Winter Weather Preparedness
Before the Storm Arrives…
Winterize Your Home
- Service snow removal equipment and have rock salt on hand to melt ice on walkways and kitty litter to generate temporary traction.
- Make sure you have sufficient heating fuel; regular fuel sources may be cut off.
- Insulate walls and attic.
- Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows.
- Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside.
- Prevent your pipes from freezing.
- Wrap pipes in insulation or layers of old newspapers. Cover the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture.
- Let faucets drip a little to avoid freezing.
- Know how to shut off water valves.
Have Emergency Supplies on Hand in Case the Power Goes Out
- Flashlight and portable radio, plus extra batteries for both
- First Aid Kit
- At least 3-5 days supply of food (include items that do not require refrigeration or cooking in case the power is off)
- Non-electric can opener
- At least a week’s supply of all essential medications, extra blankets and sleeping bags
- Fire extinguisher (A-B-C type)
Develop an Emergency Plan
- In case family members are separated from one another during a winter storm, have a plan for getting back together.
- Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the “family contact.” After a disaster, it’s often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.
- Make sure all family members know how to respond after a severe winter storm. Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1, police or fire department, and which radio station to listen to for emergency information.
Pack a Winter Car Kit
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Radio with extra batteries
- Ice Scraper/snow brush
- Car cell phone charger
- Sand or kitty litter for better tire traction
- Tire chains or ropes
- Jumper cables
- Extra set of clothes, hats, and gloves
- Energy-filled food and water
- First aid kit
- Flares or Reflective triangle
Prepare Your Vehicle for Emergencies
Have a mechanic check the following on your vehicle prior to an emergency
- Antifreeze levels
- Battery and ignition system
- Exhaust system
- Fuel and air filters
- Heater and defroster
- Lights and flashing hazard lights
- Windshield wiper equipment and washer fluid level
Vehicle Safety Tips for emergencies
- Keep your gas tank full in case of evacuation or power outage. A full tank will also keep the fuel line from freezing.
- Install good winter tires and ensure they have adequate tread or any jurisdiction-required chains or studs.
- Do not drive through flooded areas. Six inches of water can cause a vehicle to loose control or possibly stall. A foot of water will float many cars.
- Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
- If a power line falls on your car you are at risk of electrical shock, stay inside until a trained person removes the wire.
- If there is an explosion or other factor that makes it difficult to control the vehicle, pull over, stop the car and set the parking brake.
- If the emergency could impact the physical stability of the roadway avoid overpasses, bridges, power lines, signs, and other hazards.
If you are under a winter storm warning, find shelter right away
- Stay off roads.
- Stay indoors and dress warmly.
- Prepare for power outages.
- Use generators outside only and away from windows.
- Listen for emergency information and alerts.
- Look for signs of hypothermia and frostbite
- Check on the neighbors.
During a Winter Storm or Blizzard
If You Are Indoors
- Stay indoors and dress warmly.
- Conserve heat. Lower the thermostat to 65°F during the day and 55°F at night. Close off unused rooms.
- If the pipes freeze, remove any insulation and wrap them in rags. Completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they were most exposed to the cold or most likely to be penetrated by the cold.
- Listen to the radio or TV for current information.
If You Are Outdoors
- Dress warmly in loose-fitting, layered, light-weight clothing. Layers can be removed to prevent perspiration and chill. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellant. Mittens are warmer than gloves because fingers create warmth when touching.
- If you shovel snow, stretch to help warm up your body. Also, take frequent breaks.
- Avoid overexertion. Cold weather puts added strain on the heart. Unaccustomed exercise such as shoveling snow can bring on a heart attach or make other medical conditions worse.
- Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value.
RECOGNIZE AND RESPOND-Frostbite and Hypothermia
- Frostbite causes loss of feeling and color around the face, fingers, and toes.
- Signs: Numbness, white or grayish-yellow skin, 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.
- Signs: Shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, or 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.
- Never give a frostbite or hypothermia victim something with caffeine or alcohol in it. Caffeine, a stimulant, can cause the heart to beat faster and alcohol, a depressant, can slow the heart. Both can hasten the ill effects of cold body temperatures.
Winter Storm Watches and Warnings
- A winter storm watch indicates that severe winter weather may affect your area.
- A winter storm warning indicates that severe winter weather conditions are definitely on the way or are already here.
- A blizzard warning means that large amounts of falling or blowing snow and sustained winds of at least 35 miles per hour are expected for several hours.
If you don’t have to drive, don’t.
Pay attention to the news.
Local radio and television stations provide up-to-date weather information. Investing in a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio is another way to receive weather and other emergency alerts. In addition, the Iowa Department of Transportation offers real-time information on current road conditions on their website or by calling 5-1-1.