Sunday, 21 April 2019

Before, after, and during a winter storm: What you need to know – WFMJ


Winter storms can bring extreme cold, freezing rain, ice, snow, high winds, or a combination of all of these conditions. There are things you and your family should know before, during and after a winter storm.

American Red Cross Disaster Program Specialist Kristen Gallagher shared some of her expertise with 21 News.

Gallagher says it’s important to use space heaters safely.

“They are on a hard surface. They are three feet away from anything that could be flammable. The same thing with baseboard heating is people making sure they’ve pinned up their curtains this year and couches are away from them,” said Gallagher.

Gallagher also advises against the use of generators or grills indoors as an alternate heating source.

“Really watching for the carbon monoxide poisoning, making sure you have a carbon monoxide detector in your home at this time of year is really important,” said Gallagher.

Have an emergency plan and make sure the entire family is familiar with that plan. Also, make sure you have adequate survival supplies.

“The big time would be making sure you have water, a gallon of water for each person,” says Gallagher. “You should have a three day supply. Making sure you have flashlights with batteries, a radio because when the power goes out you need something to get those updates if people are expected to evacuate.”

She suggests keeping snacks, a hat, gloves, scarf, blanket, water, and a small shovel in your car, S-U-V or truck.

Also, consider the elderly. If they are using medical equipment, make sure there is a way they can still use it if the power goes out. Make sure they have a seven-day supply of medication.

Since snow can pile up outside your home, the Mercer East End Fire Department reminds homeowners to make sure that furnace and dryer vents are not covered with snow. If it becomes blocked, carbon monoxide will build up inside your home.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has compiled the following comprehensive guide designed to help you properly prepare for a winter storm and know how to protect yourself before, during, and after one.

Planning and preparing can make a big difference in safety and resiliency in the wake of a winter storm. The ability to maintain or quickly recover following a winter storm requires a focus on preparedness, advanced planning, and knowing what to do in the event of a winter storm.


Winter storms can cause power outages that last for days. They can make roads and walkways extremely dangerous and also negatively affect critical community services including public transportation, childcare, and health programs. Injuries and deaths may occur from exposure, dangerous road conditions, carbon monoxide poisoning, and other winter storm conditions.

Sign up for local alerts and warnings.

Create and test your emergency communication plan(s).

Stock emergency supplies, and install battery-powered or battery backed-up carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors.

Winterize your home.

Review your property insurance, and safeguard critical documents.

Get trained on specific needs your family may have. Also, consider joining your local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

Identify a place nearby where you can safely warm up should you lose heat in your home.


The National Weather Service (NWS) provides alerts and warnings for all hazards through a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio (NWR) receiver. There are radio receivers that are designed to work with external notification devices for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. For more information on NWR receivers, visit

Sign up for emergency alerts and notifications that your community may offer.

Download Be Smart. Know Your Alerts and Warnings for a summary of notifications at

Download the FEMA and American Red Cross apps on iOS or Android at no cost. These apps may provide information about finding shelters, providing first aid, and seeking assistance for recovery. Search for the FEMA or American Red Cross apps on your smartphone or other mobile devices


Learn the differences between Advisories, Watches, and Warnings, which describe changing winter weather conditions. Learning what these terms mean can help you understand how an approaching storm may impact you and what actions to take to stay safe. Winter Weather related Advisories,

Watches, and Warnings are issued by your local National Weather Service office and are based upon local criteria.


Winter Weather Advisories are issued when snow, blowing snow, ice, sleet, or a combination of these wintry elements is expected but conditions should not be hazardous enough to meet Warning criteria. Be prepared for winter driving conditions and possible travel difficulties. Use caution when driving.


Winter Storm Watches are issued when conditions are favorable for a significant winter storm event. Heavy sleet, heavy snow, ice storms, blowing snow, or a combination of these events are possible.


Winter Storm Warnings are issued for a significant winter weather event including snow, ice, sleet, blowing snow, or a combination of these hazards. Travel will become difficult or impossible in some situations. Delay your travel plans until conditions improve.


