Winter Weather Storms: Safety Topics - January 2019 - Week 3


Winter is Coming

Although many locations have been immersed in wintry conditions by this time of year, for many others, January through February can bring about some of the worst storms. This is a good time to review the potential for disruptive and dangerous weather, and make preparations ahead of time for what to do once the storm arrives. This week we’ll focus on storm preparation and provide some tips for what to do during and after a storm. Being prepared and safe against weather or other disasters is a responsible mindset and can really make a difference in how you and your family handle inclement conditions.

Monday, January 14

Protecting the Family

Snow is often portrayed as this fun, pretty, fluffy stuff that blankets everything in a wonderland of calm and splendor.  However, most who have experienced a snow storm know that it is only the beginning of hours, or even days, of inconvenience and potential hazards. 

Protecting yourself and your family is most important during a storm so here are some tips you can use to prepare yourself.

  • Have a plan and discuss it with your family.
    • Re-assure kids that they should not be afraid.
  • Ensure your vehicle has been winterized ahead of time.
    • Your mechanic should check battery, antifreeze, wipers, ignition system, lights, exhaust system, heater, brakes, defroster function and fluid levels.
    • High risk climate residents should do this in late fall, ahead of the winter season.
  • Good tires can improve traction in powdery snow.
    • Have chains available if you anticipate vehicle use in icy conditions
  • Keep a scraper, water, snacks, flashlights, a small broom, roadside flares, sand for traction, and a red piece of cloth in your vehicle.  Also consider having some blankets and an emergency supply kit on hand.  Be prepared to get stuck and ensure you are able to wait out assistance.
  • Have a supply of non-clumping cat litter or sand that can be helpful for icy surfaces.
  • Ensure every family member has plenty of warm clothing, water proof boots and extra blankets.
  • In the event of school closures, be prepared to keep the kids busy and maybe even productive with some indoor projects.

Make sure to have plenty of batteries for radios and backups for phones or tablets.

Tuesday, January 15

Pets and Animals

Pets and animals are part of the family and we have the responsibility to see to their needs in times of difficulty. In addition, other animals that you provide food for, such as livestock or farm animals, should also be protected during severe winter conditions.

  • Companion animals should be kept indoors. Make a plan to manage them with regards to clean up and feeding.
  • Provide a warm dry place where they can be comfortable and stress free.
  • Young or energetic animals, such as some dogs, may require play time to keep them from being too bored.
  • If you have livestock and/or horses, they should have a place that provides protection from wind, snow, ice, and rain. Also make sure they have a consistent supply of food and un-frozen water
  • Be aware of the potential for flooding in the event of rapid thawing of frozen precipitation and locate high ground or evacuation areas that are available to animals.

If you have the resources and capacity to assist neighbors, friends, or family in managing their pets without too much disruption to your household, this is an opportunity to do the right thing.

Wednesday, January 16

Protecting the Home

Your home is likely where you’ll be forced to ride out inclement weather; therefore, be ready to accommodate the needs of your family for an extended period of time.  Some of the things listed below are some good preparation practices but may vary according the climate and varying potential for severe winter weather.

  • Freezing pipes is probably the most common failure. 
    • Pipes most likely to freeze are outdoor utilities such as swimming pool pumps and irrigation systems, pipes that are in uninsulated locations such as basements and crawl spaces, and pipes that run along the exterior walls of a house
  • Protection such as wraps, tapes, and sleeves can be provided by most home supply stores in a pinch, but if you live in freeze prone area, it’s wise to invest in additional insulation.
  • Drain and purge water from outdoor utilities in the winter as a ‘winterizing exercise’ for the home.  This is one less thing you’ll have to do when the weather report delivers the news of an impending storm.
  • Keep water dripping in both hot and cold water supply lines in bathrooms, kitchens, etc.  If you don’t want to waste water, use it an opportunity to collect water for emergencies using old milk jugs or other sealable containers.
  • Depending on your climate, consider investing in emergency heating equipment. 
  • Stoves and hearths should be clean and properly vented.
  • Electric space heaters should be CE rated, have safety mechanisms for tip-over protection, and plugged directly into the wall, NOT an extension cord.
  • Some kerosene or propane heaters are permissible for indoor use as long as the room is adequately ventilated.  Please refer to manufacturers specifications.
  • Portable generators and solar systems make a nice investment regardless of the scenario and would make you the envy of the neighborhood should the power go out.

Be prepared for flooding in the event a rapid thaw should occur.

Thursday, January 17

During the Storm

Despite rigorous preparations, sometimes things comes up that you didn’t prepare for.  As long as it’s not life threatening, there is no reason to visibly get shaken or frustrated. As the safety leader in your home, it is important to your family that your calm is their assurance that the family will get through this together.

  • Stay informed on weather conditions and your situation as the storm progresses.
  • During a storm the demand on the electrical grid increases dramatically.  Do your part to conserve energy by keeping the thermostat down to a reasonable 65 degrees during the day and 58 or so at night.  Wear plenty of layers and warm clothing to remain comfortable.
  • Food provides the body with natural energy and helps keep internal warmth up so make sure to eat regularly.
  • Check on relatives and neighbors to make sure they’re doing ok.
  • Avoid going outside, but if you must, wear dry, warm, layered clothing, and cover your nose and mouth. 
  • If you’re going out to periodically shovel or to free a vehicle, make sure to stretch your back, shoulders and treat it as moderate exercise.  Stay dry and wear moisture wicking under layers.  Take frequent breaks as appropriate.
  • Avoid driving in winter weather.  About 70% of deaths related to ice and snow occur in automobiles.  If you must go out, communicate your anticipated ETA to your destination and check in often.

Friday, January 18

After or First Aid

It’s very possible that the storm’s hazards will still remain long after the sky has cleared.  Continue to remain diligent and stay in a hazard identification and abatement mindset throughout the effects of the storm.  Depending on the storm type and conditions, situations can actually get worse one the precipitation stops falling.  Snow turning to ice, power outages, flooding, and falling ice or snow from structures are all potential hazards after a winter storm.

  • Continue to stay informed regarding road conditions, local rivers, and runoffs.
  • Help people with special needs, such as the elderly and the disabled, to make sure they made it through and their needs are met.
  • Check on friends, family, and neighbors.
  • Stay away from buildings and structures with heavy snow or ice buildup as it can suddenly fall in a large enough volume to cause severe injury or death.
  • Once roads are clear and you are driving, avoid driving directly behind semi-tractor trailers.  Ice and snow on the top of the trailers and wheel wells can break free, hitting your car and causing damage.

First Aid:

  • Frostbite is tissue damage to external body parts such as fingers, nose, toes and ears.  Symptoms of this injury include lack of feeling in the area and an appearance of waxy texture that is a discolored white, gray, yellow, or blue depending on severity.
    • Move person to a warm place.
    • Do not RUB the affected area as this could cause additional damage.
    • Wrap person with warm water or towel. This can promote blood flow and the affected area may turn pink or red.
    • Wrap affected area loosely with sterile bandage. Do not break any blisters.
    • See doctor at next opportunity for additional care.
  • Hypothermia is a lowering of the body temperature that affects organ and motor functions.  The goals of first aid to restore normal body temperature and care for conditions until EMS can be administered.
    • Symptoms include shivering, numbness/weakness, apathy or impaired judgement, loss of consciousness.
    • Get person to a warm and dry place.
    • Remove any wet clothing and replace with warm clothing and blankets.
    • Warm the core (abdomen/chest) areas first – warm the person slowly.  Do not immerse in hot/warm water.  The sudden change can cause shock.
    • Call 911 for any situation involving Hypothermia. 

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