Are you ready for winter? Here are some tips from FEMA to help you get ready.
Before Winter Storms & Extreme Cold: To prepare for a winter storm you should do the following:
Before winter approaches, build an Emergency/Disaster Kit:
An emergency/disaster supplies kit is simply a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency.
Try to assemble your kit well in advance of an emergency. You may have to evacuate at a moment’s notice and take essentials with you. You will probably not have time to search for the supplies you need or shop for them.
You may need to survive on your own after an emergency. This means having your own food, water and other supplies in sufficient quantity to last for at least 72 hours. Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster but they cannot reach everyone immediately. You could get help in hours or it might take days.
Additionally, basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment and telephones may be cut off for days or even a week, or longer. Your supplies kit should contain items to help you manage during these outages.
Basic Disaster Supplies Kit: A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:
• Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
• Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
• Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
• Flashlight and extra batteries
• First aid kit
• Whistle to signal for help
• Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
• Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
• Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
• Manual can opener for food
• Local maps
• Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
Here are some other supplies you might want to keep ready:
• Rock salt or more environmentally safe products to melt ice on walkways. Visit the Environmental Protection Agency for a complete list of recommended products.
• Sand to improve traction.
• Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment.
• Sufficient heating fuel. You may become isolated in your home and regular fuel sources may be cut off. Store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove.
• Adequate clothing and blankets to keep you warm.
• Make a Family Communications Plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency.
• Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or other local news channels for critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS). Be alert to changing weather conditions.
• Minimize travel. If travel is necessary, keep a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle.
• Bring pets/companion animals inside during winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas with non-frozen drinking water.
Family Communications Plan
Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so plan how you will contact one another. Think about how you will communicate in different situations.
Complete a contact card for each adult family member. Have them keep these cards handy in a wallet, purse or briefcase, etc. Additionally, complete contact cards for each child in your family. Put the cards in their backpacks or book bags.
Check with your children’s day care or school. Facilities designed for children should include identification planning as part of their emergency plans.
Family Communication Tips
Identify a contact such as a friend or relative who lives out-of-state for household members to notify they are safe. It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.
Be sure every member of your family knows the phone number and has a cell phone, coins or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact. If you have a cell phone, program that person(s) as “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) in your phone. If you are in an accident, emergency personnel will often check your ICE listings in order to get a hold of someone you know. Make sure to tell your family and friends that you’ve listed them as emergency contacts.
Teach family members how to use text messaging (also known as SMS or Short Message Service). Text messages can often get around network disruptions when a phone call might not be able to get through.
Subscribe to alert services. Many communities now have systems that will send instant text alerts or e-mails to let you know about bad weather, road closings, local emergencies, etc. Sign up by visiting your local Office of Emergency Management web site.
Winterize Your Vehicle
Check or have a mechanic check the following items on your car:
• Antifreeze levels – ensure they are sufficient to avoid freezing.
• Battery and ignition system – should be in top condition and battery terminals should be clean.
• Brakes – check for wear and fluid levels.
• Exhaust system – check for leaks and crimped pipes and repair or replace as necessary. Carbon monoxide is deadly and usually gives no warning.
• Fuel and air filters – replace and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.
• Heater and defroster – ensure they work properly.
• Lights and flashing hazard lights – check for serviceability.
• Oil – check for level and weight. Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.
• Thermostat – ensure it works properly.
• Windshield wiper equipment – repair any problems and maintain proper washer fluid level.
• Install good winter tires – Make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some jurisdictions require that to drive on their roads, vehicles must be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.
Update the emergency kits in your vehicles with:
• a shovel
• windshield scraper and small broom
• battery powered radio
• extra batteries
• snack food
• extra hats, socks and mittens
• first aid kit with pocket knife
• necessary medications
• tow chain or rope
• road salt and sand
• booster cables
• emergency flares
• fluorescent distress flag
Winterize Your Home
• Winterize your home to extend the life of your fuel supply by insulating walls and attics, caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows, and installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic.
• Winterize your house, barn, shed or any other structure that may provide shelter for your family, neighbors, livestock or equipment. Clear rain gutters; repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on a house or other structure during a storm.
• Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected every year.
• Insulate pipes with insulation or newspapers and plastic and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing. Running water, even at a trickle, helps prevent pipes from freezing.
• All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside and kept clear.
• Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. House fires pose an additional risk, as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions.
• Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts).
• Insulate your home by installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic from the inside to keep cold air out.
• Hire a contractor to 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.
Know the Terms
Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a winter storm hazard:
• Freezing Rain – Rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees and power lines.
• Sleet – Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes moisture on roads to freeze and become slippery.
• Winter Weather Advisory – Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. When caution is used, these situations should not be life threatening.
• Winter Storm Watch – A winter storm is possible in your area. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for more information.
• Winter Storm Warning – A winter storm is occurring or will soon occur in your area.
• Blizzard Warning – Sustained winds or frequent gusts to 35 miles per hour or greater and considerable amounts of falling or blowing snow (reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile) are expected to prevail for a period of three hours or longer.
• Frost/Freeze Warning – Below freezing temperatures are expected.
Caution: Carbon Monoxide Kills
• Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal¬ burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
• The primary hazards to avoid when using alternate sources for electricity, heating or cooking are carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock and fire.
• Install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas to provide early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide.
• If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door.
• Call for help from the fresh air location and remain there until emergency personnel arrive to assist you.