Winter Storm Safety

While the danger from winter weather varies across the country, nearly all Americans, regardless of where they live,
are likely to face some type of severe winter weather at some point in their lives. Winter storms can range from a
moderate snow over a few hours to a blizzard with blinding, wind-driven snow that lasts for several days. Many
winter storms are accompanied by dangerously low temperatures and sometimes by strong winds, icing, sleet and
freezing rain.
One of the primary concerns is the winter weather's ability to knock out heat, power and communications services
to your home or office, sometimes for days at a time. Heavy snowfall and extreme cold can immobilize an entire
The National Weather Service refers to winter storms as the “Deceptive Killers” because most deaths are indirectly
related to the storm. Instead, people die in traffic accidents on icy roads and of hypothermia from prolonged
exposure to cold. It is important to be prepared for winter weather before it strikes. Exposure to cold
temperatures, whether indoors or outside, can cause other serious or life-threatening health problems. Infants and
the elderly are particularly at risk, but anyone can be affected.
Winter storms can range from a moderate snow over a few hours to a blizzard with blinding, wind-driven snow that
lasts for several days. Some winter storms are large enough to affect several states, while others affect only a single
Cold Weather Emergencies:

 Hypothermia: When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced.
Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body’s stored energy. The result is hypothermia, or
abnormally low body temperature. Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to
think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is
happening and won’t be able to do anything about it. If you suspect hypothermia, take the person’s temperature.
If it is below 95°, the situation is an emergency—get medical attention immediately.

 Frostbite: Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color
in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite can permanently
damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation. The risk of frostbite is increased in people with
reduced blood circulation and among people who are not dressed properly for extremely. A victim is often
unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb. If you detect symptoms
of frostbite, seek medical care.


 Keep a non-cordless telephone in your home. It is likely to work even when the power is out.
 Keep your car’s gas tank full.
 If someone in your home is dependent on electric-powered, life-sustaining equipment, remember to include
backup power in your evacuation plan.
o Register this family member with EMS (through the non-emergency number) and with your local
power company; is some areas, as this will help insure that he/she has priority for medical care and
getting power restored.
 Have extra-cash on hand, as Should the power go out, ATMs will not function
 You may become isolated in your home and regular fuel sources may be cut off. Store a good supply of dry,
seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove.
 Minimize travel. If travel is necessary, keep a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle.
 Bring pets/companion animals inside during winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered
areas with non-frozen drinking water.
 Winterize your vehicle and keep and emergency preparedness kit in it at all time.
 Insulate pipes with insulation or newspapers and plastic and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather
to avoid freezing. Running water, even at a trickle, helps prevent pipes from freezing.
 All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside and kept clear.
 Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. House
fires pose an additional risk, as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary
safety precautions.
 Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts).

 If you go outside, protect your self from hypothermia and frostbite by dressing in several layers of
lightweight clothing, wear mittens and a hat (preferably one that covers your ears).
 Before tackling strenuous tasks in cold temperatures, consider your physical condition, the weather factors
and the nature of the task.
 Minimize travel. If travel is necessary, keep emergency supplies kit in your vehicle (e.g. blankets, flashlight,
multi-purpose tool, water, non-perishable food).
 Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or other local news channels for critical information from the National
Weather Service (NWS).
 Turn off or disconnect any appliances (like stoves), equipment or electronics you were using when the
power went out. When power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment.
 Leave one light turned on so you’ll know when the power comes back on.
 The primary hazards to avoid when using alternate sources for electricity, heating or cooking are carbon
monoxide poisoning, electric shock and fire.
o Carbon Monoxide Kills: Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural
gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially
enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide
to come indoors.
 Surrounding your food with ice in a cooler or in the refrigerator will keep food colder for a longer period of
time during a prolonged power outage. Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.
o First use perishable food from the refrigerator.
o An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold for about 4 hours.
o Then use food from the freezer. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours (24
hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.
o If it looks like the power outage will continue beyond a day, prepare a cooler with ice for your
freezer items.
 Throw out unsafe food.
o Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40° F (4° C) for 2 hours or more or
that has an unusual odor, color or texture.
 When in doubt, throw it out!
 Never taste food or rely on appearance or odor to determine its safety. Some foods may
look and smell fine, but if they have been at Room temperature too long, bacteria causing
food-borne illnesses can start growing quickly. Some types of bacteria produce toxins that
cannot be destroyed by cooking.
 Continue to protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia by wearing warm, loose-fitting, lightweight
clothing in several layers. Stay indoors, if possible.

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