P!Npoints: Be prepared for winter storms before they happen

Building an emergency supply kit is key for cold weather

Winter is quickly approaching and along with that holiday cheer should come preparation for the winter storms. As with most extreme weather, it is not always the temperatures or storms that create the immediate danger but often the public’s reaction and lack of knowledge and readiness that may cause trouble when storms arrive. Always aim to be ahead of the storm by having proper supplies at your disposal and follow some of our important tips and guidelines that are guaranteed to help.

An Emergency Supply Kit is not only needed during the winter months but throughout the year, having one is crucial to your safety and the safety of others. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends the following tips for the winter season:

Items in any emergency kit should include:
Water (one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days)
Non-perishable food
Battery-powered (with extra batteries) or hand crank radio
Flashlight (with extra batteries)
Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter in place
Local maps
Wrench or pliers to turn of utilities
Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
Cell phone
First aid kit

These additional supplies are necessary for areas experiencing winter weather:
Rock salt to melt ice on walkways
Snow shovels
Sand to improve traction

Remember to always keep a plan in mind and open lines of communication with your family. Take time to talk about a Family Emergency Plan. Decide where your family will meet within and away from your neighborhood in the chance that you are separated from one another. Perhaps even choose a long-distance contact that can relay a message to the the family members who are separated and is not at risk of being part of the weather emergency.

Winterizing the home:

  • Prepare for possible isolation in your home by having sufficient heating fuel such as dry, seasoned wood, as regular fuel sources may be cut off.
  • Insulate walls and attics, caulk and weather-stripping doors and windows and install storm windows or covering windows with plastic.
  • Insulate pipes with insulation or newspapers and plastic and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing.
  • Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. House fires pose an additional risk, as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions.
  • Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts).

Preparing your car:

  • Check or have a mechanic check the following items on your car:
    Antifreeze levels – ensure they are sufficient to avoid freezing.
    Battery and ignition system – should be in top condition and battery terminals should be clean.
    Brakes – check for wear and fluid levels.
    Exhaust system – check for leaks and crimped pipes and repair or replace as necessary. Carbon monoxide is a serious danger, is deadly and is often undetectable.
    Fuel and air filters – replace and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas.
    Heater and defroster – ensure they work properly.
    Lights and flashing hazard lights – check for serviceability.
    Oil – check for level and weight. Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.
    Thermostat – ensure it works properly.
    Windshield wiper equipment – repair any problems and maintain proper washer fluid level.

  • Install good winter tires and make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions, though some jurisdictions require that to drive on their roads, vehicles must be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.
  • Maintain at least a half tank of gas during the winter season.
  • Place a winter emergency kit in each car that includes: a shovel; windshield scraper and small broom; flashlight; battery-powered radio; extra batteries; water; snack food; matches; extra hats, socks and mittens; first aid kit with pocket knife; necessary medications; blankets; tow chain or rope; road salt and sand; booster cables; emergency flares; and a fluorescent distress flag

For more information on preparing for winter storms, visit http://www.fema.gov/hazard/winter/index.shtm.