Winter Weather Safety Messages
1. Do you know the difference between a winter storm watch and warning? A winter storm watch is issued when there is a high probability of severe winter weather developing. A winter storm warning is issued when severe winter weather is imminent or has already developed. A watch is normally issued well in advance of a winter storm, so there is still time to make plans to protect yourself, your family, and your property. This is the time to stock upon groceries, fuel, medicines, and other supplies. Once a warning is issued, it's time to stay inside. Know the difference between a watch and a warning. It could save your life.
2. Preparation is the key to surviving a winter storm. Develop a plan of action to get all family members home or to another place of safety before the storm arrives. Once a winter storm watch is issued, you should continue your preparations by making sure your car has a full tank of gas. Stock up on food, medication, and first aid supplies. Keep flashlights and a portable radio handy, along with extra batteries. Be prepared for the possibility of power outages, and stay informed on the latest weather developments by listening to NOAA weather radio or commercial news media.
3. During winter storms, avoid over exertion. Cold temperatures and the extra train of hard work such as shoveling snow, pushing a stalled car, or walking in deep snow against a strong cold wind can quickly produce over exertion and put and additional strain your heart.
4. Do you know the signs of hypothermia? Hypothermia occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat. Signs of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, slurred speech, drowziness, exhaustion, and memory lapses. If you show any of these symptoms, get to a warm environment as soon as possible. You can stay warm by keeping yourself and your clothing dry. Wet clothing loses its insulating value and evaporation will cause additional cooling. Also avoid alcoholic beverages. Alcohol causes the body to lose heat more rapidly.
5. Be sure your car is in good working order before winter starts. This includes brakes, lights, battery, defroster, exhaust, heater, windshield wipers, and cooling system. Keep your gas tank at least half full and carry a winter survival kit in the trunk. Try to travel in a group of other vehicles when traversing sparsely populated areas.
6. If you must travel during a winter storm, let someone know your travel plans and carry a winter survival kit in your car. The survival kit should include a battery powered radio, tire chains, booster cables, shovel, sand, flashlight, candles and matches, first aid kit, non perishable high calorie food, and extra clothing or blankets. A cellular phone or citizens band radio is also recommended. Monitor the latest information about the storm on your car or portable radio.
7. If you must travel during a blizzard or heavy snowstorm and your car becomes stalled, don't panic. Stay in your car and keep the radiator and exhaust pipe clear of snow. Don't try to shovel or push your car out of the snow. Bitterly cold winds can sap your strength quickly and over exertion will exhaust you, lowering your resistance to the cold and endangering your life. Don't try to walk out of the storm. You can easily lose your sense of direction and you will no longer have the protective shelter of your car.
8. If your car stalls during a blizzard or heavy snowstorm, stay in your car and run the motor and heater sparingly. Open a window a small amount for ventilation and to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure ice does not seal the car windows and cut off the oxygen supply. In daylight, tie a colored cloth to the radio antenna. At night, turn on the dome light or a flashlight frequently. If you must get out of your car, tie a life line to you and your car. During a blizzard, you could get lost just a few feet away from your car. If you're alone, stay awake and alert to spot help or trouble. If you're with companions, at least one person must be awake and alert at all times. Exercise arms and legs to maintain blood circulation and to keep your body temperature from dropping.
9. Beware of the cold. At cold temperatures, the wind produces a dangerous chilling effect. A temperature of twenty degrees with a twenty mile an hour wind is equivalent to a temperature of ten below zero with no wind. If the wind increases to thirty five miles an hour at twenty degrees, the equivalent temperature is twenty below zero. Protection against frostbite is essential under these conditions. For the best protection against the cold, wear several layers of tightly woven, loose fitting and lightweight clothing. A lot of body heat is lost through your head. Keep your head covered and protect exposed skin such as your face, ears, and hands.
10. Prepare now for possible winter emergencies. A severe winter storm can cut off your source of food, fuel, and electrical power. When the National Weather Service issues a winter storm watch or warning, be sure your food and fuel supplies are sufficient to last for the duration of the storm. Also stock up on needed medicines and batteries for flashlights and radios. Be extremely careful when using oil or kerosene stoves, grills, and fireplaces for emergency heating and cooking. These devices and the rooms they are used in must be well ventilated. Fumes and carbon monoxide from incomplete combustion can kill you. Take precautions to prevent fires. Many fires that occur in winter are caused by overheated heaters and furnaces. Have these appliances checked by a competent technician before the winter season starts. If a fire starts during a winter storm, the fire department might not be able to get to you.