Preparing For Winter Storms

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Weather experts are expecting another El Niño year. The prediction is for it to start making a difference in the weather later this month, through January and into February.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers the following tips on preparing for winter storms:

Before it storms

  • Be familiar with winter storm warning messages.
  • Service snow-removal equipment and have rock salt on hand to melt ice on walkways and kitty litter to generate temporary traction.
  • Make sure you have sufficient heating fuel; regular fuel sources may be cut off.
  • Winterize your home:
  • Insulate walls and attic
  • Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows
  • Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside
  • Have safe, emergency heating equipment available:
  • Fireplace with ample supply of wood
  • Small, well-vented, wood, coal or camp stove with fuel
  • Portable space heaters or kerosene heaters
  • Kerosene heaters -- Check with the fire department on the legality of using kerosene heaters in your community. Use only the correct fuel for the unit and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Refuel outdoors only, and only when cool. Keep the heater at least three feet away from furniture and other flammable objects.
  • Install and check smoke detectors.
  • Keep pipes from freezing:
  • Wrap pipes in insulation or layers of old newspapers
  • Cover the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture
  • Let faucets drip a little to avoid freezing
  • Know how to shut off water valves
  • Have disaster supplies on hand, in case the power goes out:
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • One-week supply of food, include items that don't require refrigeration or cooking
  • Nonelectric can opener
  • One-week supply of essential prescription medications
  • Extra blankets and sleeping bags
  • Fire extinguisher, A-B-C type
  • Develop an emergency communication plan.

In case family members are separated from one another during a winter storm, which is a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school, have a plan for getting back together.

Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the "family contact." After a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone knows the name, address and phone number of the contact person.

Make sure that all family members know how to respond after a severe winter storm. Teach children how and when to call 911, police, or fire department, and which radio station to tune to for emergency information.

During a winter storm

  • If indoors, stay indoors and dress warmly.
  • Conserve fuel. Lower the thermostat to 65 degrees during the day and 55 degrees at night. Close off unused rooms.
  • If the pipes freeze, remove any insulation or layers of newspapers and wrap pipes in rags. Completely open all faucets and pour hot water over pipes, starting where they were most exposed to the cold or where the cold was most likely to penetrate.
  • Listen to the radio or television to get the latest information.
  • If outdoors, dress warmly. Wear loose-fitting, layered, light-weight clothing. Layers can be removed to prevent perspiration and chill. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Mittens are warmer than gloves because fingers generate warmth when they touch each other.
  • Stretch before you go out. If you go out to shovel snow, do a few stretching exercises to warm up your body and take frequent breaks.
  • Cover your mouth. Protect your lungs from extremely cold air by covering your mouth when outdoors. Try not to speak unless absolutely necessary.
  • Avoid overexertion. Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Unaccustomed exercise, such as shoveling snow or pushing a car, can bring on a heart attack or make other medical conditions worse. Be aware of the symptoms of dehydration.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
  • Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.
  • Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance -- those with infants, elderly people and people with disabilities.

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