How to Prepare for Winter Weather
Stay safe during the next winter storm by following key tips from the American Red Cross
The key to staying safe during winter weather is being prepared. Each year, hundreds of Americans are injured or killed by exposure to cold, vehicle accidents on wintry roads and fires caused by the improper use of heaters. Stay safe by following key tips from the American Red Cross.
Before a Winter Storm
- For the latest information updates, listen to local radio and NOAA radio, watch local TV stations, and check local newspaper websites.
- Check your emergency kit and replenish any items missing or in short supply, especially medications and medical supplies.
- Be sure you have ample heating fuel.
- If you have alternative heating sources, such as fireplaces, wood- or coal-burning stoves, or space heaters, be sure they are clean and in working order.
- Check that your fire extinguisher(s) is in good working order, and replace it if necessary.
- Bring your companion animals inside and ensure that your horses and livestock have blankets if appropriate, and unimpeded access to shelter, food and non-frozen water.
- Download the Emergency App for iPhone or Android devices.
How to Prevent Frozen Pipes
- Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
- When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe — even at a trickle — helps prevent pipes from freezing.
- Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
- If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.
During a Storm
- Stay indoors and wear warm clothes. Layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing will keep you warmer than a bulky sweater. If you feel too warm, remove layers to avoid sweating; if you feel chilled, add layers.
- Eat regularly. Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat.
- Keep the body replenished with fluids to prevent dehydration. Drink liquids such as warm broth or juice. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine, a stimulant, accelerates the symptoms of hypothermia. Alcohol is a depressant and hastens the effects of cold on the body. Alcohol also slows circulation and can make you less aware of the effects of cold. Both caffeine and alcohol can cause dehydration.
- Conserve fuel. Winter storms can last for several days, placing great demand on electric, gas, and other fuel distribution systems (fuel oil, propane, etc.). Lower the thermostat to 65° F (18° C) during the day and to 55° F (13° C) at night. Close off unused rooms, and stuff towels or rags in cracks under the doors. Cover the windows at night.
- Check on relatives, neighbors, and friends, particularly if they are elderly or if they live alone.
- Space heaters should be placed on a level, hard and nonflammable surface in the home, and kept away from potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs.
- Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.
Staying Safe Outside
If you must go outside, protect yourself from winter storm hazards:
- Wear layered clothing, mittens or gloves, and a hat. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Mittens or gloves and a hat will prevent the loss of body heat.
- Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from cold air. Avoid taking deep breaths and minimize talking.
- Watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite.
- Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses much of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly away from the body.
- Stretch before you go out. If you go out to shovel snow, do a few stretching exercises to warm up your body. This will reduce your chances of muscle injury.
- Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a vehicle, or walking in deep snow. The strain from the cold and the hard labor may cause a heart attack. Sweating could lead to a chill and hypothermia.
- Walk carefully on snowy, icy sidewalks.
Driving in Winter Conditions
- Check your vehicle emergency supplies kit and replenish it if necessary. Bring enough of the following for each person:
- Blankets or sleeping bags.
- Rain gear, extra sets of dry clothing, mittens, socks and wool hats.
- Newspapers for insulation.
- Plastic bags for sanitation.
- Canned fruit, nuts and high energy snacks (Include a non-electric can opener if necessary).
- Warm broth in a thermos and several bottles of water.
- Keep a cell phone or two-way radio with you. Make sure the battery is charged.
- Plan to travel during daylight and, if possible, take at least one other person with you.
- Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. If your vehicle gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
- Before leaving, listen to weather reports for your area and the areas you will be passing through, or call the state highway patrol for the latest road conditions.
Source: The American Red Cross