Local agencies shift to emergency mode due to weather
Several local agencies have transitioned into emergency mode due to the inclement weather in the Aiken area.
Paul Volz, shelter director for the Aiken Salvation Army, said on Tuesday the shelter is operating now like it did earlier in the month when there were nearly 5,000 power outages due to freezing temperatures.
“We'll be on emergency shelter mode, which means we'll let people in and waive their paper work, as long as they have clearance from Public Safety,” Volz said.
He added that shelter rules allow for only a 10-day stay. Once a person checks out, they usually can't come back for 90 days.
“We can waive that rule because people will be coming in to get out of the cold and not for an extended-stay period,” Volz said.
In addition to housing, the shelter will also maintain its soup kitchen hours, which are from noon to 1 p.m. each day.
“Whether they're staying in the shelter or not, the soup kitchen will still be open so people who need a hot meal can still come in and eat,” he added.
In addition to the shelter, the Aiken County chapter of the American Red Cross is making sure it has sufficient amounts of blankets and other items, should it need to respond to an emergency situation, said Joey Hutto, a disaster specialist with the agency.
The Red Cross and Aiken Department of Public Safety advise residents to be safe during the week by abstaining from heating their homes with generators, grills or other gasoline and propane-burning devices, as all can be safety hazards.
To avoid the chance of getting burned by space heaters, make sure electrical cords aren't damaged, never leave one unattended and make sure heaters are placed on a level, hard surface. If fireplaces are used, make sure to cover them with metal or glass to prevent sparks or embers from escaping.
If generators must be used, keep them in an open area to allow carbon monoxide fumes to escape and not in places like an enclosed garage.
“By preparing together for winter storms, we can make our families safer,” said Derek Dugan, executive director of the Aiken Area Red Cross chapter. “The Red Cross can help the community prepare now, before our community is threatened by dangerously low temperatures, snow and ice.”
David Ruth with Aiken County Emergency Management said he was working with several different agencies, including the school district in determining when students should be released from school; working with EMS to make sure they have certain items ready in case of an emergency; and speaking with the Department of Transportation about maintaining roads within the city and county.
“We're just encouraging people to be cautious in this icy weather, and if they don't have to drive this afternoon or evening, we're encouraging them to stay in the house,” Ruth said.
Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard. He joined the paper in June. He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and a graduate of Georgia Southern University. Follow him on Twitter @DerrekAsberry.