Ensure You Are Prepared
Winter storms are often referred to as “deceptive killers.” This is because weather conditions are rarely the sole reason for winter fatalities. It’s winter weather combined with other contributing factors that lead to a significant number of deaths annually.
In fact, every year more than half a million car accidents occur during winter weather. This alone results in almost 2,000 fatalities. Yet, even something as benign as shoveling snow causes nearly 100 fatal heart attacks annually. This is why it is so important to learn what you can do before, during and after a storm strikes, to help protect your loved ones, home and business.
Before a Snowstorm
Know the Warnings. There are a few different terms that the National Weather Service uses when talking about winter storms. Understanding the warning terminology can help you know when to start preparing for a winter storm. These terms are:
- Advisory. This is issued when winter weather that could cause inconveniences is expected.
- Watch. This is issued 12 to 36 hours in advance of a potentially severe storm. Conditions usually include heavy snow and/or ice.
- Warning. This is issued when 4 or more inches of snow are expected in the next 12 hours, 6 or more inches of snow are expected in 24 hours or a quarter inch accumulation of ice is expected.
Protect your home or business. If you live in an area that experiences harsh winter conditions, prepare your home or business in the spring, summer or fall months. Start by insulating your water pipes so that they don’t freeze or crack in colder months. Hire a contractor to winterize your home or business as well. This includes updating insulation in walls and attics, installing weather stripping on doors and windows, and installing storm windows.
Also, clear out your gutters and drains. This can help prevent ice dams from forming on your roof or snow melt from flooding your home. In addition to this, consider cutting down trees or tree branches that could fall on your house or other property, or vehicles during a winter storm.
Schedule snow removal. More than 10,000 people go to emergency rooms every year for snow shoveling injuries. As previously stated, almost 100 people suffer from fatal heart attacks while shoveling every year. Schedule your snow removal service in the warmer months. If the price is too high, consider buying a snow blower or at least a large push-snowplow.
Prepare for an approaching storm. When a winter advisory, watch or warning has been issued, take steps to prepare.
- Charge your cell phone.
- Make sure you have enough food and water for a few days. Don’t count on being able to use your tap.
- Lower your storm windows and replace screen doors with storm doors.
- Fill your car’s gas tank and back your car into your parking space.
- Make sure you have plenty of blankets and winter clothing available.
- Purchase batteries and make sure your flashlights are working.
- Run the heat in your house or business slightly higher than normal. If the power and heating goes out, your house or business will stay warmer longer.
During a Snowstorm
Stay indoors. Don’t go out unless you absolutely have to. Stay inside and keep warm. If you lose power and temperatures are dropping dramatically, pull the curtains on your windows and stay in one room to conserve heat.
Travel only if necessary. If you absolutely need to travel, try to do so during the day and with another passenger. Let several people know where you are heading and what time you think you expect to arrive. Don’t forget to pack an emergency kit in your car.
If you get stuck in the snow while driving, stay in your car if:
- You’re not dressed to handle the elements.
- You are unable to call for help.
- You are not sure where the closest location for you to get warm and make a phone call is.
You can consider leaving your car to find help if:
- You can see a location where you can get warm and call for help.
- You are dressed for the elements.
After a Snowstorm
Assess damage. If you can safely photograph damage that your house, other property or business sustained during the storm, do so. If you’re unable to photograph it, make detailed notes. Contact your insurance company and report the damage immediately.
Communicate. Reach out to friends and family members who live alone or who need help taking care of themselves. Check to see if they have everything they need and if they are able to get out of their house.
Seek shelter if needed. Send a text message to 43362 (FEMA) with the message: SHELTER + your ZIP code. You will receive information about shelters closest to you. Bring warm clothes, medicine and toiletries if you plan on going to a shelter.