With a second winter weather system heading toward the state, the Sandhills Chapter of the American Red Cross is urging residents to take steps now to stay safe when severe weather threatens.
“We are watching this storm system closely and urging everyone to have a plan for severe weather,” said Nancy Cataldo, executive director of the Sandhills chapter. “The weather models are showing a wintery mix with freezing rain, snow, and ice for our area, so people need to prepare.”
As with any disaster, preparation can be the difference between life and death. The Red Cross recommends that individuals and families prepare for winter storms by:
• Assembling an Emergency Preparedness Kit: Pack a winter-specific supply kit that includes a warm coat, hat, mittens or gloves, and water-resistant boots, along with extra blankets and extra warm clothing. Sand or non-clumping kitty litter is good to have on hand to help make walkways or steps less slippery. Additionally, make sure you have a first aid kit and essential medications, canned food and can opener, bottled water, flashlights and a battery-powered radio with extra batteries in your home in the event of a power outage.
• Heeding Storm Warnings: A winter storm WATCH means 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 via NOAA Weather radio, or local radio or television stations. A winter storm WARNING means that life-threatening, severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours. Individuals in a warning area should take precautions immediately.
• Winter Driving Safety Tips: The best thing to do during a winter storm is stay off the roads if possible. If you have to drive, the Red Cross offers these tips about how to drive safely during a winter storm or what to do if you become stuck in your vehicle:
• Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter with a window scraper, kitty litter or sand in case you get stuck, extra clothes and a Disaster Supplies Kit in your trunk. Pack high-protein snacks, water, first aid kit, flashlight, small battery-operated radio, an emergency contact card with names and phone numbers, extra prescription medications, blankets and important documents or information you may need.
• Fill the vehicle’s gas tank and clean the lights and windows to help you see.
• Find out what disasters may occur where you are traveling and pay attention to the weather forecast. Before you leave, let someone know where you are going, the route you plan to take, and when you expect to get there. If your car gets stuck, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
• If you can, avoid driving in sleet, freezing rain, snow or dense fog. If you have to drive, make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones.
• Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways.
• Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
For more information on winter storm preparedness, visit http://www.redcross.org/sc/sumter. We urge you to share these Red Cross winter storm preparedness tips with every member of your household, because the best protection is to be prepared ahead of time.
The Red Cross may be asked by county emergency management officials to open warming stations or shelters. To find a shelter near you download the free shelter app at www.redcross.org/mobileapps or on iTunes. The app is updated every 30 minutes when a shelter is open.
Because of trained disaster volunteers and financial assistance from the community, Red Cross has been able to help more than 700 people affected by disasters in the Palmetto SC region since Jan. 1, 2014. On average, the American Red Cross, Palmetto SC Region responds to a disaster every 6.5 hours. The Palmetto SC Region is made up of seven Red Cross chapters spanning 35-counties of South Carolina.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit Redcross.org.