As we move into January, historically it being our coldest and March our snowiest month, there is a possibility of some severe winter storms in our near future. Storms can cause hazardous driving conditions and power outages. Here are some tips on how to prepare for a winter storm at home or on the road.
At Home - Prepare for Winter Weather
Your primary concerns with a winter storm are loss of heat, power, telephone service and a shortage of supplies if storm conditions continue for more than a day. Having a plan in place and assuring all family members know that plan will keep everyone safe. Keep these things in mind as you create your plan:
Your family may not be together if weather becomes hazardous, know how you’ll contact one another and what to do if you become stuck somewhere like work or at school.
Gather supplies in case you need to stay home for several days without power. Stock up on batteries or get out those old oil lamps. You might even look into getting an emergency power bank to keep your cell phone charged for weather reports and communication. Consider specific needs in your household, such as diapers, formula and medications.
Be sure to have some bottled water or fill containers with water in case you don't have access to running water for any period of time for drinking or washing hands.
Get extra canned or prepackaged food that doesn’t require cooking or refrigeration. Keep in mind the power may be out so have a hand-held can opener. (The last thing you want is an accident from trying to open a can with a knife.)
Losing power will mean food safety will become a concern if it lasts longer than a few hours. Read our blog - Food Safety Before, During and After a Power Outage.
Remember the needs of your pets. Be sure to have additional food on hand for them. Bring companion pets inside and be sure livestock have adequate shelter, food and water that won’t freeze.
Take into account an emergency heat and cooking source that doesn’t require electricity such as a small camp stove, fireplace or wood stove.
Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning! Only use generators and grills outdoors and away from windows. Never heat your home with a gas stovetop or oven. Make sure your fire alarm and carbon monoxide detectors are working correctly and if you have an outside vent, be sure it’s clear of leaves, debris and snow.
Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a vehicle or walking in deep snow.
Driving – Plan for Emergency
Storms increase the risk of car accidents, sliding or winds pushing you off icy roads, so stay off the roads if at all possible. Keep these things in mind if you have to travel:
Almost all roadside rescues occur among people who bypass road closures/barricades and then end up getting stuck either due to drifting or zero visibility. When this happens, road and weather conditions may prohibit emergency responders from reaching you until many hours later, often not until sometime the next day at the earliest. Try and drive during daylight and let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive.
Bring your cell phone, make sure the battery is charged and bring an emergency power bank. There are some now that can be recharged with solar.
Be sure you have an emergency kit stored in your car. The kit should include: jumper cables, sand, a flashlight, warm clothes, blankets or sleeping bag, bottled water and non-perishable snacks. Keep a full tank of gas.
If you become trapped in your car:
Stay inside. Do not leave the vehicle to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 yards (91 meters).
Display a trouble sign to indicate you need help. Hang a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) on the radio antenna and raise the hood after snow stops falling.
Turn on the engine for about 10 minutes each hour. Use the heater while the engine is running. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, and slightly open a downwind window for ventilation.
When the engine if running, leave the overhead light on or headlights so that you can be seen. Just be sure to turn them off when you shut off the car again.
In our part of the country winter storms and blizzards mean extreme cold, snow, ice and high winds. Have a plan and be prepared whether you are at home or in your vehicle. Go to https://www.nchd.org/emergencypreparedness for more information.