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Department of Emergency Services: Winter Weather Preparedness Tips
Although winter comes as no surprise, many folks may not be ready for its arrival. Preparing for the hazards of a winter storm means that you are more likely to remain safe and healthy when it strikes.
Winter weather, specifically winter storms, may be viewed as deceptively benign since most injuries and/or deaths occur due to reasons usually indirectly related to the storms. People are either injured or killed in traffic crashes on hazardous roads or suffer from hypothermia due to prolonged exposure to cold weather. Another serious concern associated with winter storms is disruption to power, heat, and communications—sometimes for days.
As we approach the heart of the winter season, the Franklin County Department of Emergency Services (DES) has some preparation recommendations for you to minimize the effects of winter storms while remaining in your home:
- Have heating systems, fireplaces, and chimneys inspected and cleaned;
- Ensure a sufficient amount of fuel for heat;
- Maintain ventilation if using portable kerosene and gas heaters to avoid build-up of toxic fumes;
- Refuel portable heaters outside and keep them at least three feet from flammable objects;
- Install fresh batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors;
- Prepare a home emergency kit including battery-operated devices such as a flashlight, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio, lamps, extra batteries, first-aid kit and sufficient medication. Include a cell phone and battery charger;
- Stock foods which need no refrigeration or cooking, as well as containers of water;
- Have adequate clothing and extra blankets. If you need to go outside, wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heaving clothing. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent along with accessories like gloves, hats, and waterproof insulated boots;
- Walk carefully on snowy, icy walkways and avoid overexertion when shoveling snow; and
- If pets are outside, bring them inside if possible. If they cannot be brought indoors, make sure they have access to adequate warm shelter, food, and unfrozen water.
Driving during a winter storm is not recommended unless absolutely necessary. Prepare an emergency kit to keep in your vehicle in case you are stranded. The emergency kit should include:
- Cell phone and portable charger
- Food and bottled water
- Battery cables, flares, tire pump, and a bag of cat litter or sand for traction
- Ice scraper and small shovel
- Flashlight, battery-powered radio, and extra batteries
- First-aid kit
- Plastic bags for sanitation
As stated above, driving in a winter storm is only suggested when absolutely necessary, but if you must drive, following these tips will increase your chances of arriving at your destination safely:
Ten Tips for Winter Storm Driving
- Plan for plenty of travel time since travel takes longer in bad weather conditions.
- Thoroughly remove snow and ice from your vehicle.
- Turn on your headlights during the winter storm.
- Keep your vehicle’s fuel tank at least half full.
- Slow down and increase the following distance for vehicles in front of you.
- Never pass an active snow plow vehicle.
- Be prepared for fast changing weather conditions such as snow squalls.
- Do not use your vehicle’s cruise control.
- Do not leave a vehicle parked unattended along a road or in a lane.
- And as always: ignore distractions including texting, wear seat belts, and do not drink and drive!
Be ready to check on family, friends, neighbors, aging adults, shut-ins and the chronically ill to make sure they are doing well and have proper supplies. Remember, during a winter storm, we are all in this together!
Although being prepared cannot prevent winter weather or the resulting difficulties it brings, it can mitigate some of the adverse impact from the weather to help keep you and your family well and safe.
If you have an emergency during a winter storm, or at any other time, please dial 911 so the Franklin County DES Dispatch Center can send you help as quickly as possible.
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