Winter Storm Survival Tips

A person shoveling snow on a sidewalkPiles of snow, violent winds, icy roads and freezing temperatures: We can’t control the weather. Sometimes, it’s difficult to even adequately predict it, regardless if you’re at home, at work, or somewhere in-between.

Thankfully, there are some important steps you can take to help stay safe. And warm. And dry. And calm.

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Prepare Your Home

When temperatures start declining into the single digits (and below), pipes are at risk for freezing. Frozen pipes mean no water. You can help keep your water running insulating your pipes with foam. Additionally, if freezing temperatures are predicted, let the water run in your faucets (a slow drip is fine).

Other home safety measure you can take include:

  • Prepare a list of emergency numbers and post them somewhere convenient
  • Make sure you have candles and flashlights avaiable
  • Have extra cell phone chargers on hand
  • Stock up on blankets and sleeping bags
  • Stock up on extra batteries
  • Buy a battery-operated radio
  • Buy a kerosene heater (and fuel)
  • Stock up on emergency wood (if you have a fireplace

Speaking of cell phones, here’s another tip: unless you have a battery operated cell phone charger, turn your cell phone off so you can make emergency calls, if necessary.

Work From Home

When the weather conditions are dangerous, you’re often better off just working from home. So, if it is at all possible, this may be your best winter storm safety option.

However, if you absolutely must travel to work:

  • Try to monitor the weather and travel ahead of a predicted storm
  • Stock up on food and water
  • Have a sleeping bag, pillows and blankets available
  • Bring extra clothes

Stock Up On Food & Medicine

It’s important to have at least enough food, water medical supplies and toiletry items (such as toothpaste, soap and shampoo) for every member of your household to eat for at least two weeks. Make a list of the items that everyone needs (including any pets), and try to shop for them as far in advance as possible to better avoid crowds – and empty shelves. Remember that canned and dry foods tend to be the best options (make sure you own a few can openers). You should also have several gallons of water on hand.

Additionally, to better prepare food during a power outage, you may want to invest in a camping stove, fuel canisters and a cooler (to pack with snow or ice to help keep food fresh).

Monitor Your Limbs (Especially Fingers & Toes)

Dangerous symptoms of cold weather, particularly frostbite, is a serious reality during a storm (and in cold weather conditions in general)

It should go without saying that you need to wear warm-weather clothing during winter, including gloves, a hat, thick socks, boots that protect against cold and snow, and a suitable winter coat. But it’s also very important to monitor your body, particularly your limbs, for signs of trouble.

What is frostbite? Essentially, it’s a medical condition where damage is caused to skin and other tissues due to freezing. Frostbite is most likely to happen in body parts farthest from the heart and those with large exposed areas. The initial stages of frostbite are sometimes called frostnip. After prolonged cold exposure, ice crystals form on skin cells, eventually killing them.

The two main stages of frostbite are:

Superficial frostbite: Numbness, tingling, burning, itching. The skin looks frozen white and retains firmness when pressed.

Deep frostbite: Increased and eventual loss of sensation, swelling, blood blisters. The skin is yellowish and hard and can appear blackened and dead.

To treat frostbite:

Get to a hospital as soon as possible
Move to a warm area as soon as possible
Elevate the affected area
Remove any restricted clothing or jewelry
Get to keep from further inhibiting the flow of blood.
If immediate hospital care is impossible,warm the area quickly in water between 104-107 degrees Fahrenheit (40-42 degrees Celsius)

Learn How To Recognize Hypothermia

Developing hypothermia is a very likely during a winter storm. real possibility. This condition occurs when your body temperature drops below what is necessary for normal metabolism and body functions.

Hypothermia symptoms include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Stiff joints
  • Loss of coordination
  • Slow pulse
  • Uncontrollable shivering
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Puffy face
  • Mental confusion

If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from hypothermia, it’s important to get warm as quickly as possible. Use blankets, sleeping bags, layers of clothing, etc. If someone is with them, snuggle closely to take advantage of their body heat. Just as importantly, get to a hospital for treatment as soon as you can.

If You Must Go Outside…

The absolute best strategy during a winter storm? Stay indoors. But if you need to be outside, you must dress appropriately to avoid sucuumbing to the above medical conditions. In addition to warm weather gear, you should also wear loose, layered clothing underneath.

Also, since snowstorm conditions are usually accompanied by limited visibility, it’s important that a few of those outer layers be a bright color so you can better be seen by others.

Additional tips:

  • Make sure someone knows where you’re going
  • Bring a cell phone with you
  • Try to avoid walking too close to the edge of a road (in case cars slide off the road)
  • Bring a small bottle of water and a portable snack, like a granola bar

If you find you can’t reach your destination or you get lost or stuck, try to take shelter inside a building or get behind something large as soon as you can.

Shovel Safely

Did you know tha people die every year from heart attacks while shoveling snow?

  • If you’re not in shape, but need to clear your driveway, get help from a young neighbor
  • Take your time shoveling – go slow, and take breaks
  • Shovel as soon as possible to avoid having to deal with a huge pile of snow
  • If not, go slow and steady, taking breaks as often as you need.

Stay Positive

A positive outlook can help improve even the worst situations. While you’re stocking up on food, water, etc., make sure to also include a few books, board games and a pack of cards. Have a notebook, coloring books, pens and crayons available. Look at family albums and make plans for the future. Engage in positive and healthy activities to help you take your mind off the weather and make the best of the situation.

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