CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER 5 ROBERT A. COLE
U.S. Army Reserve Command
Fort Bragg, North Carolina
While you may look forward to spending the next few weekends enjoying the sun and outdoor activities with your friends and family, you know, like it or not, colder temperatures, blustery winds and even snowfall are just around the corner in some parts of the country. Unless you live in the southern U.S., snow, freezing weather and even ice storms could be just weeks away. Here are a few actions you can take — both now in the warmer weather and later in colder temperatures — to ensure your power equipment will be safe and in good working order this winter.Now — prepare and maintain
Now is the time to take inventory of your cold weather tools and winter power equipment. Take that snow blower, chainsaw, portable generator, kerosene heater and winter recreational equipment items out of your shed or garage and do a self-service check on its operation and serviceability. If you lack those do-it-yourself mechanical skills, take the equipment to a local small-engine facility for a service check, preventive maintenance and repair, if needed.
Servicing your equipment this time of year has its benefits. For one, it’s still relatively warm outside. You may be able to complete some of the service, maintenance and repair work yourself now rather than waiting until you have to be fully clothed in a cumbersome winter jacket, gloves and warm hat. Two, if you have to take your equipment to a service shop, the repair cost and wait may be substantially less now than it will be when everyone else is frantically reacting to weather reports warning of winter’s first big storm.
Now is also a good time to put together those first aid and general preparedness kits. In the event of power outages and lock-in weather conditions, these kits should be considered a necessary part of your winter and severe storm inventory. Items such as a battery-operated emergency weather radio, an assortment of spare batteries (fully charged if rechargeable type), dual-plug (AC/DC) rechargers for small-engine batteries, water and preserved food should be included in these kits. Prepare yourself a checklist for these kits to use now and later in the winter.Later — cleaning and upkeep
In cold weather, remember safety first! Before heading outside, make sure you’re wearing the appropriate cold weather clothing, maintain adequate hydration and ensure your nutritional requirements are met to ward off injury. When wearing clothing in winter weather, remember the acronym C-O-L-D.
C: Keep it clean
O: Avoid overheating
L: Wear clothing loose and in layers
D: Keep clothing dry
Be conscious of the onset of cold weather injuries caused by prolonged exposure such as chilblain (swollen, red skin), hypothermia (core body heat loss), frostbite (numbed and frozen tissue) and immersion foot (damp or wet feet). Remember, cold injuries can occur during freezing and non-freezing temperatures.
When forced to work in cold, snowy or icy conditions, be aware of your surroundings, the approaching weather conditions and the placement of your winter power equipment while using them — before, during and after use. Know and recognize your own physical limitations as well, which will be severely degraded as the temperature drops.
When using a power snow blower, never remove clogged snow while the engine is on or with your hands or feet. Even when the engine is off, the auger may have a tendency to buck when unclogged, so loosen clogged snow with a stick. Be aware that community snow plows can throw chunks of curb, rock and other debris in with the snow pile at the end of your driveway, so be careful where you aim the outlet chute. Be sure to wear safety goggles and warm, dry gloves, and never operate your snow blower when children are playing nearby.
If you need to use your chainsaw to remove downed limbs caused by winter storms, remember that thick, frozen tree limbs will be more difficult to cut. The chainsaw will need to be checked more often for blade sharpness and the appropriate level of bar lubricant. Once again, wear safety goggles, earplugs and steel-toed shoes or boots.
If you need to use a generator during an emergency this winter, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s specifications. When used in a confined space, generators can produce high levels of carbon monoxide within minutes. Never use one inside a home, garage, crawlspace, shed or similar areas, even when running fans or opening doors and windows for ventilation. Instead, locate the generator outside, far from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
Finally, make sure you replace any first aid, emergency and general preparedness kit inventory items as soon as possible after use. The time to find out you don’t have a much-needed item isn’t during an emergency.Conclusion
The winter months can be dangerous. Being prepared now will go a long way toward ensuring you’re still around later to enjoy spring.