Rain or shine, or ice and snow, the Jackson Township Fire Department stands ready to respond.

Fires and medical emergencies can happen in all kinds of weather, but statistically, winter stands out as the season especially prone to house fires. This is due in part to the use of space-heaters and poorly maintained fireplaces.

Freezing temperatures can be extremely hazardous to everyone, including firefighters.

Since water is our primary resource used to extinguish fires, it is not uncommon to see a firefighter completely covered in ice while battling a fire in freezing weather. Frostbite and slip-and-fall hazards affect firefighters just like the public, and the use of water to extinguish fires in freezing temperatures causes slippery walks and roadways for the men and women fighting fires.

Our goal is to keep residents and our firefighters as safe as possible so we take precautions to make sure we can deliver excellent service year-round.

To combat issues that are unique to the cold, our firefighters train and use special equipment to minimize risks brought on by cold weather.

Hydrants are checked throughout the winter to ensure they are not frozen and are operational; firefighters have access to extra gloves and hoods, and our fire engines are prepared ahead of the cold and kept in a heated bay to make sure the plumbing will not freeze.

If called to assist someone who has fallen through ice, we are equipped with thermal ice suits so we may enter the water. On medical calls, we may put salt down on the driveway or shovel a walk so that we can carry a patient to medic units safely.

We may also increase staffing during periods of severe weather. Since you never know what the weather forecast will predict, we must always be prepared.

To keep your home and family safe, you can help us help you.

* Start by keeping walks and driveways as clear as possible. A safe and clear entry to your residence allows easy access in the event of an emergency.

* If you notice your fire hydrant is covered in snow, shovel around it so it is visible and the fire department can locate and use it if needed.

* Only use UL-listed portable heaters with tip-over protection, and keep flammable items away from heaters.

* Finally, if you use a fireplace have it inspected and cleaned once a year.

Being a firefighter in inclement weather at times can be brutal. Our staff of firefighter/paramedics are some of the most highly-trained men and women in the state.

You can rest assured that your Jackson Township Fire Department is prepared to serve regardless of the forecast.

Randy Little is chief of the Jackson Township Division of Fire.