal Protection Police remind you to protect your pets after dog found roaming in below freezing temperatures.

A reminder from our Animal Protection police officers that adequate shelter for a pet, according to the law, must meet all of the following:

  • Be suitable for the species, age, condition, size and type of each animal.
  • Provide adequate space for each animal.
  • Be safe and protect each animal from injury, rain, sleet, snow hail and direct sunlight.
  • Protect each animal from adverse effects of heat or cold and physical suffering.
  • Protect each animal from impairment of health.
  • Be properly lighted and properly cleaned.
  • Enables each animal to be clean and dry, except when detrimental to the species.
  • Provide a solid surface, resting platform, pad, floormat, or similar device that is large enough for the animal to lie on in a normal manner, and can be maintained in a sanitary manner. (This requirement is for cats and dogs).

Questions?  Contact our Animal Protection Police or Animal Shelter.


4. Check on Vulnerable Neighbors

If you have older neighbors or know someone who lives alone, take a few minutes to call or stop by to make sure they are OK and have adequate heat and food.

If you see someone who is unsheltered and needs help, please call our Police non-emergency number 703-691-2131, TTY 711. According to our Office to Prevent and End Homelessness, the county has been housing an average of 200-220 people a night through our hypothermia program during the recent cold weather.


5. Can Your Fireplace Ashes

Our Fire and Rescue Department reports that there have recently been several home fires that were caused by improperly discarded fireplace ashes. Please follow these simple safety tips:

  • Do not discard your ashes into any combustible container such as a paper or plastic bag, a cardboard box, or a plastic trash can.
  • Do not place ash containers on decks, porches, or in garages.
  • Put ashes into a non-combustible metal container with a lid.
  • Pour water into the container to make sure the ashes are cool.
  • Keep your can OUTSIDE the home, away from your fireplace or stove and anything combustible.
  • Teach all family members to be safe with ashes from your fireplace or wood stove.

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