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County offers winter weather safety tips

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (Jan. 2, 2018)  — As temperatures in the teens and single digits continue the next few days, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett is urging citizens to take time to check on homebound seniors and anyone who may not be able to easily care for themselves. In addition to the elderly, other at-risk populations include young children, anyone with an altered mental status or mental illness, those who remain outdoors for extended periods of time and pets.

“Too many seniors are homebound and have no one to care for them,” said Mayor Burchett. “With the extremely low temperatures expected to continue through the week, I hope neighbors, friends and relatives will take time to check on the elderly and others who may be homebound and in need of help.”

Cold weather also brings an increase in residential use of portable/supplemental heating equipment. These items should be used with caution as heating equipment is a leading cause of home fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, half of home heating equipment fires are reported during the months of December, January and February.

Anyone finding themselves in an emergency situation should call 9-1-1 immediately.

Tips from the Knox County Fire Prevention Bureau and Knox County Health Department:

Quick Tips:

  • Check on elderly neighbors, friends and relatives – make sure they have adequate heating, food, clothing and necessary medications.
  • If using space heaters, make sure to follow the instructions properly and keep them away from any flammable materials.
  • Check the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and test all devices to ensure they are working properly.
  • Never leave candles, fireplaces or other open flames unattended.
  • Bring pets indoors, if possible. Otherwise, ensure adequate shelter and bedding to keep them dry and warm.
  • Avoid going outdoors. However, if you must go outside, dress warmly in layers to limit exposure to the cold.

Fire Prevention:

  • Keep any portable/space heaters at least three feet from anything combustible, including furniture, draperies and bedding, and follow manufacturer’s instructions. Also, do not leave a portable heater on and unattended, or leave it on while you are sleeping or away from your home.
  • Never use your oven or stove top as a heat source.
  • If using a fireplace to heat your home, be sure to follow manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Dispose of any fireplace ashes in a metal container with a lid that can be secured from the top.  Store the container at least 10 feet from any structures, as ashes can maintain their heat for several days.
  • Never leave a fire burning in a fireplace while you are sleeping.
  • Never plug a generator into an outlet in your home, there is a danger of shock and electrocution.
  • Be careful not to overload extension cords, doing so increases the risk of electrical fire.
  • Never use any portable heating device designed for outside use inside your home. Propane-fueled heaters and other camping equipment are not safe for inside use.
  • Make and practice a family fire escape plan. And take in to consideration the cold weather when identifying a meeting place that will provide you and your family shelter from the weather.


  • Results from exposure to cool or cold temperatures and the loss of body heat faster than the body can warm
  • Signs of hypothermia:
    • Adults: shivering/exhaustion, confusion/fumbling hands, memory loss/slurred speech and drowsiness
    • Infants:  bright red, cold skin and very low energy


  • Results from exposed skin becoming so cold it freezes
  • Signs of frostbite:
    • Early on - red painful skin
    • Later - yellow or pale skin
    • Skin feels waxy, firm and numb
  • Can result in loss of affected finger(s) or toe(s)

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:

  • Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if inhaled.
  • The most common symptoms are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.
  • Alternative sources of fuel or electricity for heating, cooling or cooking can cause CO to build up in a home or garage and poison the people and animals inside.
  • CO is found in combustion fumes, such as those produced by small gasoline engines, stoves, generators, lanterns and gas ranges or by burning charcoal and wood.

If CO poisoning, frostbite or hypothermia are suspected, consult a health care professional right away.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention:

  • Never use a gas range or oven to heat a home.
  • Never leave the motor running in a vehicle parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed space, such as a garage.
  • Never run a motor vehicle, generator or any gasoline-powered engine outside an open window, door or vent where exhaust can vent into an enclosed area.
  • Never run a generator or any gasoline-powered engine indoors, even if the doors or windows are open (including garage, basement or attic).
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Knox County

City County Building
400 Main Street
Knoxville, TN 37902

Phone: 865-215-2000

Monday - Friday
8:00 am - 4:30 pm