You may not be at home when the storm starts, so it is important to have basic supplies of food and water as well as a way to stay warm without power in several locations such as your workplace, vehicle, and/or school. You can build your supplies over time by adding a few items each week or month. Gather, in advance, the necessary supplies and items you will need to stay safe after the winter storm passes.

Check these supplies off of your Winter Storm Preparedness Checklist once you add them to your emergency kit, which appears at the end of this document.

Make sure your emergency kit is stocked with the items on the checklist below. Most of the items are inexpensive and easy to find, and any one of them could save your life. Once you take a look at the basic items, consider what unique needs your family might have, such as supplies for pets, or seniors.

After an emergency, you may need to survive on your own for several days. Being prepared means having your own food, water, and other supplies to last for at least 72 hours. A disaster supplies kit is a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency.


To assemble your kit, store items in airtight plastic bags and put your entire disaster supplies kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers such as plastic bins or a duffel bag.

A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:

Water – one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation

Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food

Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert


First aid kit

Extra batteries

Whistle to signal for help

Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place

Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation

Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities

Manual can opener for food

Local maps

Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery

Download the Recommended Supplies List (PDF)

Additional Emergency Supplies

Consider adding the following items to your emergency supply kit based on your individual needs:

Prescription medications

Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives

Glasses and contact lens solution

Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream

Pet food and extra water for your pet

Cash or traveler’s checks

Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container

Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person

Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and sturdy shoes

Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper to disinfect water

Fire extinguisher

Matches in a waterproof container

Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items

Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels, and plastic utensils

Paper and pencil

Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children


After assembling your kit remember to maintain it so it’s ready when needed:

Keep canned food in a cool, dry place

Store boxed food in a tightly closed plastic or metal containers

Replace expired items as needed

Re-think your needs every year and update your kit as your family’s needs change.


Since you do not know where you will be when an emergency occurs, prepare supplies for home, work and vehicles.

Home: Keep this kit in a designated place and have it ready in case you have to leave your home quickly. Make sure all family members know where the kit is kept.

Work: Be prepared to shelter at work for at least 24 hours. Your work kit should include food, water and other necessities like medicines, as well as comfortable walking shoes, stored in a “grab and go” case.

Vehicle: In case you are stranded, keep a kit of emergency supplies in your car.


Make sure you have everything you will need to get in touch with your family either through cellular phones or email.


Be equipped to tend to any current or unexpected medical conditions your family members may have. Ask your doctor about storing prescription medication such as at least a threedays’ supply of heart and blood pressure medication, insulin for diabetics, and other prescription drugs such as inhalers for those with asthma. Include battery backup power for power-dependent mobility devices, oxygen, and other assistive technology needs.


Place any important documents in a sealed, waterproof container to keep them dry and easily accessible.


Small items like matches, flashlights, a multi-tool, pocketknife, and a whistle (to signal for help) can make a huge difference for your family while weathering a storm.


Have at least a three-days’ supply of non-perishable food and water for your family. Remember to store anything specific to your family’s needs.


Warm clothes and blankets can help prevent hypothermia. Do not forget warm, waterproof, and protective footwear as well as gloves. Ask yourself, “What would I need for myself and my family if a winter storm struck?” and “What would I or my family require if we did not have access to a grocery store or pharmacy for at least three days?” Add any of these specific items to your Winter Storm Preparedness Checklist.


The NWS refers to winter storms as “deceptive killers” because most deaths and injuries are indirectly related to the storms. The majority of deaths caused by winter storms are from vehicle accidents due to ice and snow. Heart attacks brought on by over-exertion from shoveling or clearing snow also increase during and after storms. Finally, individuals also suffer dangerous injuries (e.g., frostbite and hypothermia) because of exposure and lack of protection from the wind and cold.

Another significant danger is sickness or death from carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur when using portable generators indoors, in attached garages, too close to the house, or when starting a vehicle without clearing snow and ice from the tailpipe. Generators should be used only outdoors and should be located at least 20 feet away from doors, windows, and vents.


