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Preparing for a winter storm


During extremely cold weather or winter storms, staying warm and safe can be a challenge. Winter storms can bring cold temperatures, power failures, loss of communication services and icy roads. To keep yourself and your loved ones safe, you should know how to prepare your home and your car before a winter storm hits. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention have excellent tips for how you can be better prepared for a weather emergency. 

Make a plan

More than a collection of names, phone numbers and street addresses, an Emergency Action Plan is an instruction manual for how to stay healthy, stay informed and stay in contact in an emergency. Because an Emergency Action Plan affects everyone in your home, the whole household should be involved in making and practicing the plan.

According to FEMA, more than 60 percent of people don’t have an emergency plan that they have discussed with their household. Here are five simple things you can do to start your Emergency Action Plan:

1. Find phone numbers for your physician, pediatrician, pharmacist and veterinarian. Other important numbers you should know include:

  • Poison Control Center: 800-222-1222
  • Animal Poison Control Helpline: 888-426-4435
  • Disaster Distress Helpline: 800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746

2. Ask a friend or relative who lives outside of the immediate area—preferably in another state—to be your family’s Out-of-Town Contact.

3. Identify a shelter-in-place location inside your home, two emergency meeting places outside your home where your family can reunite in an emergency, and at least two ways out of every room in your home.

4. Ask your child’s school or daycare about their emergency communication and family reunification plans.

5. Update your Emergency Action Plan whenever your family moves, your child changes schools, you change jobs, have a child or experience some other significant life event.

Weatherproof your home

  • Insulate any water lines that run along exterior walls so your water supply will be less likely to freeze.
  • Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows.
  • Insulate walls and attic.
  • Install storm or thermal-pane windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside.
  • Repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on your home or other structure during a storm.

Install a smoke detector and a battery-operated CO detector

If you’ll be using a fireplace, wood stove or kerosene heater, install a smoke detector and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector near the area to be heated. Test them monthly and replace batteries twice a year. Also, keep a multipurpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher nearby.

Each winter have your furnace system and vent checked by a qualified technician to ensure they are functioning properly. 

Create an emergency car kit

It is best to avoid traveling, but if travel is necessary, keep the following in your car:

  • Cell phone, portable charger and extra batteries
  • Items to stay warm such as extra hats, coats, mittens and blankets
  • Windshield scraper
  • Shovel
  • Battery-powered radio with extra batteries
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Water and snack food
  • First aid kit with any necessary medications and a pocketknife
  • Tow chains or rope
  • Tire chains
  • Canned compressed air with sealant for emergency tire repair
  • Cat litter or sand to help tires get traction, or road salt to melt ice
  • Booster cables with fully charged battery or jumper cables
  • Hazard or other reflectors
  • Bright colored flag or help signs, emergency distress flag and/or emergency flares
  • Road maps
  • Waterproof matches and a can to melt snow for water

Listen to weather forecasts regularly and check your emergency supplies, including your emergency food and water supply, whenever you are expecting a winter storm or extreme cold. Although we can’t always predict extreme cold in advance, weather forecasts can sometimes give you several days of notice to prepare.

Get your car ready

Have maintenance service on your vehicle as often as the manufacturer recommends. In addition, do the following annually before the winter storm season:

  • Have the radiator system serviced or check the antifreeze level yourself with an antifreeze tester. Add antifreeze as needed.
  • Replace windshield-wiper fluid with a wintertime mixture.
  • Make sure the tires on your car have adequate tread and air pressure. Replace any worn tires and fill low tires with air to the proper pressure recommended for your car (typically between 30-35 psi).
  • Keep the gas tank near full to help avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
  • Keep your car in good working order. Be sure to check the following: heater, defroster, brakes, brake fluid, ignition, emergency flashers, exhaust, oil and battery.

Bring your pets indoors

If you have pets, bring them indoors. If you cannot bring them inside, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure they have access to unfrozen water.

Safety is everyone’s priority, especially in the winter months. Be cautious, be safe and be mindful.