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Emergency responders battle through elements to help residents

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Regardless of the weather, Johnson County residents who need police or emergency help are getting it with the assistance of bundled up firefighters, police departments, snow plows and local schools.

Residents don’t get to choose their hospital, though, if they need to be taken by ambulance, officials said. Fire departments and ambulance service Seals are taking residents to the nearest hospitals so the emergency workers can be freed up as quickly as possible in case they’re needed elsewhere, officials said.

If needed, a street department snowplow could dig through snow to help the Franklin Fire Department. The fire department is responding to emergency calls without them, spokesman Chuck Ridpath said. Emergency vehicles are driving slower than usual because of the icy streets, but still have gotten to Monday morning’s calls within three minutes, he said.

The White River Township Fire Department has a truck with a plow on it, so the department will use that truck to dig out a fire engine that gets stuck in snow or plow an area so emergency vehicles can get closer to a house, Chief Jeremy Pell said.

Pell’s concern is about the cold temperatures which, at 14 below zero Monday morning, could quickly cause skin to freeze or hypothermia. If residents continue without electricity in their homes, the Center Grove school district is providing a school bus to evacuate groups of people to warm school buildings, Pell said.

The Franklin Police Department is responding to all calls, and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office is doing the same. Franklin police handled two car accidents, 13 slideoffs and three disabled vehicle calls since Saturday night due to the slick and snowy roads, spokesman Kerry Atwood said. Two semis got stuck Monday morning at Paris and Arvin drives, he said. The sheriff’s office had eight slideoffs during the same timeframe.

The weather isn’t bad enough for officers not to take a report on a resident’s slashed tire, and few accidents were reported Monday morning because people are obeying the travel ban that forbids them from driving on the roads unless they have an emergency, Sheriff Doug Cox said.

Survival tips

Clearing sidewalks

If you’re concerned about clearing your sidewalk in frigid temperatures, the city is cutting you a break.

Homeowners and businesses in Greenwood and Franklin aren’t being required to shovel their walkways due to the cold temperatures. City ordinances require homeowners to clear sidewalks in front of their home. But the city won’t be enforcing the requirement, Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers said.

Homeowners and businesses won’t be expected to clear sidewalks until temperatures rise to safer levels, Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said.

Some areas in the county got up to 11 inches of snow and temperatures were about 14 degrees below zero for most of Monday.

“It’s too dangerously cold to make people get out in the cold, and we prefer they stay in their home and be warm and healthy,” Myers said.

Opening car doors

If you don’t want to face a frozen car door, grab some cooking spray.

Once car doors freeze shut, the only way to get them open may be to chip away at that ice.

That’s why prevention is usually the best way to avoid having frozen doors. Drivers can smear door seals with a little Vaseline or spray non-stick cooking spray to prevent ice from forming, Greenwood Police Sgt. Doug Roller said.

If doors already are frozen shut, a person should try other doors to see if a passenger side or back door will open. Otherwise Roller suggested carefully tapping ice around the door frame with a fist or ice scraper to try to break some of it free.

But be extra careful — the frigid temperatures could cause a window to break, since they might be more brittle due to the cold, he said.

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