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How To Protect People, Pets And Pipes During A Deep Freeze

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - The city of Pittsburgh is in a deep freeze, which can create serious dangers for people, pets, and pipes.

KDKA's Jessica Guay gathered some tips from the Pittsburgh Firefighters' Union and Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh on how to stay safe in single-digit temperatures with wind chills below zero.

Bundle up with multiple layers because these frigid temperatures can be dangerous.

"You could end up with hypothermia before you even realize it if you don't keep your skin covered and limit your time outdoors in these temperatures," said Tim Leech, vice president of Pittsburgh Firefighters' Union.

Leech said not only should you limit time outdoors and cover exposed skin, but check on your neighbors regularly, especially the elderly. You may be able to get them help if their furnace stops working or pipes burst.

Also, don't forget our four-legged friends. The bitter cold is hard on them, too.

"If it's too cold for you, it's too cold for your pets. If you're not going to be able to stand outside comfortably for 30 minutes, then neither are they. Keep walks to a minimum, put coats on them if they have them, especially if they are short-haired or thinner-haired dogs. And then be really cognitive of their paw pads. Everyone putting down salt right now to try to keep the ice from building up. There's also sharp ice and other things on the ground," said Dr. Ariella Samson, chief veterinary officer at Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh.

In Pennsylvania, it's illegal to leave your dogs tethered outside for longer than 30 minutes when it's below 32 degrees. Anyone who breaks this law can face up to seven years behind bars and a $15,000 fine.

"We see hypothermia just like we do with humans, unfortunately. Their core body temperature can drop very low, that causes their metabolism to start shutting down and causes major organs to start shutting down, their heart will slow significantly, their breathing will slow significantly," said Dr. Samson.

Before starting a vehicle, knock on the hood because small animals like cats sometimes try to get warm near the engine.

When it comes to your home, make sure water pipes are well-insulated and run a slow trickle of water to keep them from freezing. There are other things you can do to protect pipes.

"Especially at night, when the temperatures drop to the single digits, you can open the cupboards in your kitchen to help the hot air from your furnace. And any pipes that are are on the outside wall of your house, they are going to freeze faster than the ones in the inside walls," Leech said. "If you don't have your house heated or building heated in this temperature, your pipes will burst."

Cuddle up with your dog or cat, crank up the heat safely and remember this if you use a space heater.

"Plug directly into an outlet, never plug into an extension cord, and keep at least 3 feet away from anything flammable," said Leech.

Leech shared the statistics, including that there are 52,000 heating-related home fires each year and space heaters are a leading cause of home fires.

He said do not use an oven to heat your home and make sure your furnace is vented properly.

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