Survival Skills: How to Stay Safe in a Winter Storm
Winter…just the thought usually brings us thoughts of Christmas, open fires, and curling up on the couch with a good book and a cup of cocoa, while the temperature plummets and the snow falls gently to the ground outside. However, that’s not all that winter brings us. Along with the cozy things mentioned above, come the very real dangers of winter storms and the problems they can bring. While it may be fun to not have to go to work or school, the reality is that even though you’re cozy in your home, winter storms can be extremely dangerous. You and your family need to be prepared, whether it’s a simple winter storm that you are semi-used too, every winter season, or a full-blown blizzard that you aren’t used to having for whatever lies in store.
After all, extreme cold, ice, snow, and blizzards where you can barely see your driveway from your front window are pretty normal to many people during the winter months, but from staying warm to preparing ahead of the storm, and from using a generator to what to do after the storm passes, there are many things that can go wrong and many things you can do to prevent them.
Every year, hundreds of people everywhere are injured or even killed during winter storms because of exposure to the cold, accidents on the roadways, and fires that break out from improperly using heaters or generators. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to keep you and your loved ones safe during the winter season when the cold days can turn into blizzard conditions before you even know it.
In this blog, we will go into all of those things as we figure out together how to stay safe during a winter storm. So, pull a chair up in front of the fire, grab your hot toddy, and let’s wade into this blog on winter storms and how to keep you and your family safe, together.
Winter Words We All Should Know
There are quite a few winter words that everyone who lives where blizzards and winter storms are common should know and react to when they hear them. Those words and what they mean are listed below.
Winter Storm Warning
This means that life-threatening conditions that are severe have already begun or will start within the next 24 hours.
This warning means that there are going to be sustained winds and frequent gusts of winds that are reaching 35 miles per hour or more. The snow will reduce visibility less than one-quarter of a mile, meaning that you won’t be able to see ahead of you for the snow and do not need to drive in it. This weather is expected to last for three hours or longer, meaning you need to hunker down, stay where you are, and keep warm.
Wind Chill Temperature
The wind chill temperature is not the actual temperature outside, but the way the wind and cold feel on your skin when it’s exposed. The wind chill is what can cause frostbite and any other number of cold-related issues that you don’t want to have to be exposed too.
Winter Storm Outlook
A winter storm outlook means that winter storm conditions are possible anywhere from two to five days from now. You should keep a lookout on the local weather channel for any updates or to keep up with what might be coming in ahead of time or what to expect when the storm gets there.
Winter Storm Watch
A winter storm watch means that winter storm conditions are expected to possibly begin in the next 36 to 48 hours. This is the time to prepare for the storm ahead and review your plans. Keep an eye on the local weather for updates and other concerns.
Winter Storm Advisory
A winter storm advisory is put out when the condition of the weather is able to cause inconvenience to people that shouldn’t be life-threatening at all. It’s a sign to slow down when you drive and to be extra careful in the wind, snow, and cold.
These are just the main words of winter that you need to know and heed the warnings to make sure that you and your family stay safe when the winter storms come calling. Making sure to stay by your TV or radio for updates is another way for you not to be caught by surprise when a winter storm is on the way.
Start Preparing Now, not When the Storm is on the Way
If you live in an area that is prone to have storms and you know that you will be getting winter storms every winter season, then you already know that you need to prepare ahead of time. However, if you are new to the area, then there are a few things you should do to prepare before the snowy season even begins. Those are listed below.
Find Out the Risks in Your Area
The first thing you want to do is find out the risks in your area of a winter storm occurring. You can do this by doing your research and watching your local weather channel as well.
Make up a Winter Storm Emergency Kit
The next thing you want to do is make up a winter storm emergency kit for your home and your car that contains the following items.
For the Car
- A shovel
- Small broom
- Windshield scraper
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- A battery powered radio with extra batteries
- Snack food that includes plenty of energy bars
- Raisins and mini candy bars
- Small candles
- First aid kit
- Extra blankets
- Extra jackets
Your home winter emergency kit should contain about the same thing, but you want to add nonperishable foods, more blankets, and food and water for your pets because it is possible that the winter storm will knock out the power and you could be without electricity and heat for a couple of days.
