Surviving A Winter Disaster At Home

Winter storms and blizzards are soon just around the corner. Knowing what to do during a winter disaster situation and having the essential items on hand will ensure everyone’s safety.

Understand Winter Storm Warning terms: News outlets use these terms to alert residents of severe weather in the area.

• Winter Weather Advisory means to expect winter weather, such as snow, rain and sleet.

• Winter Storm Watch recommends those in the area to be alert, a storm is probable.

• Winter Storm Warning means the storm has arrived, seek shelter.

• Blizzard Warning alerts residents to life-threatening conditions of snow, low visibility and high winds. Advised to seek immediate shelter.

Always have batteries on hand: Batteries should be at the top of the list for every emergency survival kit. This is by far the safest source of light available. They power flashlights and portable radios to help keep track of the latest news reports and warnings. Have enough to power several flashlights, designating them for emergencies. Store a fresh supply in a safe place, but check them occasionally to make sure they still work. Do not burn candles, as they can be extremely dangerous. Fires are caused every year from candles being knocked over or left unattended. Always have a fire extinguisher on hand and in working order.

Have a backup heat source ready when the power is lost: Take extra precautions when heating a home to ensure everyone’s safety. Fireplaces or portable heaters are a good source of safe heat while the power is out. However, never leave them unattended. Turning on the stove is never recommended. If it’s during daytime hours open windows to let the light in, using the sun’s heat. Close windows backup when the sun sets, and insulate the area to keep the warmth from escaping. Without heat the body’s core temperature will begin to drop quickly. Have a supply of blankets available for quick access. Fleece fabrics work well because they hold heat in and keep moisture away from the body. Dress for the conditions by wearing layered clothing. Hand and feet warmers are also a fast alternative. Just pop the bag to activate, slip inside gloves or shoes and you have instant heat. They only cost a few dollars, and can be found in most sports stores. Have a set ready for each family member.

An extra stock of food and water is key: While the amount of food and water to have on hand varies, everyone agrees these are essential in any disaster. FEMA suggests keeping a supply of at least 3 days worth, however, others recommend anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks. Periodically check labels on canned foods for expiration dates. While canned goods last a long time, they do expire. Rotate cans to keep food fresh and ensure quick emergency food when needed. Have a hand-held can opener at the ready, as without power, those fancy electric can openers will prove useless. Pay attention to news reports on impending storms to ensure sufficient time to stock up. However, if getting to the store isn’t possible, knowing there’s a backup supply ready and waiting at home will ease any worries.

Communicating with the outside world could be a lifesaver: Hard-hitting storms can knock down trees and damaged power lines, leaving landlines ineffective. Cell phones will be a lifeline to other family members, neighbors or emergency responders. Get in the habit of keeping cell phones regularly charged. In a pinch recharge cell phones with a portable car charger. Keep in mind, even if the cell phone signal is lost because of the storm, text messaging will usually work. Lastly, remember to check on the elderly and those neighbors who may be alone to ensure their safety.

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