City officials urge caution as freeze plan takes effect, warn of space heater danger

NEW ORLEANS – The city’s freeze plan is in effect as temperatures plummet and frigid arctic air moves across south Louisiana.

Homeless shelters are open and ready for an influx tonight, and emergency crews are on standby.

Residents concerned about freezing pipes should run a thin stream of water from the faucet farthest away from where the home’s water comes in from the street.

Residents are urged to turn off all running water as soon as the temperature goes above 32 degrees.

At an afternoon press conference, New Orleans Fire Department Chief Tim McConnell stressed that all citizens should take extra steps to remain safe during the freeze event.

“As with all cold weather, the onset of cold weather, the risk of death and injury due to residents taking extreme measures to stay warm is increased,” McConnell said. “The risk of fire from alternative heating sources is greatly increased when weather turns this cold, as we expect it to do over the next two days.”

Space heaters are notoriously dangerous, McConnell said, as are all open-flame heaters and generators.

“If you must use one of these heaters, there are several precautions we would urge you to take,” he said. “Ensure that the area is fully ventilated by slightly opening a window to allow fresh air to circulate. With any gas heating appliance, you should have a carbon monoxide detector to warn you of a potential build up of deadly carbon monoxide gas.”

Known as the silent killer, gas heaters and generators can produce a large quantity of carbon monoxide, and should be kept in a well ventilated area or outside and away from living areas.

Furniture, drapes, clothes, and all flammable materials should also be kept a safe distance away, McConnell said.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu urged all citizens to be vigilant and careful, but also said there’s no need to panic.

“Let’s everybody not tempt fate,” Landrieu said. “This is not a catastrophic event, but it certainly can be if we just don’t do the simple things like use common sense and pay attention.”