Before a storm hits, it is important to know how you will contact your family and how you will get back together. Remember, you might not always have access to your cellular phone. Keep important numbers written down in your wallet in case you cannot access the contact list in your phone. Landline and cellular phone systems are often overwhelmed following a disaster, so you may need to use text messages and social media.

Designate an out-of-town contact who can help your household reconnect. Be sure to practice your plan with your family.


Road conditions during winter storms can be extremely dangerous. When storms are predicted, plan to stay off of the roads. However, even when the road conditions are good, preparing and maintaining your vehicle for cold weather will help keep your car dependable and reduce the chances of being stuck on the road in cold weather. Once you pack your emergency supply kit for your car, check off the items in your Winter Storm Preparedness Checklist.


During the fall, before winter weather sets in, make sure you or a mechanic completes a winter weather check on your vehicle by ensuring that the following car components are safely working

• Antifreeze levels

• Battery and ignition system

• Brakes

• Exhaust system (carbon monoxide is odorless and can be fatal)

• Fuel and air filters

• Heater and defroster

• Lights and flashing hazard lights

• Oil

• Thermostat

• Windshield wiper equipment

• Good winter tires



Insulate walls and attics, caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows, and installing storm windows or covering windowswith plastic.


Also, allow faucets to drip or trickle during unusually cold weather or if the power and heat are out to avoid freezing. When water freezes, it expands, and this can cause water pipes to burst. Know how to shut off water valves if a pipe bursts.


Repair roof leaks, check your roof to make sure it can handle the extra weight of the snow and ice and cut away tree branches that could fall on a house or neighboring structure. Keep pathways and driveways clear between storms to avoid buildup of snow piles and icing.


Use electric detectors with battery backups in central locations on every level of your home. This will provide an early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide, which is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and potentially deadly gas.


Check the structural ability of your roof to sustain unusually heavy weight from the accumulation of snow and/or ice.


Make sure everyone in your home knows how to use the extinguishers. If your smoke alarms get power from your home’s electrical system (hardwired), make sure the backup battery is replaced at least once a year, so your alarms will work during a power outage.


Have them cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional. Renters, either check with your landlord or property manager to ensure that they have taken care of these necessary building improvements or find out your responsibilities with respect to these actions


Insurance claims are an important part of recovering from storm damage. Review your homeowners, renters, or business insurance policies to ensure you have appropriate coverage for your property and personal belongings. Photograph and inventory your property to assist with post-disaster claims.


Most property insurance policies do not cover flood losses, so you will need to purchase separate flood insurance ifyour property is at risk for flooding due to snowmelt. Talk to your insurance agent about buying flood insurance. Flood insurance is available for homeowners, renters, and business owners through the National Flood Insurance Program in participating communities. Keep in mind that a policy purchased today will take 30 days to go into effect, so act now. Learn how to protect yourself financially from flood damage by visiting


Remember, during a disaster what’s good for you is good for your pet, so get them ready today.

If you leave your pets behind, they may be lost, injured – or worse. Never leave a pet chained outdoors. Plan options include:

Create a buddy system in case you’re not home. Ask a trusted neighbor to check on your animals.

Identify shelters. For public health reasons, many emergency shelters cannot accept pets.

Find pet-friendly hotels along your evacuation route and keep a list in your pet’s emergency kit.

Locate boarding facilities or animal hospitals near your evacuation shelter.

Consider an out-of-town friend or relative

Locate a veterinarian or animal hospital in the area where you may be seeking temporary shelter, in case your pet needs medical care. Add the contact information to your emergency kit.

Have your pet microchipped and make sure that you not only keep your address and phone number up-to-date, but that you also include contact info for an emergency contact outside of your immediate area.

Call your local emergency management office, animal shelter or animal control office to get advice and information.

If you are unable to return to your home right away, you may need to board your pet. Find out where pet boarding facilities are located.

