Archive for Thursday, November 9, 2006

Time to get prepared for winter

November 9, 2006

It is now officially chilly enough to get a Winter Emergency Preparedness Kit together.

Get informed
Blizzards, heavy snow, freezing rain, ice and freezing temperatures occasionally hit hard in our neck of the woods. Even if you think you are safe and warm at home, a winter storm can become dangerous if the power goes off. With a little planning, you can protect yourself and your family and keep your property losses to a minimum.
Learn what the National Weather Service winter weather advisories mean:
¢ Winter weather advisory -- Severe weather conditions exist
¢ Winter storm watch -- Severe weather conditions may affect your area
¢ Winter storm warning -- Severe weather conditions are imminent
¢ Freezing rain or drizzle -- Rain or drizzle is likely to freeze on impact, resulting in a coating of ice glaze on roads and all other exposed surfaces.
¢ Sleet -- Small particles of ice, usually mixed with rain
¢ Blizzard warning -- Sustained wind speeds of at least 35 miles per hour accompanied by considerable falling and/or blowing snow
¢ Wind chill -- Strong wind combined with a temperature below freezing can have the same chilling effect as a temperature nearly 50 degrees lower in a calm atmosphere.

Be prepared
Have emergency supplies in a portable kit:
¢ Flashlight, portable battery-operated radio and extra batteries for both
¢ First aid kit and manual, and essential medicines (one-week supply)
¢ At least three gallons of water per person
¢ Protective clothing, bedding and sturdy shoes
¢ Emergency food that can be prepared without an electric or gas range, and a manual can opener
¢ An alternative heat source, such as a fireplace, space heater, catalytic camp stove, wood stove or propane heater.
¢ Special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members
¢ Written instructions on how to turn off electricity, gas and water if authorities advise you to do so.

Communications plan
¢ Ideally, you can get the family together when you know severe weather is approaching. However, you should select an out-of-town friend or relative for everyone to check in with if family members are in different locations during a severe storm. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number of this contact person.
¢ Know ahead of time what you should do to help elderly or disabled friends, neighbors or employees.

If isolated at home during the storm, listen to the radio or television for updates on weather conditions. During severe winter storms, your home heating system could be inoperative for several days. To minimize discomfort and possible health problems during this time:
¢ Conserve body heat by dressing warmly. Layer clothing. Many layers of thin clothing are warmer than a single layer of thick clothing. Mittens are warmer than gloves. Wear a hat or cap to prevent body heat loss through the top of your head. If necessary, cover your mouth with scarves to protect your lungs from directly inhaling extremely cold air.
¢ Improvise with an alternative heat source
¢ Confine heat to a single room. Try to select a room on the "warm" side of the house. Close off all rooms except the one to be heated.
¢ Think safety. Do not burn outdoor barbecue materials, such as charcoal briquettes, inside -- even in a fireplace.
¢ Maintain adequate ventilation to avoid build-up of carbon monoxide when using combustion heating.
¢ Shelter -- When the weather turns nasty, there are times when you should stay at home. If the weather is such that it is unsafe to be out in a car, please consider staying at home.
If there is a medical emergency, do not try to drive to the doctor or the hospital -- call 911. Their vehicles are equipped to drive in inclement weather.

After the storm
¢ Immediately report downed power lines and broken gas or water lines.
¢ After blizzards, heavy snows, or extreme cold, check to see that no physical damage has occurred and water pipes are functioning. If there are no problems, wait for streets and roads to be opened before you attempt to drive anywhere.
¢ Check on neighbors, especially any who may need help
¢ Beware of overexertion and exhaustion. Shoveling snow in extreme cold causes many heart attacks. Set your priorities, and pace yourself after any disaster that leaves you with a mess to clean up. The natural tendency is to do too much too soon.

Community and financial preparedness
¢ Have a family meeting to identify what to do if ice or snow occurs and you are not at home.
¢ Learn who to call for help
¢ Visit with neighbors to determine how you can work together during an emergency
¢ Review basic safety measures, such as first aid and CPR
¢ Review specific damage coverage provided by your home owner's insurance
¢ Prepare records that will verify losses for insurance, tax or federal disaster purposes.
-- Clarin Blessing is the assistant director of training and public education with the Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. Call (913) 715-1002 or e-mail
Source: Texas Cooperative Extension Service

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