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Cold snap heats up safety concerns in Brookfield and Elm Grove

Authorities address problems on the road and at home

Jan. 7, 2014

With school called off and many stores closed, not many people had a reason to venture into the frigid weather early this week, but Brookfield city police officers still found themselves busy assisting those who tried.

Temperatures set record lows Jan. 6, reaching as low as minus 18 degrees in some areas. The cold caused a variety of problems, but vehicular issues were the most pronounced.

Between Jan. 5 and 7, patrol officers had to help at least 10 vehicles that had broken down in the cold weather, a greater amount than most winter days, said Brookfield Police Captain Phil Horter.

Cold roads

Horter said officers increased their patrols of the roadways to minimize the amount of time disabled vehicles were stuck, disrupting traffic, and to take care of the drivers.

"The number one priority is the safety of the occupant," Horter said. "We can bring them into the squad car, or bring them to a convenience store or somewhere where they can await transportation. Sometimes we'll give them a ride home."

Horter urged drivers to stay off the roads during extreme cold whenever possible.

"If schools are closed and malls are closed, and they're not essential personnel, there's really no reason for people to be out driving when wind chill is 40 or 50 below zero," Horter said. "That way, emergency responders can focus their energies on true emergencies."

For those who have to drive, Horter said they should bring layers of warm clothes and blankets, because it can take up to 20 minutes or longer for officers to respond to disabled vehicles.

In Elm Grove, car problems were less of an issue. Jason Hennen, Elm Grove assistant police chief, said officers noticed much less traffic on the roads than usual and only responded to one disabled vehicle Jan. 7, which is not unusual for winter.

Thomas Grisa, director of public works for the city of Brookfield, said he hadn't noticed any problems with the pavement during the cold weather, but there was a water main leak on Brookfield Road, just south of Gebhardt Road. Water service was not disrupted as a result of the leak, but some residents did experience water freezes.

Safe at home

For those who stayed at home, Brookfield Fire Chief Charlie Myers said his department didn't have any calls for ambulances attributable to the extreme cold.

Still, he encouraged residents to continue exercising caution with alternate heating sources. In particular, he warned against overloading electrical circuits or using extension cords that aren't appropriately rated for appliances.

Myers also noted that fireplaces that are used on a daily basis should be cleaned every six months to avoid creosote build-up, which can cause chimney fires. He said there have been two chimney fires since Nov. 1, and possibly more than that since fires that spread away from the chimney would have been classified as building fires.

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