Most boarding kennels, veterinarians and animal shelters will need your pet’s medical records to make sure all vaccinations are current.

If you have no alternative but to leave your pet at home, there are some precautions you must take, but remember that leaving your pet at home alone can place your animal in great danger!


If you have large animals such as horses, cattle, sheep, goats or pigs on your property, be sure to prepare before a disaster.

Ensure all animals have some form of identification.

Evacuate animals whenever possible. Map out primary and secondary routes in advance.

Make available vehicles and trailers needed for transporting and supporting each type of animal. Also, make available experienced handlers and drivers.

Ensure destinations have food, water, veterinary care, and handling equipment.

If evacuation is not possible, animal owners must decide whether to move large animals to shelter or turn them outside.

Take extra time to observe livestock, looking for early signs of disease and injury. Severe cold-weather injuries or death primarily occur in the very young or in animals that are already debilitated.

Animals suffering from frostbite don’t exhibit pain. It may be up to two weeks before the injury becomes evident as the damaged tissue starts to slough away. At that point, the injury should be treated as an open wound and a veterinarian should be consulted.

Make sure your livestock has the following to help prevent cold-weather problems:

Plenty of dry bedding to insulate vulnerable udders, genitals, and legs from the frozen ground and frigid winds

Windbreaks to keep animals safe from frigid conditions

Plenty of food and water


Include basic survival items and items to keep your pet happy and comfortable.

Start with this list:

Food. At least a three day supply in an airtight, waterproof container.

Water. At least three days of water specifically for your pets.

Medicines and medical records.

Important documents. Registration information, adoption papers and vaccination documents. Talk to your veterinarian about microchipping and enrolling your pet in a recovery database.

First aid kit. Cotton bandage rolls, bandage tape and scissors; antibiotic ointment; flea and tick prevention; latex gloves, isopropyl alcohol and saline solution. Including a pet first aid reference book is a good idea too.

Collar or harness with ID tag, rabies tag and a leash.

Crate or pet carrier. Have a sturdy, safe crate or carrier in case you need to evacuate. The carrier should be large enough for your pet to stand, turn around and lie down.

Sanitation. Pet litter and litter box if appropriate, newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags and household chlorine bleach.

A picture of you and your pet together. If you become separated, a picture of you and your pet together will help you document ownership and allow others to assist you. Add species, breed, age, sex, color and distinguishing characteristics.

Familiar items. Familiar items, such as treats, toys and bedding can help reduce stress for your pet.


Stay indoors and off the roads. If you must drive, keep emergency supplies in your car.

Close off rooms to consolidate and retain heat.

Dress in layers, and use blankets to stay warm.

Bring pets into a warm place and out of the storm or severe cold.

Never use a generator, camp stove, charcoal grill, or gasoline or propane heater indoors, as these items can start accidental fires, cause electric shock, and/or cause deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.

Never heat a home with a cooktop or oven.

Limit your time outdoors, and stay dry


Federal Highway Administration reports indicate that the risk of vehicular accidents rises sharply in winter weather conditions. In an average year, there are more than half a million vehicle crashes when the roads are snowy, slushy, or icy, resulting in nearly 2,000 fatalities and 140,000 injuries.Driving is very dangerous during and immediately after a winter storm. Plan to stay off the road when authorities issue Advisories, Watches, and Warnings.


If driving is necessary, ensure you have emergency supplies of food, water, warm clothing, and a full tank of gas in case you are stuck in traffic or have an accident and have to wait several hours for assistance. If possible, travel during the day and do not travel alone. Stay on main roads and do not crowd the snowplows. Let someone know your destination, route, and expected arrival time. If you become stranded in your car on a major highway, remain in your vehicle until help arrives. If you are stranded on a more remote road, use items around you to get attention for help.


