Do You Know What to do During an Extreme Cold Emergency?

What to do Before a Winter Storm:

Winter storm warnings are reported by local weather forecasters and can be predicted with a reasonable degree of accuracy. Winter storms can bring a lot of snow, sleet, freezing rain, sub-zero temperatures, lots of ice and even blizzards.

Preparing for winter storms can be life and property saving. Know your terms:

  • Freezing rain: Rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees and power lines.
  • Sleet: Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes moisture on roads to freeze and become slippery.
  • Winter Storm Watch: A winter storm is possible in your area.
  • Winter Storm Warning: A winter storm is occurring or will soon occur in your area.
  • Blizzard Warning: Conditions of sustained winds or frequent gusts of up to 35 miles per hour or greater and considerable amounts of falling or blowing snow (reducing visibility) are occurring or will soon occur in your area. Winter-storm preparation tips:
  • Double check to make sure that your emergency preparedness kit is complete, with fresh supplies.
  • Along with your kit keep extra blankets, warm clothes and a flashlight around the house. Know where they are located in case you have to find them in a power outage.
  • Stock up on extra food and water before the storm because the power may go out or you might be snowed in for a few days. •Make sure your home is properly insulated.
  • Caulk and weather strip doors and windows to keep out cold air. •Learn how to shut off water valves if a pipe burst.
  • Keep fire extinguishers on hand and know how to use them.


Winter Hazards

  • Consider what to use for emergency heat in case the electricity goes out (Fireplace, portable space heater, etc.). And remember emergency heating safety.
  • If you rent, make sure you are familiar with the heating system and that it is safe to use.
  • Remember to consider family members with special needs, such as babies. Keep extra prescription medicines available in case you are snowed or iced in. Don’t forget your pets!
  • If road conditions permit, fuel your car before the storm. It is a good idea to keep at least a half tank of gas in your car at all times during the winter months, to keep the fuel lines from freezing.
  • Put extra blankets, clothes, food and water, ice scraper and a shovel in your car.


What to Do During a Winter Storm

Winter storm warnings are reported by local weather forecasters and can be predicted with a reasonable degree of accuracy. Winter storms can bring a lot of snow, sleet, freezing rain, sub-zero temperatures, lots of ice and even blizzards. Preparing for winter storms can be life and property saving. The following are guidelines for what you should do during a winter storm.

If you are inside:

  • Stay inside! Only make trips that are necessary for survival.
  • Listen to your radio, television or Weather Radio for weather reports and emergency information.
  • Eat regularly and drink ample fluids but avoid caffeine and alcohol. 
  • Use proper safeguards when using fireplaces, space heaters, etc., to prevent accidental fires.
  • When you do not have heat (i.e., a power outage) close off unneeded rooms, stuff towels under doors and cover windows.
  • Maintain ventilations when using kerosene heaters to avoid build-up of toxic fumes. Refuel kerosene heaters outside and keep them at least three feet from flammable objects.
  • Conserve fuel, if necessary, by keeping your residence cooler than normal.

If you are outside:

  • People, pets and livestock are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia during winter storms; signs of frostbite and hypothermia include numbness, drowsiness, shivering, stumbling, slurred speech and a pale appearance.
  • Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow. Overexertion can bring on a heart attack – a major cause of death in the winter. If you must shovel snow, stretch before going outside.
  • Remove wet clothing. Working up a sweat trying to dislodge a vehicle can cause hypothermia if you do not change into dry clothing.
  • Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extremely cold air.
  • Wear layers of loose-fitting clothing instead of a single thick layer.
  • Wear mittens instead of gloves.
  • If you see homeless people stranded in the cold, call your local authorities so they can find a shelter for them.


What to Do During an Extreme Cold Emergency

Extreme cold consists of temperatures significantly colder than normal. Extremely cold conditions can cause a number of health and safety concerns, including frostbite, hypothermia, carbon monoxide poisoning and fires (caused by alternate heating sources). Taking preventive action is your best defense. By preparing your home and car in advance for winter emergencies and by observing safety precautions during times of extremely cold weather, you can reduce the risk of weather-related health problems.

In general, if you are experiencing extremely cold conditions you should: 

