Washington County Sheriff's Office
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The mission of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office is to work in partnership with the community to provide quality public safety services in a reasonable manner through innovation, leadership, and the cooperation of dedicated people.
Winter Weather Awareness Week
Winter is a big deal in Minnesota, and even when it's really cold and snowy, it doesn't stop us from doing things. To have a safe and fun winter, it's important to know about the possible dangers of winter weather and how to stay safe. This week, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) are hosting Winter Weather Awareness Week to help everyone in Minnesota stay safe during winter.
Winter weather messaging include the following:
- 📈 OUTLOOK: Winter storm conditions are possible in the next 2-5 days. Stay tuned to local media for updates.
- 👀 WATCH: Winter storm conditions are possible within the next 36-48 hours. Prepare now!
- 🚨 WARNING: Life-threatening severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours. Act now.
- ⚠️ ADVISORY: Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. If you are cautious, these situations should not be life threatening.
Minnesotans enjoying spending time outdoors in winter, having fun and recreation—snowmobiling, skiing, ice skating, sledding and many other activities all season long. Take precautions to stay be safe and have fun.
When is ice safe?
You can't judge the strength of ice just by its appearance, age, thickness, temperature, or whether or not the ice is covered with snow. Strength is based on all these factors. In addition, the depth of water under the ice, size of the water body, water chemistry and currents, distribution of load on the ice and local climate conditions all play a factor.
Abnormally low body temperature and frostbite are both dangerous conditions that can happen when a person is exposed to extremely cold temperatures. In very cold weather, a person's body can lose heat faster than they can produce it, which results in hypothermia. Frostbite is the freezing of skin and extremities on the body, with the nose, cheeks, ears, fingers, and toes most commonly affected.
While shoveling snow can be good exercise, it can also be deadly for optimistic people who take on more than they can handle. Take it easy, take frequent breaks, and never work to the point of exhaustion. Warm up before starting the job and stretch both before and after shoveling. If possible, shovel only fresh snow that is still relatively powdery. It is easier to shovel than wet, packed-down snow.
Holiday decorating goes a long way to help brighten up our wintery days and long nights. Unfortunately, decorations become a significant hazard if not used carefully. Let's talk about winter fire safety and how you can protect yourself while staying warm and enjoying the beauty of the holidays.
- An estimated 250 home fires involving Christmas trees and another 170 involving holiday lights and other decorative lighting occur each year across the U.S.
- Make sure your tree is at least 3 feet away from all heat sources and free from any exits.
- Read manufacturer's instructions for holiday lights and discard of any strands that are frayed or have exposed bulbs/wires.
- Space heaters are a popular appliance to provide additional heating at home during the frigid winter months, but can cause a significant fire hazard when placed too close to flammable materials.
- Chimneys and heating systems should be inspected and cleaned each year before they are fired up for the season.
Visit Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management for more safety tips!
Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning can happen at any time of the year, but the danger is greater during the winter when doors and windows stay closed and fireplaces, gas heaters, or other fuel burning appliances are in use. In addition, people can also be exposed to deadly CO levels when “warming up” their cars in garages or keeping them running when stuck in snow.
Steps you can take to protect you and your family this winter
- Have your home heating systems (including chimneys and vents) inspected and serviced annually by a trained service technician.
- Never use portable generators inside homes or garages, even if doors and windows are open.
- Never bring a charcoal grill into the house for heating or cooking. Do not barbeque in the garage.
- Install battery-operated CO alarms or CO alarms with battery backup on every level of the home and outside sleeping areas. Interconnected CO alarms are best; when one sounds, they all sound.
- Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness, and confusion.
If you suspect CO poisoning, get outside to fresh air immediately, and then call 911.
Safe winter survival in your vehicle
Everyone should be cautious about traveling in extreme winter weather. Cold, snow and ice are demanding on cars, drivers and passengers, and each year, hundreds of Minnesotans find themselves stranded on the roadside. Winter weather can kill in mere minutes if an unprepared person is exposed to the elements, so it's important to be prepared!
- Plan Before You Travel: Simple planning can save you trouble and even save your life. Prepare your vehicle to make sure it's in good winter driving condition with at least 1/2 tank of gas, and always travel with a winter survival kit.
- Be Weather Aware: Listen to forecasts, road reports and storm warnings. Dress appropriately and pack extra scarves and mittens. Allow extra time for trips in severe weather.
- Stay in Your Vehicle: Walking in a storm can be very dangerous. You might lose your way or become exhausted, collapse and risk your life. If you do find yourself stranded, stay put: your vehicle is a good shelter.
Visit Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management for more winter driving tips.
Use the online system to request records
The Sheriff's Office Records Unit recently announced the launch of a one-stop shop online for all record requests. Residents, media, lawyers, etc., can now request reports, records and digital media online.
Note: Agreeing the online system may result in a convenience fee charged by the software company. If you choose not to use the online system, you may submit your request in person at the Sheriff's Office.