By Alan Sorensen
Havre Fire and Ambulance Department Chief Craig Ellingson encourages area residents to prepare for any possible Y2K disruptions just as they would for any other foreseeable event that might come along throughout the year.
"There have been numerous reports regarding issues associated with the coming of the year 2000 and the operation of computers and computer-driven systems," Ellingson said. "A special U.S. Senate panel ... released a report in March 1999 concluding there is no data to suggest the United States will experience nationwide social or economic problems. The panel did report that some disruptions may occur, but based on current information, these potential disruptions are likely to be localized and limited in scope and duration."
Ellingson has issued some suggestions that may help guard against making things worse should something happen at the turn of the century.
Generators are often used during power outages, and if not properly used and maintained, they can be extremely hazardous. When using a generator remember to read and follow the manufacturer's instructions and guidelines. Only use a generator or other fuel-powered machines outside the home. Carbon monoxide fumes released by a generator are odorless and can quickly overwhelm people indoors. Use the appropriate size and type power cords to carry the electric load. Overloaded cords can overheat and cause fires. Never run cords under rugs or carpets where heat might build up or damage to a cord may go unnoticed.
Alternative heaters need their space. Keep anything combustible at least three feet away. Make sure alternative heaters have tip switches. These tip switches are designed to automatically turn off in the event they tip over. Only use the type of fuel recommended by the manufacturer and follow suggested guidelines. Remember to keep all combustible liquids away from heat sources. Never refill a space heater while it is operating or still hot. Refuel heaters only outdoors. Have a window cracked for ventilation.
Make sure wood stoves are properly installed and at least three feet away from combustible materials. Ensure they have the proper floor support and adequate ventilation. Use a glass or metal screen in front of your fireplace to prevent sparks from igniting nearby carpets, furniture or other combustible items. Make sure to clean your chimney of any creosote build up.
In case the power fails, plan to use alternative cooking devices in accordance with manufacturer's instructions.
Never stockpile fuel or flammable liquids:
For those who feel the need to stock disaster supplies, we remind you that it is extremely dangerous to stockpile any liquid fuels such as gasoline, kerosene, or lantern fuel.
Remember, smoke alarms save lives:
Some smoke alarms may be dependent on your home's electrical service and could be inoperative during a power outage. Check to see if your smoke alarm uses a backup battery and install a new battery at least once a year.
Ellingson said he will release additional reminders for winter-time, turn-of-the-century safety as Dec. 31, 1999 draws nearer.