Winterization - Prepare now to survive later
Winter weather, cold temperatures with ice and snow, has already made an appearance in Saline County this year and there have been a few unfortunate accidents as a result. When winter threatens there are some considerations to ensure safety and comfort during the cold.
We can take up the mantra of the Boy Scouts when looking toward the approaching cold months and “be prepared.” Check your battery of supplies, such as snow shovels, salt for deicing porches and walkways, bottled water and canned food, extra batteries for weather radios, cell phones and flashlights. Keep medication needs in mind as well, and pay attention to weather reports so you don’t get caught stuck at home and unable to fill necessary prescriptions when needed. Don’t forget pet needs, and make sure you have a sufficient stock of pet food to see your furry friends through a cold spell.
Take a few minutes now, before ice and snow descend on the area, to check your home for leaky windows and doors. Most of the local hardware stores provide classes and information services to show folks how to caulk windows, how to keep pipes from freezing and more. Pre-weather checks should also include hiring a heating and cooling business to check the furnace, replace the filter, and test run the device. Chimneys and woodstoves should be cleaned early in the season in preparation for hard use during the winter months.
This time of year is a good time to install and/or test fire and smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and make sure the device’s battery back up is in working order.
Be prepared during a winter storm to deal with others who may be having serious medical problems, such as frostbite or hypothermia. Either condition can occur in a short time as the temperature drops dangerously, the wind blows, and snow, ice and rain occur. Hypothermia is a medical condition that occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can produce it, resulting in dangerously low body temperature. Normal body temperature is usually 98.6 degrees. Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature drops below 95 degrees. Signs and symptoms include shivering, slow or weak pulse, lack of coordination, irritability, confusion and sleepy behavior. Hypothermia can occur when a person is exposed to cold air, cold water, wind or rain, all of which can occur during a winter storm as people attempt to get home or get into shelter. If you encounter a person with these symptoms, be gentle as you move them out of the cold. If their clothing is wet, remove it and cover or wrap them in blankets. Avoid placing the affected person directly on the ground. Monitor their breathing and provide warm beverages if they are able to drink safely and call emergency assistance.
A winter storm can last a few hours or several days and can knock out power and communication services during that time, leaving homes without heat, lights, hot water or cooking facilities. Keep apprised of the weather patterns in the area and pay attention to weather reports. Once a winter storm warning has been issued, just as with tornado warnings in the warmer months, take shelter right away. Stay off the highway if possible, stay indoors and dress warmly.
During power outages, never attempt to heat your home with a gas stovetop or oven. In accordance with preparation, many companies offer small propane heaters which can be used indoors during power outage emergencies. If you are using an outdoor gas generator, never place the generator near a window.
If you are caught in your car during a winter storm and hazardous driving conditions stop you, stay in your car. The winter storm emergency supply kit for your car should include jumper cables, sand, flashlight, blankets, bottled water, nonperishable snacks, and a portable charger with extra batteries for your cell phone. Most retail stores offer full body rain gear, which includes hooded jacket and pants, and it is a good idea to have a set of this gear in your car at all times in a large enough size to wear over warm winter gear to provide warm, dry insulation in an emergency.
Basically, remember it is your personal responsibility to take care of yourself and your family during emergencies such as winter storms. Make a plan. Talk with your family about what steps to take if they are caught away from home when the storm hits, how you will communicate and keep track of one another during bad weather. Tailor your plan to the specific needs of your household, such as ages involved, special needs such as dietary needs, medication needs, disabilities, needs of pets or service animals. Take note of elderly persons in your neighborhood who might need your help, and formulate a plan of what you might need to do to provide assistance during storms.
Preparation can make the difference between comfortable survival and possible tragedy.