• Dodge drafts by placing rolled up towels under drafty doors or windows.
• Change air filters. Dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy demand.
• Drain any hoses, water lines and air conditioner pipes.
• Put up plastic. Window installation boosts a home’s ability to hold heat.
• Mind the thermostat. For every degree you lower the temperature, you’ll save between 1-3 percent on your heating bill.
Temperatures are expected to be dangerously cold, measuring near or below freezing the later part of this week. For those people who are homeless or need assistance paying their heating bills, area agencies are banding together to help.
The National Weather Service announced that local temperatures will plunge into the low 20s for overnight tonight through Sunday, and the highs will mostly hover around the low to mid 40s today through the weekend.
“We have not had any problems reported so far,” Liberty County EMA Director Mike Hodges said on Monday. “But for the later part of this week we are definitely concerned. We’re supposed to get into the 20s, with 40s for the high. The kind of cold we’re experiencing can be deadly. You cannot survive 20 degrees for an extended period of time.”
Hodges said the county’s EMT crews are prepared to receive cold weather related injury calls.
“We could have some icing problems,” he said. “People need to winterize their homes if they haven’t already, wrap their pipes and that kind of thing.”
Those residents who don’t have housing this winter or need help with utility bills can contact a number of area agencies like the United Way of the Coastal Empire, the Next Step Program or the American Red Cross for assistance, Hodges suggested.
Leah Poole, director of the Liberty County branch of the United Way of the Coastal Empire, said it is getting harder to find funding available for people who need help with utility costs.
Poole said United Way received $11,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for emergency aid money, but these funds were spent in less than three months. She said other area agencies may still have some FEMA funds available. Non-profit organizations can apply to FEMA for the next round of emergency aid funds beginning this month.
Time is also a factor. Poole said she is only in the office through the work week. People may need help after normal business hours, she said.
“We usually refer them to 2-1-1 and it’s completely anonymous. There are operators there 24/7 and that person can let them know if there are resources in their area,” she said.
Poole explained that 2-1-1 is a national United Way call line for social service referrals. The 2-1-1 call center can be found at www.211us.org. The center can refer those who need help with food, housing, employment, health care and counseling to the appropriate agencies.
“You can also call it if you want to give help. It’s a good resource that we try to promote,” she said. “We’ve only had one call today from someone that needed help paying their utility bill. But, it’s only Monday.”
The United Way of Coastal Georgia raises funds for more than 30 agencies and 90-plus programs.
Despite funding cuts, other local groups also do their best to serve the needy year-round.
“We will do our best to find someone shelter. The weather doesn’t change that,” said Amelia Lee, Next Step program coordinator. “If we can’t help them we find someone who can. There are other agencies that provide assistance as well. We have to have a coordinated effort.”
Lee said Next Step had not received many calls for assistance as of Monday. Next Step provides transitional housing and emergency assistance with rent, utilities and shelter.
Mark Hunt, Hinesville branch manager for the American Red Cross, said his office usually refers the homeless to the United Way or the Next Step program for assistance.
“We do disaster relief, so if a family has a fire and is displaced we’ll help them (with shelter),” Hunt said. “We also will work hand-in-hand with our local churches. Everything is dependent on the funds that are available.”
The Red Cross representative said a common cause of fires during the winter comes from the misuse of space heaters. Hunt added he often advises clients who use space heaters to keep them “away from everything,” including draperies, clothing, blankets and furniture, to avoid the risk of fire.