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American Red Cross Offers Winter Storm Safety Tips

Snowplow plowing snow in winter storm
It’s always a good idea to have emergency supplies for your entire household at home and in your car, because you never know what may happen.

As the first dose of winter weather falls in St. Louis and the surrounding areas in Missouri and Illinois, the American Red Cross Greater St. Louis Region wants to remind the community how to stay safe.

“Winter storms can bring a mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain. It’s important to be prepared ahead of the storm – and know what to do during it as well,” said Cindy Erickson, Regional CEO of the Red Cross. “It’s always a good idea to have emergency supplies for your entire household at home and in your car, because you never know what may happen.”

Pay Attention to Weather Forecasts

People should know the difference between a winter storm watch and a warning. A watch is issued when winter storm conditions are possible within the next 36 to 48 hours. During a warning, severe weather conditions have already begun or will begin within 24 hours and people should take precautions immediately. Stay tuned to weather reports for the latest predictions and occurrences.

Before and During the Storm

The Red Cross recommends having the following items on hand in a convenient spot:

• At least a 3-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day) and non-perishable food;

• A flashlight, battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio and extra batteries;

• A well-stocked first aid kit;

• A 7-day supply of medications and medical items; and

• Supplies for babies and pets.

Also, prepare your home and animals:

• Insulate your home by installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic from the inside to keep cold air out.

• Bring pets inside. Move other animals and livestock to sheltered areas.

Other tips to keep in mind:

• Stay inside. If people must go out, wear warm, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in layers.

• Minimize travel. If travel is necessary, allow plenty of time to get to your destination and keep emergency supplies in the vehicle.

- Winterize your vehicle and keep the gas tank full. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.

- Have an emergency kit in your car, including a blanket, food, water, winter coat and accessories, flashlight, first aid kit and vehicle powered phone charger.

• Go to a designated public shelter if your home loses power or heat during

periods of extreme cold. Locally people can call 211 to get locations.

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

• Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawl space or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.

Additional Outdoor Safety Information

• Before you take on any strenuous work in cold temperatures—such as shoveling snow—consider your physical condition, the weather and the nature of the task. Take frequent breaks and stay hydrated while working, and avoid overexertion.

• Seek medical attention immediately if you have symptoms of hypothermia, including confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. Also seek immediate medical attention if you have symptoms of frostbite: these include numbness; flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration; and waxy-feeling skin.

Erickson reminds everyone: “Check in on your neighbors – especially those requiring special assistance and those living alone.”

Winter precipitation can cause power outages. It is a good idea to maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected every year. For more information on what to do during a power outage, click here.

People can learn what to do in an emergency in case advanced medical help is delayed by taking a First Aid and CPR/AED course and by downloading the free American Red Cross First Aid App.

Additional information on what supplies to have and what to do before, during and after a winter storm is located at A downloadable winter storm safety checklist can be found here.

The Red Cross is part of the “All Ready” campaign, a unified effort among emergency preparedness experts in the bi-state region that focuses on the importance of individual preparedness. The campaign encourages the three critical steps of preparedness: Make a plan, Get a kit, Be informed.

The American Red Cross Greater St. Louis Region is a proud member agency of the United Way, which makes significant investments every year in Red Cross services.