When winter temperatures drop significantly below normal, staying warm and safe can become a challenge. Extremely cold temperatures often accompany a winter storm, so you may have to cope with power failures and icy roads. Although staying indoors as much as possible can help reduce the risk of car crashes and falls on the ice, you may also face indoor hazards, such as communication, heating and food complications. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reminds everyone to be safe throughout the rest of this winter season, and to check the following supply lists to prepare in advance of particularly nasty winter weather:
Make sure you have at least one of the following in case there is a power failure:
Find out how your community warns the public about severe weather:
Listen to emergency broadcasts.
Know what winter storm warning terms mean:
- Battery-powered radio (for listening to local emergency instructions). Have extra batteries.
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio receiver (for listening to National Weather Service broadcasts). See www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr for more information.
- Winter weather advisory: expect winter weather conditions to cause inconvenience and hazards.
- Frost/freeze warning: expect below-freezing temperatures.
- Winter storm watch: be alert; a storm is likely.
- Winter storm warning: take action; the storm is in or entering the area.
- Blizzard warning: seek refuge immediately! Snow and strong winds, near-zero visibility, deep snow drifts, and life-threatening wind chill.
Food and Safety Checklist:
Have a week’s worth of food and safety supplies. If you live far from other people, have more supplies on hand.
Canned/no-cook food (bread, crackers, dried fruits)
Non-electric can opener
Baby food and formula (if baby in the household)
Prescription drugs and other medicine
Rock-salt to melt ice on walkways
Supply of cat litter or bag of sand to add traction on walkways
Flashlight and extra batteries
Battery-powered lamps or lanterns (To prevent the risk of fire, avoid using candles.)
Keep a water supply. Extreme cold can cause water pipes in your home to freeze and sometimes break.
Leave all water taps slightly open so they drip continuously.
Keep the indoor temperature warm.
Allow more heated air near pipes. Open kitchen cabinet doors under the kitchen sink.
If your pipes do freeze, do not thaw them with a torch. Thaw the pipes slowly with warm air from an electric hair dryer.
If you cannot thaw your pipes, or if the pipes have broken open, use bottled water or get water from a neighbor’s home.
Have bottled water on hand.
In an emergency—if no other water is available—snow can be melted for water. Bringing water to a rolling boil for one minute will kill most germs but won’t get rid of chemicals sometimes found in snow.
Have at least one of the following heat sources in case the power goes out:
Check with your local fire department to make sure that kerosene heaters are legal in your area.
Never place a space heater on top of furniture or near water.
Use electric space heaters with
- Fireplace with plenty of dry firewood or gas log fireplace
- Portable space heaters or kerosene heaters
Keep heat sources at least 3 feet away from furniture and drapes.
Never leave children unattended near a space heater.
Have the following safety equipment:
- automatic shut-off switches and
- non-glowing elements.
Never use an electric generator indoors, inside the garage, or near the air intake of your home because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Chemical fire extinguisher
- Smoke alarm in working order (Check once a month and change batteries once a year.)
- Carbon monoxide detector
- Do not use the generator or appliances if they are wet.
- Do not store gasoline indoors where the fumes could ignite.
- Use individual heavy-duty, outdoor-rated cords to plug in other appliances.
Cooking and Lighting Checklist:
Never use charcoal grills or portable gas camp stove indoors—the fumes are deadly.
Use battery-powered flashlights or lanterns.
Avoid using candles.
Never leave lit candles alone.
Car and Emergency Checklist:
Prepare your car with emergency supplies.
Cell phone; portable charger and extra batteries
Battery-powered radio (and extra batteries)
Flashlight (and extra batteries)
Extra hats, coats, mittens
Chains or rope
Canned compressed air with sealant (emergency tire repair)
Road salt and sand
Bright colored flag; help signs
First aid kit
Waterproof matches and a can (to melt snow for water)
Previously on the DC Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog, we have posted articles related to:
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