Staying safe is paramount during a winter storm. The risk of power outage, loss of utilities, or getting snowed in adds unique dangers to an already tough situation. Below you’ll find some advice on what to do during a winter storm in order to keep you and your family safe.
What to do during a winter storm or extreme cold:
- Stay indoors during the worst of the storm.
- If you do go outside, walk carefully on snowy, icy, walkways.
- Try not to do too much when shoveling snow. Doing too much, or overexertion, can bring on a heart attack—a major cause of death in the winter. If you must shovel snow, stretch before going outside.
- Keep dry. Change wet clothing often to stop a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and spreads heat rapidly.
- Wear a lot of layers of thin clothing to stay warmer. You can easily take off layers to stay comfortable. Wear a hat. Most body heat is lost through the top of the head. Cover your mouth with scarves to protect lungs from directly breathing in extremely cold air.
- Watch for signs of frostbite. These include loss of feeling and white or pale look of fingers, toes, ear lobes, and the tip of the nose. If you see these symptoms, get medical help.
- Watch for signs of hypothermia. These include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and visible exhaustion. If you see these symptoms, get the person to a warm place. Take off wet clothing. Warm the center of the body first. Give the person warm, non-alcoholic drinks if he/she is conscious. Get medical help as soon as you can.
- Drive only if it is absolutely necessary. See tips below.
- If the pipes freeze, take off any insulation or layers of newspapers. Wrap pipes in rags. Completely open all faucets. Pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they were most open to the cold or where the cold was most likely to enter.
- Keep the area aired when using kerosene heaters as to not build up toxic fumes. Refuel kerosene heaters outside. Keep them at least three feet from flammable objects.
- Conserve fuel, if necessary, by keeping your home cooler than normal. For the time being close off heat to some rooms.
- Keep fire extinguishers on hand. Make sure your family knows how to use them. Know fire prevention rules.
- If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home. Set the temperature no lower than 55ºF.
Driving in Winter Weather:
If you must travel, the North Carolina Highway Patrol gives the warnings below.
- Reduce your speed. Driving at the regular speed limit will lower your chances to control the car if you begin to slide.
- Leave plenty of room between you and other vehicles.
- Bridges and overpasses collect ice first. Approach them with a lot of caution. Do not push your brakes while on the bridge.
- If you do begin to slide, take your foot off the gas. Turn the steering wheel IN THE DIRECTION OF THE SLIDE. Do NOT push the brakes as that will cause further loss of control of the car.
If you become trapped in your car:
- Pull off the highway. Stay calm and stay inside your vehicle. At night, turn on the inside dome light, so work and rescue crews can see you.
- Set your directional lights to “flashing” and hang a cloth or distress flag from the radio aerial or window.
- In a rural or wilderness area, put a large cloth over the snow to get rescue crews who may be looking at the area by airplane to see you.
- Do not go out on foot unless you can see a building close by where you know you can take shelter.
- If you run the engine to keep warm, open a window a little bit for air. This will keep you safe from possible carbon monoxide poisoning. When you can, clear away snow from the exhaust pipe.
- Exercise to keep body heat, but try not to do too much. In extreme cold, use road maps, seat covers and floor mats for insulation. Huddle with passengers and use your coat as a blanket.
- Never let everyone in the car sleep at once. One person should stay awake to look out for rescue crews.
- Be careful not to use battery power. Balance electrical energy needs – the use of lights, heat and radio – with your supply.