Posted On 22 Dec 2019
Learn how to stay safe during a blizzard.
Each year, hundreds of Americans are injured or killed by exposure to cold, vehicle accidents on wintry roads, and fires caused by the improper use of heaters. Learn what to do to keep your loved ones safe during blizzards and other winter storms!
Take immediate precautions if you hear these words on the news:
Winter Storm WARNING: Life-threatening, severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours.
Blizzard WARNING: Sustained winds or frequent gusts of 35 miles per hour or greater, plus considerable falling or blowing snow reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile, expected to prevail for three hours or longer.
Protecting your pets & animals
- Bring your companion animals indoors.
- Ensure that you have supplies for cleanup for your companion animals, particularly if they are used to eliminating outdoors (large plastic bags, paper towels, and extra cat litter).
- Create a place where your other animals can be comfortable in severe winter weather: Horses and livestock should have a shelter where they can be protected from wind, snow, ice, and rain. Grazing animals should have access to a protected supply of food and non-frozen water.
- Be aware of the potential for flooding when snow and ice melt and be sure that your animals have access to high ground that is not impeded by fencing or other barriers. You may not be able to get to them in time to relocate them in the event of flooding.
- Ensure that any outbuildings that house or shelter animals can withstand wind and heavy snow and ice. Install snow fences in rural areas to reduce drifting snow on roads and paths, which could block access to homes, barns, and animals’ feed and water.
Right before a blizzard/winter storm
If you do nothing else:
- Listen to local area radio, NOAA radio or TV stations for the latest information and updates.
- Be prepared to evacuate if you lose power or heat and know your routes and destinations. Find a local emergency shelter.
- Check emergency kit and replenish any items missing or in short supply, especially medications and medical supplies. Keep it nearby.
- Be sure you have ample heating fuel.
- If you have alternative heating sources, such as fireplaces, wood- or coal-burning stoves, or space heaters, be sure they are clean and in working order.
- Bring your companion animals inside and ensure that your horses and livestock have blankets if appropriate and unimpeded access to shelter, food, and non-frozen water.
Staying Safe During a Winter Storm or Blizzard
- Stay indoors and wear warm clothes. Layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing will keep you warmer than a bulky sweater. If you feel too warm, remove layers to avoid sweating; if you feel chilled, add layers.
- Listen to a local station on battery-powered radio or television or to NOAA Weather Radio for updated emergency information.
- Bring your companion animals inside before the storm begins.
- Move other animals to sheltered areas with a supply of non-frozen water. Most animal deaths in winter storms are caused by dehydration.
- Eat regularly. Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat.
- Keep the body replenished with fluids to prevent dehydration. Drink liquids such as warm broth or juice. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine, a stimulant, accelerates the symptoms of hypothermia. Alcohol, such as brandy, is a depressant and hastens the effects of cold on the body. Alcohol also slows circulation and can make you less aware of the effects of cold. Both caffeine and alcohol can cause dehydration.
- Conserve fuel. Winter storms can last for several days, placing great demand on electric, gas, and other fuel distribution systems (fuel oil, propane, etc.). Lower the thermostat to 65° F (18° C) during the day and to 55° F (13° C) at night. Close off unused rooms, and stuff towels or rags in cracks under the doors. Cover the windows at night.
- Check on relatives, neighbors, and friends, particularly if they are elderly or if they live alone
Staying Safe Outside
If you must go outside, protect yourself from winter storm hazards:
- Wear layered clothing, mittens or gloves, and a hat. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Mittens or gloves and a hat will prevent the loss of body heat.
- Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from severely cold air. Avoid taking deep breaths; minimize talking.
- Watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite.
- Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses much of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly away from the body.
- Stretch before you go out. If you go out to shovel snow, do a few stretching exercises to warm up your body. This will reduce your chances of muscle injury.
- Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a vehicle, or walking in deep snow. The strain from the cold and hard labor may cause a heart attack. Sweating could lead to a chill and hypothermia.
- Walk carefully on snowy, icy sidewalks. Slips and falls occur frequently in winter weather, resulting in painful and sometimes disabling injuries.
- If you must go out during a winter storm, use public transportation if possible. About 70 percent of winter deaths related to ice and snow occur in automobiles.
Driving in Winter Conditions
- Check your vehicle emergency supplies kit and replenish it if necessary.
- Bring enough of the following for each person:
– Blankets or sleeping bags
– Rain gear, extra sets of dry clothing, mittens, socks, and wool hats
– Newspapers for insulation
– Plastic bags for sanitation
– Canned fruit, nuts, and high energy snacks (Include a non-electric can opener if necessary)
– Warm broth in a thermos and several bottles of water
– Keep a cell phone or two-way radio with you. Make sure the battery is charged.
– Plan to travel during daylight and, if possible, take at least one other person with you.
- Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. If your vehicle gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
- Before leaving, listen to weather reports for your area and the areas you will be passing through, or call the state highway patrol for the latest road conditions.
- Be on the lookout for sleet, freezing rain, freezing drizzle, and dense fog, which can make driving very hazardous
If You Become Stranded
- Stay in the vehicle and wait for help. Do not leave the vehicle to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 yards (91 meters). You can quickly become disoriented and confused in blowing snow.
- Display a trouble sign to indicate you need help. Hang a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) on the radio antenna and raise the hood after snow stops falling.
- Run the engine occasionally to keep warm. Turn on the engine for about 10 minutes each hour (or five minutes every half hour). Running the engine for only short periods reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and conserves fuel. Use the heater while the engine is running. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, and slightly open a downwind window for ventilation.
- Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so that you can be seen.
- Do light exercises to keep up circulation. Clap your hands and move your arms and legs occasionally. Try not to stay in one position for too long.
- If more than one person is in the vehicle, take turns sleeping. If you are not awakened periodically to increase body temperature and circulation, you can freeze to death.
- Huddle together for warmth. Use newspapers, maps, and even the removable floor mats for added insulation. Layering items will help trap more body heat.
- Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Severe cold can cause numbness, making you unaware of possible danger.
- Drink fluids to avoid dehydration, which can make you more susceptible to the ill effects of cold and to heart attacks.
- Avoid overexertion. Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Shoveling snow or pushing a vehicle can bring on a heart attack or make other medical conditions worse.