Hardy New Englanders are no strangers to extreme weather. The effects of winter storms that bring snow, ice and freezing rain can last anywhere from a few days to a few months and can cause disruptions to almost every aspect of life. When temperatures plummet and snow and ice accumulate, will you and your family be prepared? Here are a few things to consider when preparing for Old Man Winter’s first big blow.
Know the storm
Information may be your best asset when preparing for a winter storm. The National Weather Service has developed a warning system to alert us of possibly threatening weather. Below is a brief outline of the most basic winter warning alerts:
Hazardous Weather Outlook will describe potentially hazardous weather of concern within the next 7 days.
Winter Weather Advisories are issued when 2 to 4 inches of snow, alone or in combination with sleet or freezing rain, is expected to cause significant inconveniences, but not serious enough to warrant a warning.
Winter Storm Watches are issued when there is the potential for significant and hazardous winter weather within 48 hours. People in a watch area should review their winter storm plans and stay informed about weather conditions. A Winter Storm Watch does not mean will definitely occur, only that it’s possible.
Winter Storm Warnings are issued when a significant combination of hazardous winter weather is occurring or imminent.
Before the storm
The actions you take before a winter storm arrives can mean the difference between life and death. Here are some actions you should consider taking before the winter storm arrives.
Gather Supplies – Some important items you may want to have on hand during a winter storm include:
- Water — at least a 3-day supply; one gallon per person per day
- Food — at least a 3-day supply of nonperishable, easy-to-prepare food
- Manual can opener
- Cell phone with chargers
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
- Extra batteries
- Alternative power source for phones, computers, and other mobile devices
- First aid kit
- Medications (7-day supply) and medical items (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, cane)
- Warm coats, gloves or mittens, hats, boots and extra blankets and warm clothing for all household members
- Multi-purpose tool
- Sanitation and personal hygiene items
- Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
- Family and emergency contact information
- Extra cash
- Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
- Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl)
- Tools/supplies for securing your home
- Sand, rock salt or non-clumping kitty litter to make walkways and steps less slippery
- Ample alternate heating methods such as fireplaces or wood- or coal-burning stoves
Insulate your home by installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic from the inside to keep cold air out.
Winterize your vehicle and keep the gas tank full. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.
Know where your local shelter is before you need it. If your home loses power or heat during the storm you may need to go to a local shelter. Visit http://www.redcross.org/find-help/shelter to find a shelter near you.
Have heating systems (including chimneys and vents) inspected and serviced annually, checking for blockages, corrosion, partial and complete disconnections.
Install a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm in the hallway of your home near sleeping areas. Avoid corners where air does not circulate.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to test your CO alarms every month.
Download the Red Cross Emergency Mobile app by visiting http://www.redcross.org/prepare/mobile-apps
During the storm
Avoid driving when conditions include sleet, freezing rain or drizzle, snow or dense fog.
Before tackling strenuous tasks in cold temperatures, consider your physical condition, the weather factors and the nature of the task.
Protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia by wearing warm, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in several layers. Stay indoors, if possible.
Help people who require special assistance such as elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and children.
Remember, if it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet. Bring your animals inside if possible.
Avoid using candles during power outages. Candles are a fire hazard.
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.
Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness, and confusion. If you suspect CO poisoning, get to fresh air immediately, and then call 9-1-1.
Keep the fire hydrant area outside your home clear of snow and vehicles.
Stay away from downed power lines. Report downed power lines and other safety concerns promptly.
Let Your Family Know You Are Safe
If your community experiences a severe winter storm, or any disaster, register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well Web site available through http://www.redcross.org/find-help to let your family and friends know about your welfare. If you don’t have Internet access, call 1-866-GET-INFO to register yourself and your family
Ways you can help others
Help people affected by disasters big and small by making a gift to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit redcross.org/donate, or call 1-800-REDCROSS.
Interested in serving your community? Become a Disaster Action Team volunteer! Visit http://www.redcross.org/local/massachusetts/disaster-services for more information.
By planning ahead we can more easily make it through whatever Old Man Winter throws our way!