Be Prepared with a Winter Emergency Plan

Some of the biggest snows and dangerous weather have happened in the Valley in February and March. It is important to be prepared with a Winter Emergency Plan. This includes planning things for your home, your car and thinking ahead in case you get stranded out in the cold.

At home, the emergency supplies list may include an alternate way to heat your home during a power failure: dry firewood for a fireplace or wood stove, kerosene for a kerosene heater, furnace fuel (coal, propane, or oil) or electric space heater with automatic shut-off switch and non-glowing elements. The home list would also include blankets, matches, multipurpose- dry-chemical fire extinguisher, first aid kit and instruction manual, flashlight or battery-powered lantern, battery-powered radio, battery-powered clock or watch, extra batteries, non-electric can opener, snow shovel, rock salt, and special needs items (diapers, hearing aid batteries, medications, etc.). You may need to think ahead to make sure you have several days' supply of food that needs no cooking or refrigeration (such as bread, crackers, cereal, canned foods, and dried fruits). Remember baby food and formula if you have young children. Water is essential and should be stored in clean containers, or have bottled water (5 gallons per person) in case your water pipes freeze and rupture. In respect to medications, consider what is needed by all family members.

To be safe out on the road, if you must travel during bad winter weather, equip your car with these items: blankets, first aid kit, a can and waterproof matches (to melt snow for water), windshield scraper, booster cables, road maps, mobile phone, compass, tool kit, paper towels, bag of sand or cat litter (to pour on ice or snow for added traction), tow rope, tire chains (in areas with heavy snow), collapsible shovel, container of water, and high-calorie canned or dried foods and a can opener, flashlight and extra batteries, canned compressed air with sealant (for emergency tire repair), and brightly colored cloth.

When you do travel be very cautious: listen for radio or television reports of travel

advisories issued by the National Weather Service, do not travel in low visibility conditions, avoid traveling on ice-covered roads, overpasses, and bridges if at all possible. If you must travel by car, use tire chains and take a mobile phone with you. If you must travel, let someone know your destination and when you expect to arrive. Ask them to notify authorities if you are late. Check and restock the winter emergency supplies in your car before you leave. Never pour water on your windshield to remove ice or snow; shattering may occur. Don't rely on a car to provide sufficient heat; the car may break down. Always carry additional warm clothing appropriate for the winter conditions.

If you do get stranded, staying in your vehicle is often the safest choice if winter storms create poor visibility or if roadways are ice covered. These steps will increase your safety when stranded: Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna as a signal to rescuers and raise the hood of the car (if it is not snowing). Move anything you need from the trunk into the passenger area. Wrap your entire body, including your head, in extra clothing, blankets, or newspapers. Stay awake. You will be less vulnerable to cold-related health problems. Run the motor (and heater) for about 10 minutes per hour, opening one window slightly to let in air. Make sure that snow is not blocking the exhaust pipeā€”this will reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to improve your circulation and stay warmer. Do not eat frozen snow because it will lower your body temperature. Huddle with other people for warmth.

Visit the CDC Winter Weather page for Winter health and safety tips. The educational information above was taken from the document EXTREME COLD: A Prevention Guide to Promote Health and Safety.

Information provided by Dana H. Breeding, RN Health Educator from Community Wellness, of Augusta Health. To contact Dana related to the above information, please call (540) 332-4988) or (540) 932-4988.