  • Protect yourself
  • Dress in several layers of lightweight clothing, which keeps you warmer than a single heavy coat.
  • Mittens provide more warmth to your hands than gloves. Wear a hat, preferably one that covers your ears. Wear a scarf over your mouth to protect your lungs.
  • Wear waterproof, insulated boots to keep your feet warm and dry and to maintain your footing on ice and snow.
  • Take frequent breaks and stay hydrated when digging out or shoveling snow. Protect yourself at home:
  • Be careful with candles – do not use candles for lighting if the power goes out. Use flashlights only.
  • Inspect fireplaces and wood stoves yearly – use a sturdy fire screen with lit fires. Burn only wood – never burn paper or pine boughs.
  • Use generators correctly – never operate a generator inside your home, including the basement or garage. Do not hook up a generator directly to your home’s wiring. The safest thing to do is connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. •Prevent frozen pipes – when the weather is very cold outside, open cabinet doors to let warm air circulate around water pipes. Let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing because the temperature of the water running through it is above freezing. Keep the thermostat set to a consistent temperature. •Don’t overload your electrical outlets.
  • Don’t forget your pets – bring them indoors. If you can’t bring them inside, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure they can access unfrozen water.
  • If you plan on using an alternate heating source, never use a stove or oven to heat your home. Keep a glass or metal fire screen around the fireplace and never leave a fireplace fire unattended. If using a space heater, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to safely use the heater. Place it on the, hard, nonflammable surface. Turn the space heater off when you leave the room or go to sleep. Keep children and pets away from your space heater and do not use it to dry clothing. Understand frostbite and hypothermia:
  • Symptoms of frostbite include: numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration and waxy feeling skin. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
  • Symptoms of hypothermia for adults include: shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness; and for infants; bright red, cold skin and very low energy. What to do:
  • If you notice any of these signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95° F, the situation is an emergency – get medical attention immediately. If medical care is not available, begin warming the person, as follows:
    • Get the victim into a warm room or shelter.
    • If the victim has on any wet clothing, remove it.
    • Warm the center of the body first – chest, neck, head and groin – using an electric blanket, if available. Or use skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels or sheets.
    • Warm beverages can help increase the body temperature, but do not give alcoholic beverages. Do not try to give beverages to an unconscious person.
    • After body temperatures have increased, keep the person dry and wrapped in a warm blanket, including the head and neck.
    • Get medical attention as soon as possible.

Winter Driving Tips

Hazardous driving conditions due to snow and ice on highways and bridges lead to many accidents, which is the leading cause of death during winter storms. By following these tips and advice, you will be ready for winter driving. The Virginia Department of Transportation and State Police remind you: “Ice and Snow, Take it Slow!” Prepare a winter emergency kit for your vehicle.

Supplies should include:

  • At least two blankets or a sleeping bag •Flashlight or battery-powered lantern and extra batteries •Booster (jumper) cables •Emergency flares
  • Extra clothing, particularly boots, hats and mittens •A steel shovel and rope to use as a lifeline
  • Bottled water or juice and nonperishable high-energy foods (granola bars, raisins, nuts, peanut butter or cheese crackers)
  • Thermos or container that won’t allow liquids to freeze
  • First-aid kit and necessary medications
  • Sand or non-clumping cat litter for tire traction if your vehicle gets stuck in snow or ice
  • A cell phone and charger which can be adapted to vehicle use •Ice scraper and snow brush
  • Tire repair kit and pump
  • Candle, matches, heat sticks/packs, lighters, hand-warmers, etc. (Be sure to crack the window if you are using a heat source indoors.)
  • Small tent or shelter

Driving tips: Before leaving home:

  • Find out about the driving conditions and pay attention to weather reports on the radio.
  • Remove any snow on your vehicle’s windows, lights, brake lights and signals.
  • Check your vehicle’s tires, wiper blades, fluids, lights, belts and hoses.
  • Let someone know your destination, route and when you expect to arrive.
  • Avoid driving and take public transportation if possible.
  • Become familiar with your vehicle’s winter weather operating characteristics. Front-wheel-drive vehicles generally handle better than rear-wheel vehicles on slippery roads because the weight of the engine is on the drive wheels, improving traction.

On the road:

  • If you need to turn on your wipers, you need to turn on your lights.
  • Remember to drive well below the posted speed limit and leave plenty of room between cars.
  • Be cautious of black ice. Roads that seem dry may actually be slippery and dangerous. Take it slow when approaching intersections, off-ramps, bridges or shady areas.
  • Stay attentive and reduce speeds during times of limited visibility. •Give snowplows room to work. The plows are wide and can cross the centerline or shoulder. Do not tailgate and try not to pass.
  • Give yourself space, remember it takes your car extra time to stop on slick and snowy roads
  • Brake early, brake slowly, brake correctly and never “slam on the brakes.” Understand your vehicles brakes and how they work. •When driving on ice and snow, do not use cruise control and avoid abrupt steering maneuvers.
  • Take it slow when merging into traffic.
  • Be aware of what is going on ahead of you because actions by other vehicles will alert you to problems more quickly giving you that split-second of extra time to react safely. What to do should you become stranded: •Do not leave your car, it is the best protection you have. •Keep the overhead light on when the engine is running so you can be seen (remember to keep the windows cracked).
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna for rescuers to see.
  • Run the engine for 10 minutes every hour to stay warm.
  • Keep the exhaust pipe free of blockage to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Don’t panic! An idling car uses only one gallon of gas per hour.

Remember to always be prepared and to take caution when you are out and about during winter storms. If you can the best place to be is home and to let VDOT clear the roads.

Clean your sidewalks and steps use de-icer when you can and if you have a neighbor that may not be able to do it themselves and you are able, help them and clean their steps and walkway too.


Have a great day from your SAFEPATH team!!

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