Stay warm and dry even in the worst winter weather with these blizzard safety tips.
A study by Alan Black and Thomas Mote, atmospheric scientists at the University of Georgia, found that winter weather conditions are responsible for, on average, 923 deaths each year. According to the study published by the American Meteorological Society, the majority of these fatalities are indirect, "where the weather created a situation that led to the death," such as car accidents.
Aside from general winter conditions, individual storms are hazardous, too. The "Storm of the Century" in March 1993 caused 300 deaths. The Great Lakes White Hurricane blizzard of 1913 took 250 lives. More recently, the December 2010 blizzard grounded 7,000 flights and left New York City's subway system inoperable.
And in January 2016, the mid-Atlantic and northeastern U.S. saw up to three feet of snow, 50 mph wind gusts, widespread power outages, travel bans, and highways and roads jammed with abandoned vehicles.
So what can you do to stay safe this winter? Here are seven blizzard safety tips direct from the experts.
7 Easy Blizzard Safety Tips
1. Make an emergency kit
It's never a bad idea to have an emergency kit in your home, no matter where you live. At a minimum, your winter emergency kit should have:
- A first aid kit
- Water (3-day supply)
- Food (3-day supply)
- Battery-powered radio
- Extra batteries
- Extra hats and gloves
- Cell phone charger
- A good Swiss Army knife or small tool kit
- Hand and foot warmer
- A shovel
2. Watch the weather
Unlike the surprise blizzards of yesteryear, it's rare that we get caught off guard by a severe winter storm. Keep a regular eye on your local weather during winter. If your area is under a winter storm or blizzard watch or warning, take the appropriate precautions.
According to accuweather.com, a storm watch means "wintry weather conditions are expected in the next 12 to 48 hours." A warning "means that these conditions are expected within the next 12 hours or sooner." In other words, the time to prepare is before there is a storm watch. Once a warning is in place, "there is little or no time for preparations and as a result, safety is harder to ensure."
3. Stock up on food and water
Head to the grocery store and stock up on non-perishable foods. Depending on where you live, you could be stuck inside for several days after a blizzard, so plan to fill your shelves with your favorite canned goods.
4. Stay off the road
Except for that early trip to the grocery store, unless it's absolutely necessary, keep your car parked. There's no reason to risk a serious accident or getting stuck if you don't have to. If you do have to drive, make sure you have an extra winter emergency kit in your car that includes jumper cables. Plan a lot of extra time into your travel, and go easy on the brakes and gas. Stay on main roads, and let someone know where you're going.
It's also vital to check that your exhaust pipe is clear of snow before you start your car. The carbon monoxide from your engine can back up into your car if it can't escape through the exhaust.
5. Stay indoors
Whiteout conditions, high winds, and treacherous walking and driving conditions can disorient you quickly. If you do have to go outside or get stranded outdoors, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Charles Dornford, an arctic survival instructor, recommends staying hydrated. If you remain active and keep your body temperature up, you can eat snow, but "a better option would be to use that body heat from activity to melt the snow. If you have a sealable container, put it in between your layers of clothing near your core. You also need to check it periodically to make sure it doesn't spill."
The U.S. Office of Homeland Security also suggests staying indoors, but notes that if you do have to go out, it's important to "wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing."
By the way, this goes for your pets, too.
6. Know the signs of hypothermia
For adults, the symptoms of hypothermia include exhaustion, confusion, slurred speech, and shivering. For infants, the skin may be cold or bright red. Hypothermia can be deadly, especially since there is a slow onset of symptoms. In fact, the Mayo Clinic points out that someone suffering from hypothermia rarely knows it's happening, in part due to the toll it takes on cognitive abilities.
If you notice these symptoms in someone or their body temperature is below 95º, call 911 immediately.
7. Know where to get help
It's not uncommon for blizzards to bring power outages. If you lose power and if you can't stay warm in your home, a public shelter might be an option. You can text "SHELTER" and your zip code to 43362 to find a shelter close to you.
If you do travel to a shelter, dress warmly and wear layers, boots, mittens, a hat, and a scarf. Call your local emergency services before you go since they might be able to direct you to a closer shelter.
Blizzards and other winter conditions can take a toll on your home. Plan ahead and make sure you have the right insurance coverage by contacting your Pekin Insurance agent today.