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Emergency Preparedness :: Severe Weather :: Winter

On The Road

Winter Safety Tips

1. Understand the terms used by weather forecasters:

    • Freezing rain – Rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees and power lines.
    • Sleet – Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes roads to freeze and become slippery
    • Winter Storm Watch – A winter storm is possible in your area.
    • Winter Storm Warning – A winter storm is occurring or will soon occur in your area.
    • Blizzard Warning – Sustained winds or frequent gusts to 35 per hour or greater with considerable falling or blowing snow (reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile) are expected to prevail for three hours or longer.

2. Prepare to survive on your own for at least three days:

    • Put together a disaster supply kit – including winter specific items like rock salt to melt ice on walkways and sand to improve traction.
    • Keep a stock of food and extra water.
    • Maintain several days’ supply of medicines, water, and food that needs no cooking or refrigeration.

3. Prepare for possible isolation in your home:

    • Identify alternative cooking fuel; regular fuel sources may be cut off.
    • Have emergency heating equipment and fuel (a gas fireplace or wood burning stove or fireplace) so you can keep at least one room of your residence livable. (Be sure the room is well ventilated) If a thermostat controls your furnace and your electricity is cut off by a storm, you will need emergency heat.
    • Store a good supply of dry seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood burning stove.
    • Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure your household knows how to use them.
    • Never burn charcoal indoors.

4. Winterize your home to extend the life of your fuel supply:

    • Insulate walls and attics
    •  Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows.
    • Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic

Winter Weather Driving

About 70 percent of winter deaths related to snow and ice occur in automobiles. Consider public transportation if you must travel. If you travel by car, travel in the day, don’t travel alone. Keep others informed of your schedule. Stay on main roads; avoid back-road shortcuts.

1. Winterize your automobile
This includes a battery check, antifreeze, wipers and windshield washer fluid, ignition system, thermostat, lights, flashing hazard lights; exhaust system, heater, brakes, defroster, oil level, and tires. Consider snow tires, snow tires with studs, or chains. Keep your car’s gas tank full.

2. Store a “winter car kit” in the trunk of your car.

    • The kit should include items such as a shovel, windshield scraper, battery powered or hand cranked radio, flashlight with extra batteries, water, snack food, mittens, hat, blanket, tow chain or rope, tire chains, bag of road salt and sand, florescent distress flag, booster cables, road maps, emergency flares, cellular telephone or two-way radio.

3. If you become stranded in your car:

    • Turn on hazard lights and hang a distress flag from the radio aerial window.
    • Remain in your vehicle where public safety workers are most likely to find you. Do not set out on foot unless you can see a building close by where you know you can take shelter. Be careful: Distances are distorted by blowing snow. A building may seem close but be too far to walk to in freezing temperatures or deep snow.
    • Run the engine and heater about ten minutes each hour to keep warm. When the engine is running, open a window slightly fro ventilation. This will protect you from possible carbon monoxide poisoning. Periodically clear snow from the exhaust pipe.
    • Exercise to maintain body heat, but avoid overexertion. In extreme cold, use road maps, seat covers and floor mats for insulation. Huddle with passengers and use your coat for a blanket.
    • Take turns sleeping. One person should be awake at all times to look for rescue crews.
    • Drink fluids to avoid dehydration.
    • Be careful not to waste battery power. Balance electrical energy needs (The use of lights, heat and radio).
    • At night, turn on the inside light so work crews or rescuers can see you. If stranded in a remote area, spread a large cloth over the snow to attract attention of rescue personnel who may be surveying the area by air.

Did you know? About 70 percent of snow and ice related deaths occur in automobiles. If you must travel when winter storms threaten, keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.

Your survival kit should include:

    • Blankets/sleeping bags
    • Radio, flashlight, extra batteries, booster cables
    • First-aid kit
    • High-calorie, non-perishable food and bottled water
    • Extra clothing, including mittens and hat
    • Sack of sand or cat litter for de-icing roadway
    • Windshield scraper and brush
    • Tool kit, tow rope and shovel
    • Cell phone or two-way radio.

At Home Or At Work

Be prepared at home or work with these additional supplies in case heavy ice on the lines cuts electricity and phone service or your heat source is shut off for several days:

    • Battery-powered NOAA weather radio, extra batteries
    • Extra medicine, medical supplies and items needed by babies or the elderly
    • Heating fuel for areas where fuel carriers may not be able to get through
    • Properly ventilated emergency heating source such as a fireplace, wood stove or space heater
    • Fire extinguisher and smoke detector
    • Extra food and water

How you can prepare your home for freezing temperatures:

    • Allow hot and cold water to drip from inside faucets.
    • Open cabinet doors under sinks to expose pipes to heat within the house.
    • Wrap exposed exterior pipes and faucets with foam insulation or newspaper.
    • Remove garden hoses from outside faucets. Freeze sensors are required on all sprinkler systems to keep them from operating during icy weather.
    • Cover all openings around the foundation.
    • If planning to be out-of-town for an extended time, turn off water to the house and open faucets to reduce pressure.
    • Bring plants inside. Use a sheet or blanket to cover plants that must remain outside.
    • Bring pets inside. Pets that must remain outside must have adequate shelter that is elevated and facing away from the wind.

Listen for updated weather statements on the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration weather radio or visit www.srh.noaa.gov/fwd/.