Emergency preparedness tips for winter

Icy car tires

Soon the cold weather and snow will be here, and it’s important to be prepared before winter approaches.

First, build an emergency kit with the following:

  • Rock salt to melt ice on walkways
  • Sand to improve traction
  • Snow shovels
  • Sufficient heating fuel. You may become isolated in your home and regular sources may be cut off. Store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove.
  • Warm clothes and blankets

Next, make a family communications plan. Since family members may not always be together when disaster strikes, it is important to talk about how everyone will contact each other, get back together and what to do next in case of an emergency.

Third, sign up with NOAA for notifications on pending weather events at www.noaa.gov.

Fourth, bring pets inside during winter weather and move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas with non-frozen drinking water.

Finally, if a blizzard traps you in the car:

  • Turn on hazard lights
  • Stay inside of a vehicle where rescuers are likely to search for those in need of help.
  • Run the engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm. When the engine is running, open a downwind window slightly for ventilation and periodically clear snow from the exhaust pipe. This will prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Exercise to maintain body heat, but avoid overexertion. In extreme cold, use road maps, seat covers, and floor mats for insulation. Huddle with passengers and use coats as blankets.
  • In groups, take turns sleeping. One person should be awake at all times to look for rescuers.
  • Eat regularly and drink fluids to avoid dehydration, but avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  • Be careful not to waste battery power. Balance electrical energy needs – the use of lights, heat, and radio – with supply.
  • Turn on the inside light at night so crews can see the car.

Every year, an average of 430 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, and there are more than 20,000 visits to the emergency room. Carbon monoxide-related deaths are highest during colder months. These deaths are likely due to increased use of gas-powered furnaces and alternative heating, cooking, and power sources used indoors during power outages. In multi-story homes, it’s important to install at least one carbon monoxide detector on each level.

Carbon monoxide detectors can be purchased at any local hardware store. If the alarm sounds, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors. Call for help and stay outside until emergency personnel arrive.