Wrap Pipes and Keep Kitty Litter Handy
The last thing you want at the end of a winter storm is to find out that you can’t get down your own steps without slipping and falling on the ice and that your pipes are frozen solid, only to burst when they start to thaw. That is why it’s important to make sure your pipes are wrapped before the storm begins and that you have kitty litter handy to help with de-icing your steps to prevent injuries from occurring.
Make Sure Your Family Knows the Plan
It’s important to sit and talk to your family about what you are going to do when and if a blizzard hits. Knowing is half the battle, especially when it comes to young children.
During the Winter Storm
Once you have prepared for the blizzard to come your way, it’s important to know what to do to survive the storm unscathed and toasty warm as well. A few of those tips are listed below.
Stay Off the Roads
Your local weather service should give you plenty of warning so that you can get off the roads before the storm begins. It is best to batten down the hatches, and not go outside again until the storm is over. If you happen to be trapped inside your car, do not leave the car, stay inside and try to stay warm until help arrives. You do not want to wander off into the snow and become lost, because then you would have very little chance of survival or be found.
While it may be tempting to toss back a few while the storm rages outside, it’s not a very good idea, for many reasons. For one thing, alcohol lowers your ability to think clearly in emergency situations and an emergency could happen at any time. Alcohol also dehydrates you and makes you lose the ability to shiver, not a good thing if the power fails and you have to stay in the cold for a bit.
Keep Your Cell Phone Charged
The importance of a cell phone during a raging winter storm can’t be overstated. Keep it on the charger and don’t use it unless you have too. By keeping it on the charger, if the lights do fail, you will have a full battery for a while at least. This is the best way to keep up with the weather, what is happening, and to handle emergency situations, so make sure it’s a top priority on your preparedness list.
Don’t Forget the Pets
Yes, your pets have fur, but that doesn’t mean that they can withstand being outside in a blizzard. When you know the blizzard is on the way, make sure to bring your pets inside and keep them inside with you until the snow storm is over and gone.
Never, Ever Use a Generator Inside of Your Home or Garage
Having a generator can be a lifesaver when the lights go out during a blizzard, however, you never want to use the generator in the house, your garage, the basement, or even a crawlspace. Generators give off carbon monoxide that when used in tight, closed spaces can kill you and is especially dangerous for children, pets, and the elderly. So, err on the side of caution and hook the generator up on the outside, and make sure it’s up and running before the storm hits, and easy to get to when it does and you need o fire it up.
You’re Better Off Using Flashlights Instead of Candles
Anyone knows that candles are fire hazards, so you are better off using flashlights if the lights go out. Candles can easily get knocked over, and before you know it, your home and everything in it is up in flames. Flashlights are much better, especially if you have a household with pets and children in it.
Stay Patient, Stay Warm, and Have Fun Together
A winter storm is going to be over when it’s over, so you might as well make the best of it. That means staying patient, cuddling up under blankets to stay warm, and having fun together as a family. If the lights go out, there are many things you can do together to pass the time, from telling stories to playing games by lantern light. See it, as family time together, as the wind roars around the house and the snow falls outside.
After the Winter Storm
Once the storm has passed, it’s time to get out and see what type of damage has been done and what you can do to repair it. Below find some tips to help you recover after a blizzard.
Let Friends and Family Know You Are Okay
The first you want to do after the storm has passed is check on friends and family and let them know that you’re okay. Winter storms can be dangerous and no one wants to be worried about everyone else while they’re trying to clean up the mess left behind.
De-ice Your Porch and Sidewalks
One of the first things you want to do after the storm passes before you head too far outside is to de-ice your sidewalks and porches. This is one of the number one reasons that people get injured or worse after a blizzard. De-icing the porch and sidewalk will ensure that you or someone else doesn’t slip and fall when trying to go outside.
This ends our blog on how to stay safe in a winter storm. Make sure to follow the tips above and you and the ones you love should be fine.
- The Daily Meal: 10 Tips to Stay Healthy During a Blizzard
- American Red Cross: Winter Storm Safety
- Newsroom: Tips for Staying Safe During Winter Storm Season