Weathering Winters Wrath
FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY
Winter storms can bring extreme cold, freezing rain, snow, ice and high winds to much of the United States as well as increase the risk of vehicle accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning and heart attacks from overexertion. Recently, historic blizzards crippled cities as far south as Atlanta, Birmingham and Dallas-Fort Worth. As we approach the coldest months of the year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency encourages all Americans to be prepared for winter weather. Prepare
- Know your area’s risk for winter storms. Extreme winter weather can leave communities without utilities or other services for long periods of time.
- Prepare your home to keep out the cold with insulation, caulking and weather stripping. Learn how to keep pipes from freezing. Install and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups.
- Pay attention to weather reports and warnings of freezing weather and winter storms. Sign up for your community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio also provide emergency alerts.
- Gather supplies in case you need to stay home for several days without power. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medication. Do not forget the needs of pets. Have extra batteries for radios and flashlights.
- Create an emergency supply kit for your car. Include jumper cables, sand, a flashlight, warm clothes, blankets, bottled water and non-perishable snacks. Keep the gas tank full.
- Learn the signs and basic treatments for frostbite and hypothermia. For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/staysafe/index.html.
Recognize and respond
- Stay off roads if at all possible. If trapped in your car, stay inside.
- Limit your time outside. If you need to go outside, wear layers of warm clothing. Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
- Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Only use generators and grills outdoors and away from windows. Never heat your home with a gas stovetop or oven.
- Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow to reduce the risk of a heart attack.
- Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia and begin treatment right away.
- Check on neighbors. Older adults and young children are more at risk in extreme cold.
- Frostbite causes loss of feeling and color around the face, fingers and toes.
- Signs: Numbness, white or grayish-yellow skin, and firm or waxy skin.
- Actions: Go to a warm room. Soak in warm water. Use body heat to warm. Do not massage or use a heating pad.
- Hypothermia is an unusually low body temperature. A temperature below 95 degrees is an emergency.
Know your winter weather terms
- Signs: Shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness.
- Actions: Go to a warm room. Warm the center of the body first — chest, neck, head and groin. Keep dry and wrapped up in warm blankets, including the head and neck.
- Winter Weather Advisory. Issued for accumulations of snow, freezing rain, freezing drizzle and sleet that will cause significant inconveniences and, if caution is not exercised, could lead to life-threatening situations.
- Winter Storm Watch. Alerts the public to the possibility of a blizzard, heavy snow, heavy freezing rain or heavy sleet. Winter Storm Watches are usually issued 12 to 48 hours before the beginning of a winter storm.
- Winter Storm Warning. Issued when hazardous winter weather in the form of heavy snow, heavy freezing rain or heavy sleet is imminent or occurring. Winter Storm Warnings are usually issued 12 to 24 hours before the event is expected to begin.
Take an active role in your safety and be prepared for winter weather at home, work and in your car. For more information on winter weather preparedness, download the FEMA app or visit Ready.gov and search for “winter storm.”
Editor’s note: Information provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.