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Preparing for a Healthy & Safe Winter
Brrrr… Time to bundle up! Winter is officially here in the Capital Region. It should come as no surprise, but many people get that "I'm not ready for Winter" feeling every year. But this time, we want to help you get as ready as you can be. That means keeping your home, health, and sanity intact by following preventative measures now.
As you know, Winter storms are dangerous. They can bring cold temperatures, power failures, loss of communication services, and icy roads. This can make being outside hazardous, so you should limit your time outside. Although staying indoors as much as possible can help reduce the risk of car crashes and falls on the ice, you may also face hazards inside your home. That's why it's important to stay safe and healthy by planning, preparing your home and vehicles, and prepping for power outages and outdoor activity. Be ready to check on family and neighbors who are especially at risk from cold weather hazards: young children, older adults, and the chronically ill. If you have pets, bring them inside. If you cannot get them inside, provide adequate, warm shelter and unfrozen water to drink.
So, now that our first snowstorm hit. Let's make sure we are ready for the next.
How to Prepare Your Home
Protect yourself and your loved ones during a winter storm. But staying inside is no guarantee of safety. Take these steps to keep your home safe and warm during the winter months.
- Winterize your home! Be sure to install weather stripping, insulation, and storm windows, insulate water lines that run along exterior walls, clean out gutters, and repair any roof leaks.
- Check your heating systems. Make sure to have your heating system serviced professionally to ensure it is clean, working properly, and ventilated to the outside. Also, inspect and clean fireplaces and chimneys, and have a safe alternate heating source and alternate fuels available.
- If you do not have a working smoke detector, install one! Test batteries monthly and replace them twice a year.
- Prevent carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning emergencies. Install a CO detector to alert you of the presence of the deadly, odorless, colorless gas. Always check or change the battery when you change your clocks in the fall and spring. It is also helpful to learn CO poisoning symptoms just in case, including headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.
How to Prepare Your Vehicle
Here's your vehicle checklist to make sure you're ready for cold weather!
- Service the radiator and maintain antifreeze level.
- Check your tires' tread or, if necessary, replace tires with all-weather or snow tires.
- Keep the gas tank full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
- Use a wintertime formula in your windshield washer.
- Prepare a winter emergency kit to keep in your car in case you become stranded. The kit should include a cell phone, portable charger, and extra batteries; items to stay warm, such as extra hats, coats, mittens, blankets, or sleeping bags; food and water; booster cables, flares, tire pump, and a bag of sand or cat litter (for traction); compass and maps; flashlight, battery-powered radio, and extra batteries; first-aid kit; and plastic bags.
How to Prep for Emergencies
Are you prepared for emergencies? If not, let's get you ready for weather-related emergencies, including power outages. Stock food that needs no cooking or refrigeration and water stored in clean containers. Ensure that your cell phone is fully charged or purchase a portal charger that you keep charged up. If or when planning travel, be aware of current and forecast weather conditions. Be sure to keep an up-to-date emergency kit in your home, including:
- Battery-operated devices, such as a flashlight, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio, and lamps
- Extra batteries
- First-aid kit and extra medicine
- Baby items; and
- Cat litter or sand for icy walkways.
Lastly, protect your family from carbon monoxide (CO). Keep grills, camp stoves, and generators out of the house, basement, and garage. Locate generators at least 20 feet from the house. Leave your home immediately if the CO detector sounds and call 911.
How to Take Precautions Outdoors
Outdoor activities can expose you to several safety hazards, but you can take these steps to prepare for them.
- Wear appropriate outdoor clothing: wear a tightly woven, preferably wind-resistant coat or jacket; inner layers of light, warm clothing; mittens; hats; scarves; and waterproof boots.
- Sprinkle cat litter or sand on icy patches.
- Learn proper safety precautions to follow when outdoors, like working slow when doing outside chores to avoid unnecessary injuries.
- Take a buddy and an emergency kit when participating in outdoor recreation, and always carry a cell phone.
What to Do When Planning to Travel
When planning travel, be aware of current and forecast weather conditions. Avoid traveling when the National Weather Service has issued advisories. If you must travel, inform a friend or relative of your proposed route and expected arrival time. Follow these safety rules if you become stranded in your vehicle:
- Make your vehicle visible to rescuers. Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna, raise the hood (if it is not snowing), and turn on the inside overhead lights (when your engine is running).
- Move anything you need from the trunk into the passenger area. Stay with your vehicle unless safety is no more than 100 yards away.
- Keep your body warm. Wrap your entire body, including your head, in extra clothing, blankets, or newspapers. Huddle with other people if you can.
- Stay awake and stay moving. You will be less vulnerable to cold-related health problems. As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to improve circulation and stay warmer.
- Run the motor (and heater) for about 10 minutes per hour, opening one window slightly to let in the fresh air. Ensure that snow is not blocking the exhaust pipe—this will reduce the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
Do you feel more prepared now? No one can stop the onset of winter. However, if you follow these suggestions, you will be ready for all the cold and snowy weather that comes along with the season.
For more tips on how to stay safe during and after a Winter Storm, visit the CDC's website.
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