ORANGE COUNTY – As the temperatures drop to record lows in our area, Orange County Emergency Services is reminding you of ways to stay safe under these dangerous conditions. Potential power outages, black ice, and hypothermia can cause unforeseen hazards.

“I think this is just going to be an unusual event. We are asking folks to layer up as much as they can. Make sure that when they are traveling, that they have blankets and extra things just in case they get stuck in their cars or in an accident,” says Jim Groves, Director of Emergency Services for Orange County.

Groves suggests traveling with extra winter clothing and blankets as accidents can happen when residual water freezes on the roadways– causing ice or black ice. If you become stranded due to an accident, extra protection can prevent hypothermia, especially at night when the temperature can drop to near zero degrees.

Kitty litter can also help provide traction if you become stranded.

“It is a very cheap way to get some traction on surfaces,” Groves explains. “As long as it is not too wet and there is ice, it works great. Kitty litter is nothing more than granulated clay, but if it is frozen outside, it does a really good job to help traction.”

Groves says these cold conditions can cause problems for not only people, but pets as well, and he reminds pet owners to keep pets inside. He suggests setting out a fresh bowl of water as often as possible, as their water source will freeze if left outside.

Though we all will want to turn the heat up high, Groves advises to consider reducing your thermostat by a degree or two. This will reduce the demand on the power company and help prevent power outages.

“With this cold weather, our biggest concern is the demand on the utilities or the power companies. If they lose power, people are either going to go to an emergency power source, which is typically a generator, or/and an emergency fuel source, which can be a variety of things.”

Alternative heat sources have a potential to put off a high amount of carbon monoxide, which is odorless and can be deadly in an area that is not well ventilated. Groves warns to never use charcoal as heating source.

“Charcoal gives off just about the highest content of carbon monoxide of anything that you could ever use. It is super deadly when used inside.”

In the event of an emergency situation in our area, Groves says Orange County Emergency Services is prepared.

“We have already conducted a conference call with our school system, with the American Red Cross, and with our local emergency management representatives for the towns. We have a game plan already in place that if we do lose power and we have to open shelters or warming stations, that we are ready to go.”

Groves says the tentative plan is to have three shelters available in the case of mass power outages. Those locations will be announced as necessary.

You can stay with WCHL for updates about shelter availability and also check Orange County EMS’s Twitter and Facebook page.