Nearly 100 people die every year from heart attacks brought on by shoveling snow. Use caution, take breaks, push the snow instead of lifting it when possible, and lift lighter loads. Consider clearing the sidewalks of your elderly neighbors or neighbors with disabilities


Each year, an average of 430 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, and there are more than20,000 visits to the emergency room with more than 4,000 hospitalizations. Carbon monoxide-related deaths are highest during colder months. These deaths are likely due to increased use of gas-powered furnaces and alternative heating, cooking, and power sources used dangerously indoors during power outages. NEVER use a generator, grill, camp stove, or charcoal-burning device inside or in any partially enclosed area; keep these devices at least 20 feet from doors, windows, and vents. If your carbon monoxide alarm sounds move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. From the fresh-air location call or text 9-1-1 for help, and remain there until emergency personnel arrives to assist you.


If you detect symptoms of frostbite, which is the freezing of the skin and body tissue beneath the skin, in either yourself or another person, seek medical care IMMEDIATELY. Additionally, hypothermia occurs when one’s body temperature drops to dangerously low levels, so, before addressing symptoms of frostbite, first determine whether you or someone else is showing signs of hypothermia.


As the wind increases, your body is cooled at a faster rate, causing the skin temperature to drop. This is why it sometimes “feels” colder than the actual temperature. Wind chill is the temperature it “feels like” when you are outside. The NWS provides a Wind Chill Chart to show the difference between air temperature, and the perceived temperature, and the amount of time until frostbite occurs.


• Uncontrollable shivering

• Memory loss, disorientation

• Incoherence, slurred speech

• Drowsiness

• Apparent exhaustion


Loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, earlobes, face, and the tip of the nose.

If you detect symptoms of frostbite: Cover exposed skin, but do not rub the affected area in an attempt to warm it up. Frostbite results in the formation of ice crystals in the tissue and rubbing could damage the tissue. Seek medical help immediately. For more information, visit the CDC’s page on frostbite and hypothermia.

If you detect symptoms of hypothermia:

• Get the victim to a warm location.

• Remove wet clothing.

• Warm the center of the body first by wrapping the person in blankets or putting on dry clothing.

• Give warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the person is conscious.

• Take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95°, seek medical attention immediately


• If you must go outside, wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water-repellent.

• Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves.

• Cover all of your body. Wear a hat and a scarf, covering your mouth to protect your face and to help prevent loss of body heat.


Only drive if necessary. Remove snow and ice from your tailpipe before starting your car, and check regularly if idling. Clean all snow and ice from your car before driving. Dress in warm clothing, stay dry, prevent prolonged exposure to cold and wind, and avoid overexertion clearing/shoveling snow. Overexertion can lead to a medical emergency. Monitor local news and alerts for emergency information and instructions.


After a winter storm, the road to recovery can be challenging. It may take several weeks for clean-up and rebuilding.

• If your home is damaged, no longer safe, and/or has lost power, you may want to go to a designated public shelter. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code (e.g., SHELTER 20472) to 43362 (FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area. Follow local media for information on shelters. You can also find a shelter near you by checking out the FEMA mobile app:

• Friends, family, and neighbors will likely be the first to provide help. Plan with neighbors now to help each other and share resources.

• Nonprofit and faith-based organizations often provide support immediately after a winter storm. If you or someone in your household has a disability, access or functional need, and receives disability services, contact your local disability service provider for assistance.

• Insurance is an essential part of recovery. If you have insurance, you may receive financial compensation for some of your losses. Take pictures to document your damage, and file a claim as soon as possible. Do what you can to prevent further damage (e.g., putting a tarp on a damaged roof) because insurance may not cover damage that occurs after the winter storm.

• The Federal Government provides assistance only when the President declares an area to be a federal disaster. FEMA may provide financial assistance for basic needs that cannot be met by other sources. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture may also provide disaster assistance. Insurance claims and other forms of assistance may take time to arrive, and, if you are missing key documents, additional delays are possible.


Restock your emergency supplies to be ready in case another storm hits. Assess how well your supplies and family plan worked. What could you have done better? Take a few minutes to improve your family plan and supplies before the next winter storm hits. Talk to your neighbors and colleagues about their experiences and share tips with each other.


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