Winter storm emergency tips
These tips to stay safe during a winter storm come from Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency's website:
- Get an emergency supply kit that includes enough provisions for you and your family to live on for a minimum of three days.
- The kit should include: rock salt to melt ice on walkways, sand to improve traction, snow shovels and other snow removal equipment, adequate clothing and blankets to keep you and your family warm.
- Have an emergency plan for you and your family.
- Listen to the radio, television, or NOAA Weather Radio for weather reports and emergency information.
- Make sure your home is well-insulated and that you have weather stripping around your doors and windowsills to keep the warm air inside.
- If you have no heat, close off unneeded rooms, stuff towels or rags in the cracks under doors and cover windows at night.
- Cover pipes with insulation or newspapers and plastic. Allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing.
- Learn how to shut off water valves in case a pipe bursts.
- If the pipes freeze, remove any insulation or layers of newspapers and wrap pipes in rags. Completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they were most exposed to the cold.
- Use extreme caution when using alternative heating sources. Refuel kerosene heaters outside and keep them at least three feet from flammable objects. Also, when using kerosene heaters be sure to maintain ventilation to avoid build-up of toxic fumes. See Winter Heating Safety Tips for more information.
- Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing. Several layers of lightweight clothing will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat. Wear gloves (or mittens) and a hat to help prevent loss of body heat.
If you are driving:
- Avoid driving during winter storms. If you must drive:
- Stay on main roads, avoiding back road shortcuts.
- Try to only travel during the day.
- Be sure to let someone know where you are going, along with your primary and alternate routes.
Prepare your vehicle for winter by checking (or having a mechanic check):
- Antifreeze levels
- Battery and ignition system
- Brakes (wear and fluid level)
- Exhaust system (leaks, crimped pipes, etc.)
- Fuel and air filters
- Heater and defroster
- Lights and flashing hazard lights
- Windshield wipers and wiper fluid
If you get trapped in your car during a blizzard:
- Pull off the highway, turn on hazard lights and hang a distress flag from the radio antenna or window.
- Remain in your vehicle where rescuers are most likely to find you. Do not set out on foot during a blizzard unless you can see a building close by where you know you can take shelter. If you do leave the vehicle, use extra caution because distances are distorted by blowing snow.
- Run the engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm. When the engine is running, open a downwind window slightly for ventilation and periodically clear snow from the exhaust pipe to guard against possible carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Huddle with other passengers and use your coat for a blanket.
- Take turns sleeping. One person should be awake at all times to look for rescue crews.
- Drink fluids to avoid dehydration.
- If stranded in a remote area, stomp large block letters in an open area spelling out HELP or SOS and line with rocks or tree limbs to attract the attention of rescue personnel who may be surveying the area by airplane.
If you are outdoors:
- Use caution not to over exert yourself when shoveling snow. Heart attacks caused by overexertion are a major cause of death in the winter.
- Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extremely cold air.
- Keep dry. If possible, change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat.
- Watch for signs of frostbite. These include loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, and the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately.
- Watch for signs of hypothermia. These include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion. If symptoms of hypothermia are detected:
- Get the victim to a warm location.
- Remove wet clothing.
- Put the person in dry clothing and wrap their entire body in a blanket.
- Warm the center of the body first.
- Give warm, non-alcoholic or non-caffeinated beverages if the victim is conscious.
- Get medical help as soon as possible.