Preparing for a winter snowstorm is important, as you may experience power outages and the lack of adequate heat. You and family members may be snowed in at home for several days. Worse yet, you may become stranded in your car due to poor road conditions or an accident that stops traffic for hours.
Here are some keys to the winter preparedness game:
Stay aware of weather conditions by listening to commercial radio, local television, weather websites and/or smartphone weather apps. A NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio will give you the latest National Weather Service forecast 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Most of these radios are available with battery backup, so if the power goes out, you still have access to important weather information.
- Have a supply of ice melter for walkways and driveways.
- Make sure you have a good snow shovel – or two.
- If you have a fireplace or wood burning stove, move firewood closer to your home or deck for easy access. Don’t move it indoors until you’re ready to burn it, as indoor warmth will bring out bugs and other critters hiding inside logs.
- Have a heating plan in case the power goes out. This includes closing off rooms that aren’t necessary.
- Make sure smoke, fire and carbon monoxide detectors are installed and working.
Before the storms come, get your car or truck checked for winter drivability. This includes the battery and charging system, oil, brakes, wiper blades, washer fluids, anti-freeze, lights, exhaust system, heater and window defrosters. Your vehicle emergency kit should include a first aid kit, jumper cables, sand or kitty littler for traction on ice, at least one flashlight with extra batteries, water and snacks, a blanket, a shovel, ice scraper and cell phone charger.
- Keep your gas tank at least half full. The additional weight of the fuel will help your car gain traction in the snow and a full tank is less likely to freeze.
- If you get stranded in your car, stay inside your vehicle.
- Use your cell phone to call for help.
- Open a window slightly to make sure you’re getting fresh air.
- Run the car engine for no more than 5-10 minutes per hour to stay warm and make sure that snow is cleared from the vehicle tailpipe.
- Be careful not to waste car battery power, but turn on one dome or inside car light at night so work crews or rescuers can see your vehicle.
During the storm
- Stay inside as much as possible.
- Listen to radio or television for weather and storm updates.
- Do not use outdoor cooking or heating devices – like gas or charcoal grills, outdoor kerosene or other fueled heaters – indoors.
- Do not use a stove to heat a room.
- Do not use electrical generators indoors or in a garage.
- Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow. Overexertion can bring on a heart attack – a major cause of death during the winter. Use caution, take breaks, push snow instead of lifting it and lift smaller, lighter loads.
- If spending time outdoors, try to keep dry. Change out of wet clothing to prevent the loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly. Wear several layers of loose fitting clothing. Mittens are warmer than gloves. Always wear a hat. Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.
- Frostbite occurs when the skin and body tissue beneath it freezes. Watch out for loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, earlobes, face and the tip of the nose. If you suspect frostbite, cover the exposed skin. DO NOT RUB IT!. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
- Hypothermia occurs when the body’s temperature drops significantly below normal. Symptoms include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. If hypothermia is suspected, get the victim to a warm location. If possible, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95 degrees, seek medical attention immediately. Remove any wet clothing. Warm the center of the body first by wrapping the person in blankets or putting on dry clothing. Give warm, non-alcoholic beverages. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
- Check on your neighbors, especially if they have medical conditions or are elderly or infirm.
- If you must travel, try not to travel alone. Let others know where you are going, what route you are taking and when you expect to arrive.
- Frozen pipes can burst, leading to structure damage. Here’s how to keep pipes from freezing.