As I sit here, our area is preparing for a blizzard–a blizzard. Wow. When you hear those words, your mind starts to race. Sure you think of the regular things that everyone rushes to the store for–gas, milk, toilet paper–but when it’s pressing down on your area, you start to wonder if you’re ready … especially if you have everything for the kids. Here are some tips–some that will keep you safe, and some that will save your sanity.
If you have time to stock up, do ensure that you have the essentials. Sure, you want to have enough toilet paper, but make sure you think about foods you can eat without heating in case the electricity goes off, and that you have a manual can opener. Don’t forget to get extra water, batteries, and medication. Also, remember your pets, who will also need food and water!
If you’re like most people, you’ll be burning candles if there are outages. According to the National Fire Protection Association, between 2006 and 2010 an average of 32 fires caused by candles were reported each day. Make sure you keep a fire extinguisher handy because rescue vehicles may have a hard time getting to you during a winter storm.
One of the best things we added to our prepping bag was a small weather band radio.This one is especially cool because you can also listen to regular radio stations and it also serves as a flashlight and USB charger for your phone! (I.KNOW.) The one we have is solar charged or charged by a hand crank. It’s nice to have one of these in case the electricity goes out so that you will still have access to storm information. We also have a battery-powered portable TV/DVD player that may not be a necessity, but it sure can be a sanity-saver, especially if you have kids.
It sounds like a silly tip, but how many times have you been running out the door and noticed that your phone is going dead? Charge it up and keep it charged up! (This is where that dual radio/cell phone charger comes in super handy if the electricity goes out.) Remember, even if you have a land line in your house, the lines may be down during a severe snow storm so your cell phone will truly be your life line to the outside world.
Before the storm hits, place blankets, extra socks, sweaters, gloves, scarves, candles, matches, flashlights and extra batteries in one location–preferably the room with the wood burning stove or fireplace (if you have one). This will be helpful if the electricity goes out so you don’t have to stumble around in the dark trying to find everything. Also, don’t forget to put things there to help pass the time–cards, games, books, etc.
If you happen to be stuck in your car during a snowstorm, don’t leave it. Instead, tie an item of clothing or an emergency flag onto the antenna and raise the hood so that rescue crews know you are stranded. Also, if you can, make sure that snow isn’t blocking your tailpipe as it can back exhaust into your car. If you can’t check, leave your window cracked a little while you have the car running–which should only be about 10 minutes every hour for heat. Only leave your car after the storm has passed and/or it seems like a last resort.
Please pack emergency winter kits in your car each year–bottled waters, protein bars, extra gloves, hats, blankets, scarves, hand/foot warmer packs, boots, an emergency first aid kit and more. During the winter, make sure you never let your car get below 1/2 gallon of gas.
Frostbite can occur to extremities–fingers, toes, ear lobes, or the tip of the nose–when exposed to cold weather. Loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in those extremities are symptoms of frostbite. If you can’t get to a medical professional, help warm the frostbitten areas slowly, but start with the body’s core (trunk) first.
Hypothermia occurs when a person has been exposed to the cold for an extended period of time. The signs of hypothermia include: body temperature below 95-degrees F, uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and exhaustion. If you cannot seek professional medical attention, start warming the person’s trunk gradually (using your own body or dry clothes and blankets). The National Weather Service states, “Do not warm extremities (arms and legs) first! This drives the cold blood toward the heart and can lead to heart failure.” Do not give the person alcohol, caffeine or hot beverages. Instead, provide them with warm broth first.
Blizzards may look nice outside, and those snowbanks may be calling your kids to sled, but this weather can be dangerous. Snow drifts can easily collapse on people and the weather, especially during blizzard conditions, is cold enough to quickly create frostbite or hypothermia. Stay toasty inside for while.
If you are safe during the storm, even if you don’t have electricity, use the time to bond with family. Break out the board games or puzzles and spend some old-fashioned family fun around the fire!
If you’re stranded, or you have gone days without heat and electricity, find a shelter in your area. FEMA’s Ready.gov site says you can do this by texting SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).