As the list of things closing this week continues to grow, even including the US Postal Service, keep in mind that emergency responders don't get that opportunity. Unfortunately, fires still happen, medical emergencies still occur, and criminals still commit crimes (despite tongue-in-cheek pleas from police to behave during the cold).

While emergencies often are very difficult or impossible to prevent (especially when weather like this can lead to emergencies on its own), do what you can to avoid having to put these dedicated responders out into the extreme cold.

Take extra care while cooking. Don't overload electrical outlets. Be extra careful walking and driving on icy pavement. Don't use open flames or unsafe heat sources to add extra warmth to your home or garage. Avoid spending time outside if you don't need to. Use extra care with wood fireplaces and candles. Taking extra little common sense steps to prevent accidents and protect yourself, those around you, and your property can make a big difference.

Even then, emergencies and accidents still happen, and you should still absolutely call 911. Thankfully, every community has dedicated emergency responders that don't hesitate for a second to answer the call when emergencies arise, even if that means braving weather extremes.

I grew up with a family member on a fire department. Hearing stories and seeing photos of frozen turnout gear firefighters can barely walk in, or the extra strain and challenges the extreme cold puts on both people and equipment truly make you appreciate what they contend with in weather like this. EMTs, police officers, and other responders also face difficult challenges, and anyone that serves in one of these areas (or anyone that knows someone that does) undoubtedly has stories to share.

On behalf of the entire community that relies on the services emergency responders provide, thank you for everything you do every day. Especially on days when so much of the world grinds to a halt due to bad weather.