Winter is Coming – Are You Prepared?

Winter storms can range from a moderate snow over a few hours to a blizzard with blinding, wind-driven snow that lasts for several days (hopefully we avoid this one).  Some winter storms are large enough to affect several states, while others affect only a single community.  Many winter storms are accompanied by dangerously low temperatures and sometimes by strong winds, icing, sleet and freezing rain.

Regardless of the severity of a winter storm, you should be prepared in order to remain safe during these events.

Knowing the Difference

  • Winter Storm Outlook:  Winter storm conditions are possible in the next 2 to 5 days.
  • 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:  Winter storm conditions are possible within the next 36 to 48 hours.  People in a watch area should review their winter storm plans and stay informed about weather conditions.
  • Winter Storm Warning:  Life threatening, sever winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours.  People in a warning are should take precautions immediately.

How to Prepare for a Winter Storm

  • Winterize your vehicle and keep the gas tank full.  A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Insulate your home by installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic from the inside to keep cold air out.
  • Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected every year.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55 degrees F.

Put Together a Supply Kit

  • Water – at least a 3 day supply; one gallon per person per day
  • Food – at least a 3 day supply of non-perishable, easy to prepare food
  • Flashlight
  • Battery-powdered or hand-crank radio
  • Extra batteries
  • First Aid Kit
  • Medications (7 day supply) and medical items (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, etc.)
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene item
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information , proof of address, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • Baby supplies – bottles, formula, baby food, diapers
  • Pet supplies – collar, least, food, carrier, bowl
  • Tools/supplies for securing your home
  • Sand, rock salt or non-clumping kitty litter to make walkways and steps less slippery
  • Warm coats, gloves or mittens, hats, boots, warm clothing for all household member and extra blankets
  • Ample alternate heating methods such as fireplaces or wood or coal burning stoves

Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or other local news channels for critical information on snow storms and blizzards from the National Weather Service (NWS).

Bring pets/companion animals inside during winter weather.  Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas and make sure their access to food and water is not blocked by snow drifts, ice or other obstacles.

Running water, even at a trickle, helps prevents pipes from freezing.

All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside and kept clear.

Avoid driving when conditions include sleet, freezing rain or drizzle, snow or dense fog.  If travel is necessary, keep a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle.

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.

Install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas to provide early warning of accumulation carbon monoxide.  If the CM 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.