EMS and postal workers brave bitter cold this week

EMS and postal workers brave bitter cold this week

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Antonia Shields says layers are the key to working in the cold. Source: WBRC video Antonia Shields says layers are the key to working in the cold. Source: WBRC video
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

While Alabama bears down through bitter cold this week, those who must continue working through the worst are taking safety precautions.

For 19 years Antonia Shields has been getting the job done delivering mail for the U.S. Postal Service, no matter the weather. Her secret is simple. 

"Actually you have to dress in layers so as you sweat you can take off and be comfortable all day long," she said.

So she did that Monday when temperatures barely rose into the twenties. She was decked out in four shirts, three pairs of pants, two pairs of socks along with a jacket, hat, scarf and gloves.

"I have adapted," she said. "I have learned how to dress for the weather."

But she says it is people's kindness that really warms her heart.

"Because the customers are so friendly and always ask, 'Do you need something warm to drink,' that's what makes our day go better. And actually it's not as cold as I thought it was going to be," Shields said.

Michael Coleman is an apparatus operator for Birmingham Fire and Rescue. Like Shields, he too dresses in layers.

"Even with all that on, it's still cold," he says.

His 24-hour shift will run through Tuesday night when temps are expected to drop into the single digits.

"As we're preparing to hunker down for the night, it always goes through your mind that we're probably going to have a fire tonight. It's too cold out," he said.

In his 18-year history as a firefighter, he can remember working in temperatures like this only about four or five times.

"It reminds me of fires we've been on in the past in these temperatures where our water freezes almost instantly and we're fighting not only fires, but slipping in the ice and snow," he said.

But Coleman says the department is ready.

"We have what we call swift alert. We go ahead and make preparations, make sure the trucks are fueled," he said.

Some of the trucks even have automatic ice chains ready to go with a flip of a switch. Coleman knows many will be relying on fireplaces and space heaters to keep warm this week. He urges citizens to take precautions in order to prevent a fire.

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