FAIRMONT, W.Va. – Winter is almost here, and state officials want to make sure everyone is prepared by recognizing “Winter Weather Awareness Week” from Nov. 14-18.  

As the temperatures drop and that thermostat turns up, 911 dispatchers see an increase in call for home fires. Chris McIntire, director of Marion County Emergency Management and Homeland Security said these calls really ramp up in December, January and February.  

 “1 out of 7 home fires is caused by someone trying to heat their home and if we do safe measures, we can prevent a lot of those fires,” McIntire said.

“A lot of portable space heaters are getting too close to items,” Captain Brian Starn of the Fairmont Fire Department said. “You want to make sure you keep that away from potential fire loads whether it be curtains, bedding, any kind of fabric material.”  

Power outages are also common in the winter months.  

“It’s good to have a ‘Go Kit’ that’s packed up where if you have to leave you have supplies that you need. Your medicines and things of that nature,” McIntire said.  

Outside of the home, emergency calls increase for more accidents in the winter. In Marion County, there has already been an increased number of accidents on I-79 in the construction zones during the morning and afternoon commutes. When winter comes, those crash rates might double.  

“Ice is the biggest culprit we have in the county and once that starts, we have wrecks on just about every type of road,” McIntire said.  

Preparing for winter emergencies (Nextstar Media Wire)

“We ask that if you see lights and you see something going on that you slow down and move over,” Captain Starn said.  

Fire officials are part of the crews that dispatchers call to every crash scene. They assist with any medical needs or hazards in the crash. They’re also there to keep the responders themselves safe by blocking lanes and directing traffic – which is part of why the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration is recognizing “Crash Responder Safety Week” from Nov. 14-18.  

“We can’t do anybody any good if we’re not there so we have to protect ourselves first and foremost to make sure that we are able to assist others,” Captain Starn said.  

One of the best ways to prevent a crash in the winter months is to allow a little more time to get to your destination. 

“If people would slow down, check their vehicles to make sure they have proper tires on their vehicle that does decrease the number of crashes that we do have,” McIntire said.