Well, it’s official.  Punxsutawney Phil as spoken and its six more weeks of winter. I had hoped that this article would be irrelevant and I’d have to draft a new one, but alas, no such luck. Maybe instead of our recent council discussions regarding chickens and bees we should be addressing banning groundhogs in Bridgewater. (Where’s Bill Murray when you need him?) I know many of our residents look forward to winter and enjoying cold weather activities such as skiing, ice skating, sledding and building snowmen. My 5-year-old son is one of them; it doesn’t matter what the temperature is, if there’s snow on the ground he wants to be outside and playing. For me, all I see is higher heating bills, driveways to shovel and unpleasant cold weather. As far as I’m concerned, once the holidays are over, the only things left to do in winter are watch the Super Bowl and countdown until spring. 

Whether you enjoy this cold weather or not, I thought I’d take a moment to provide some practical reminders and suggestions for our residents as we come into the coldest part of the year to make sure everyone arrives at spring safe and healthy. 

  • Check your batteries in your thermostat.  People forget that many thermostats require batteries to operate.  You’ll wake up very cold if those batteries go, and if not addressed quickly enough, there could also be issues related to freezing pipes or other damage.  While you’re checking batteries also check your smoke detector, flashlights, and make sure you have spare batteries for anything you may need during an extended power outage.
  • Beware of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.  Carbon monoxide poisoning is a greater concern in winter time.  In addition to checking the batteries in your carbon monoxide alarms (which you should have!), many experts suggest changing the filters on your heaters and shoveling the venting areas outside your home.  Also, make sure not to pre-heat your car in your garage. 
  • Make sure your address is clearly visible.  While not necessarily a winter-specific safety issue, make sure your mailbox is clearly identified with large, easy to read numbers.   Not having your house marked can delay emergency responders from finding your home quickly, and this can be exacerbated by winter weather that may make driving conditions unsafe.
  • Clear your sidewalks of snow.  Bridgewater Ordinance requires that residents clear sidewalks in front of their home within 12 hours of daylight after the snow ceases to fall. (Ordinance § 182-1)   You may also consider clearing areas right around fire hydrants even if not part of a sidewalk.   If there’s a fire, ensuring access to the hydrant may save your home.  Don’t forget that it’s a state violation to drive without also clearing your car of snow.  
  • Report street light outages.  If you see street lights that are out, please report them.   The township pays for these lights whether they are working or not, so let’s make sure we get our taxpayers’ monies’ worth.  
  • Make sure your generators meet local regulations.  In 2012, the Council passed an ordinance to specifically allow our residents to have generators for their homes, but also placed some regulations and restrictions on their use to make sure it is compatible with residential communities.  In addition to making sure your generator is prepared for use, make sure that your use is compliant with Township requirements regarding placement on the property, and use.  (Ordinance § 12-20).
  • Check on your Neighbors.   Make sure to check on your neighbors and friends who may be more vulnerable in adverse weather conditions due to age or illness.  I will be asking our township to act on recent legislation authorizing municipalities to establish a registry to do welfare checks.

Of course, snow plowing is always an issue on our minds this time of year.  The township is responsible for plowing township roads (the county and state handle county and state roads, respectively).  As a council, we do not have any direct control or oversight regarding snow plowing operations, however, if you have any questions, concerns, or complaints, you can email me at mmoench@bridgewaternj.gov and I will be happy to forward those emails to the mayor and administrator to be addressed.  

As always, the best advice is to use common sense and to be prepared.  If you have any questions, you can always call the township at 908-725-6300, and, call 9-1-1 for any emergency.   Stay safe, stay warm and let the countdown to spring continue (45 days as of Feb. 2!)