Emergency preparedness is no longer the sole concern of earthquake prone Californians and those who live in the part of the country known as "Tornado Alley." For Americans, preparedness must now account for man-made disasters as well as natural ones. Knowing what to do during an emergency is an important part of being prepared and may make all the difference when seconds count. Heavy snow is expected to hit the Northeast today.
Blizzards, heavy snow, freezing rain and sub-zero temperatures hit hard and frequently across the state. Even if you think you are safe and warm at home, a winter storm can become dangerous if the power is cut off. With a little planning, you can protect yourself and your family from the many hazards of winter weather, both at home and on the road.
BE AWARE OF THE FORECAST
- Winter weather advisory. Formerly called a "travelers' advisory," this alert may be issued by the National Weather Service for a variety of severe conditions. Weather advisories may be announced for snow, blowing and drifting snow, freezing drizzle, freezing rain (when less than ice storm conditions are expected), or a combination of weather events.
- Winter storm watch. Severe winter weather conditions may affect your area (freezing rain, sleet or heavy snow may occur either separately or in combination).
- Winter storm warning. Severe winter weather conditions are imminent.
- Freezing rain or freezing drizzle. Rain or drizzle is likely to freeze upon impact, resulting in a coating of ice glaze on roads and all other exposed objects.
- Sleet. Small particles of ice, usually mixed with rain. If enough sleet accumulates on the ground, it makes travel hazardous.
- Blizzard warning. Sustained wind speeds of at least 35 miles per hour are accompanied by considerable falling and/or blowing snow. This is the most perilous winter storm, with visibility dangerously restricted.
- Wind chill. A strong wind combined with a temperature slightly below freezing can have the same chilling effect as a temperature nearly 50 degrees lower in a calm atmosphere. The combined cooling power of the wind and temperature on exposed flesh is called the wind-chill factor.
BE PREPARED AT HOME
- Keep a battery-powered radio and flashlights in working order; stock extra batteries.
- Store food that can be prepared without an electric or gas stove.
- Stock emergency water and cooking supplies.
- Have candles and matches available in case of a power outage.
- Have sufficient heating fuel; regular fuel sources may be cut off.
- Have some kind of emergency heating equipment and fuel (a kerosene heater, a gas fireplace or wood-burning stove or fireplace) so you can keep at least one room of your house warm if power is cut off. (See the fact sheet "Staying Warm in an Unheated House.")
RIDING OUT A STORM AT HOME
If you are isolated at home, listen to the radio or television for updates on weather conditions. Conserve fuel by keeping your house cooler than usual and by temporarily "closing off" heat to some rooms. When emergency heating methods must be used, maintain adequate ventilation to avoid build-up of toxic fumes. (See the fact sheet, "Staying Warm in an Unheated House.")
Dress accordingly. Layer your clothing; many layers of thin clothing are warmer than single layers of thick clothing. If you need to go outdoors or the heat is off indoors, wear mittens; they are warmer than gloves. Wear a hat; most body heat is lost through the top of the head. Cover your mouth with scarves to protect your lungs from directly inhaling extremely cold air.
If shoveling snow isn't critical, don't do it. If you must shovel snow, take your time and lift small amounts. Over-exertion can bring on a heart attack - a major cause of death during and after winter storms.
Stay safe and stay warm!
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