Winter Preparedness Safety Tips
Timely preparation, including structural and
non-structural mitigation measures to avoid the impacts of severe winter
weather, can avert heavy personal, business and government expenditures. Experts
agree that the following measures can be effective in dealing with the
challenges of severe winter weather:
BEFORE SEVERE WEATHER ARRIVES
- Store drinking water, first aid kit,
canned/no-cook food, non-electric can opener, radio, flashlight and extra
batteries where you can get them easily, even in the dark.
- Keep cars and other vehicles fueled and
in good repair, with a winter emergency kit in each.
- Get a NOAA Weather Radio to monitor
- Know how the public is warned (siren,
radio, TV, etc.) and the warning terms for each kind of disaster in your
- "winter storm
watch" --- Be alert, a storm is likely
- "winter storm
warning" --- Take action, the storm is in or entering the area
warning" --- Snow and strong winds combined will produce blinding
snow, near zero visibility, deep drifts, and life-threatening wind
chill--seek refuge immediately!
- "winter weather
advisory" --- Winter weather conditions are expected to cause
significant inconveniences and may be hazardous, especially to motorists
warning" --- Below freezing temperatures are expected and may cause
damage to plants, crops, or fruit trees
- "flash flood or
flood watch" --- Be alert to signs of flash flooding and be ready to
evacuate on a moment's notice
- "flash flood
warning" --- A flash flood is imminent--act quickly to save yourself
because you may have only seconds
- "flood warning"
--- Flooding has been reported or is imminent--take necessary precautions at
- Know safe routes from home, work and
school to high ground.
- Know how to contact other household
members through a common out-of-state contact in the event you and have to
evacuate and become separated.
- Know how to turn off gas, electric
power and water before evacuating.
- Know ahead of time what you should do
to help elderly or disabled friends, neighbors or employees.
- Keep plywood, plastic sheeting, lumber,
sandbags and hand tools on hand and accessible.
- Winterize your house, barn, shed or any
other structure that may provide shelter for your family, neighbors, livestock
or equipment. Install storm shutters, doors and windows; clear rain gutters;
repair roof leaks; and check the structural ability of the roof to sustain
unusually heavy weight from the accumulation of snow--or water, if drains on
flat roofs do not work.
- If you think you might want to
volunteer in case of a disaster, now is the time to let voluntary
organizations or the emergency services office know--beforehand.
DURING ANY STORM OR EMERGENCY
- Monitor your NOAA Weather Radio or keep
a local radio and/or TV station on for information and emergency instructions.
- Have your emergency survival kit ready
to go if told to evacuate.
- If you go outside for any reason, dress
for the season and expected conditions:
For cold weather, wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm
clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. Outer garments should be
tightly woven and water-repellent. Mittens are warmer than gloves. Wear a hat.
Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs from extremely cold air.
Wear sturdy, waterproof boots in snow or flooding conditions.
- If advised to evacuate, tell others
where you are going, turn off utilities if told to, then leave immediately,
following routes designated by local officials.
DURING A FLOOD
- Avoid areas subject to sudden flooding.
- Do not try to walk across running water
more than 6 inches deep; even 6 inches of rapidly running water can sweep you
off your feet.
- Do not drive into flooded areas. If
your car stalls, abandon it immediately--if you can--and seek higher ground.
DURING A WINTER STORM
- Conserve fuel, if necessary, by keeping
your house cooler than normal. Temporarily shut off heat to less-used rooms.
- If using kerosene heaters, maintain
ventilation to avoid build-up of toxic fumes. Keep heaters at least three feet
from flammable objects. Refuel kerosene heaters outside.
- Avoid travel if possible. If you must
travel, do so during daylight. Don't travel alone. Stay on main roads, and
keep others informed of your schedule.
IF A BLIZZARD TRAPS YOU IN YOUR CAR
- Pull off the road, set hazard lights to
flashing, and hang a distress flag from the radio aerial or window. Remain in
your vehicle; rescuers are most likely to find you there.
- Conserve fuel, but run the engine and
heater about ten minutes each hour to keep warm, cracking a downwind window
slightly to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Exercise to maintain body heat
but don't overexert. Huddle with other passengers and use your coat for a
- In extreme cold use road maps, seat
covers, floor mats, newspapers or extra clothing for covering--anything to
provide additional insulation and warmth.
- Turn on the inside dome light so rescue
teams can see you at night, but be careful not to run the battery down. In
remote areas, spread a large cloth over the snow to attract the attention of
- Do not set out on foot unless you see a
building close by where you know you can take shelter.
- Once the blizzard is over, you may need
to leave the car and proceed on foot. Follow the road if possible. If you need
to walk across open country, use distant points as landmarks to help maintain
your sense of direction.
AFTER THE STORM
- Report downed power lines and broken
gas lines immediately.
- After blizzards, heavy snows or extreme
cold, check to see that no physical damage has occurred and that water pipes
are functioning. If there are no other problems, wait for streets and roads to
be opened before you attempt to drive anywhere.
- Check on neighbors, especially any who
might need help.
- Beware of overexertion and exhaustion.
Shoveling snow in extreme cold causes many heart attacks. Set your priorities
and pace yourself after any disaster that leaves you with a mess to clean up.
The natural tendency is to do too much too soon.
RETURNING TO YOUR HOME AFTER A FLOOD
- Do not turn electricity back on if you
smell gas or if the electric system has been flooded.
- Wear sturdy work boots and gloves.
- Do not handle electric equipment in wet
- Use flashlights, not lanterns, candles
or matches, to check buildings containing natural gas, propane, or gasoline.
- Follow directions from local officials
regarding the safety of drinking water.
- Clean and disinfect everything that was
touched by flood waters and throw out any such foodstuffs.
- If you want to help other victims, give
cash donations to the appropriate relief agencies to buy what the victims
need. Donated goods such as used clothing, unlabeled and unsorted by size, are
usually more of a logistical problem than a help. If particular items are
needed, there will be public announcements and instructions concerning these.
- Don't go to the disaster scene on your
own to volunteer. If you are already a volunteer, you will know where you are
to report. If additional volunteers are needed for labor-intensive work like
sandbagging, public announcements will be made.