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Stay Safe This Winter

Winter weather presents safety challenges inside and outside the home. Be prepared and follow this safety advice to help stay safe and warm.

Create a disaster kit

Prepare and maintain a disaster kit for your home before winter weather arrives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it should contain:

  • First aid kit and essential medicines

  • Battery-powered radio, flashlight, lamps, and extra batteries

  • Battery-powered watch or clock

  • An alternate way to heat your home such as dry firewood if you have a fireplace or wood stove or kerosene for a kerosene heater

  • Furnace fuel (coal, propane, or oil)

  • Electric space heater with automatic shut-off switch and non-glowing elements

  • Multipurpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher

  • Matches

  • Blankets

  • Nonperishable food items such as energy bars, canned food, and a can opener

  • Water (at least 1 gallon of water per person per day to last at least 3 days)

  • Extra-warm clothing, including boots, mittens, and a hat

  • Snow shovel

  • Rock salt

Prepare your vehicle

Don't travel by car in winter storms and poor conditions. If you must drive, be sure your car has a survival kit with:

  • Extra-warm clothing

  • Blankets

  • Flashlight and extra batteries

  • Flares

  • Extra food

  • Water

  • First aid kit

  • Bag of sand or cat litter (for traction)

  • Booster cables

  • Tire-pump

  • Compass and map

  • Cellphone and portable cellphone charger with extra batteries

In addition, you should:

  • Check local websites or listen to your local radio or TV station for road conditions and closures.

  • Keep your car's gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel line from freezing.

  • Use wintertime formula in your windshield washer.

  • Check your tires’ treads. If needed, replace tires with all-weather tires or snow tires.

  • Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. If you get stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.

  • If you do become stranded, stay with your car unless safety is no more than 100 yards away. Put a bright cloth on the antenna to stay visible. Only run the engine and heater for 10 minutes every hour. But first make sure your tailpipe is not blocked.

Understand wind chill

When you combine the air temperature with the wind speed, the temperature your body feels is the wind chill index.

If possible, stay indoors during winter storms. If you must go outside, wear several layers of clothing, gloves or mittens, and a hat to prevent loss of body heat.

Wind chill increases the rate at which heat is carried away from the body. The faster the wind, the faster the body's temperature is driven down. This quickly increases the risk of frostbite and hypothermia.

Learn about watches and warnings

When bad weather threatens, listen to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio and your local radio and TV stations for updated storm information. Also check local websites for updated information.

  • A winter storm watch means a winter storm is possible in your area.

  • A winter storm warning means a winter storm is headed for your area.

  • A blizzard warning means strong winds, blinding wind-driven snow, and dangerous wind chill are expected.

Shovel carefully

If the storm drops lots of snow, be careful shoveling. Warm up before you begin by stretching your back, legs, and arms. Take frequent breaks and stop if you become fatigued or have shortness of breath or muscle strain.

Push snow in front of you if you can. If you have to lift it, pick up small amounts and lift with your legs, not your back. Don't toss snow over your shoulder. If you have a snowblower, read the instruction manual before using it. Make sure you know about its specific safety hazards and any unfamiliar features.

Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik MBA BSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2024
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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