Winter Weather Safety Tips

Bozeman, MT, October 24, 2013—With winter weather just around the corner, the Red Cross reminds Montanans that a little preparation can go a long way to keep us safe in winter. 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. Many winter storms are accompanied by dangerously low temperatures and sometimes by strong winds, icing, sleet and freezing rain.

“Most Montanans know how hazardous winter weather can be,” says Rod Kopp, CEO of Montana Red Cross. “Taking a few precautionary measures now, before winter is upon us, just makes sense.”

Here are a few tips to help keep you safe:

Assemble 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. Make sure you also 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 kit, in the event of a power outage. Take this kit with you when you travel in winter.

Heed Storm Warnings: In order to respond appropriately to storm warnings, you need to know what they mean:

  • 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 inconvenience 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, severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours. People in a warning area should take precautions immediately.
  • Prepare Your Home and Car: Winterize your vehicle and keep the gas tank full, which will help to keep the fuel line from freezing. Make sure your home is properly insulated by installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic from the inside, to help keep cold air out. Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected every year. Running water, even at a trickle, helps to prevent pipes from freezing. Finally, sand or non-clumping kitty litter can help make walkways or steps less slippery.

    Don’t forget your pets: Winter weather can be difficult for pets, especially outdoor dogs and cats.

  • Bring your pets inside during cold winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas and make sure they have access to non-frozen drinking water.
  • If pets cannot come indoors, make sure they are protected by a dry, draft-free enclosure large enough to allow them to sit and lie down, but small enough to hold in the pet’s body heat. Raise the floor a few inches from the ground and cover it with cedar shavings or straw. Turn the enclosure away from the wind and cover the doorway with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.
  • Salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate your pet’s paws and mouth. Wipe your pet’s paws with a damp towel when they come inside.
  • Antifreeze is a deadly poison. Wipe up spills and store antifreeze out of reach.
  • You can help people affected by disasters like severe winter storms, as well as countless other crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters. Visit www.redcross.org/montana, call 1-800-ARC-MONT (1-800-272-6668), or mail a check to American Red Cross of Montana, 1300 28th Street South, Great Falls, MT 59405.

    About the American Red Cross:

    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org/montana or visit us on Twitter at @MontanaRedCross.