Staggering winter storm statistics show that 70 percent of winter storm deaths are automobile related. One-fourth of winter storm fatalities are the result of individuals being caught in the storm and more than 50 percent of these deaths are males.
Blinding wind-driven snow, extreme cold, icy roads, avalanches and downed trees and power lines can all accompany winter storms. Communication lines can be cut off, and access to emergency and medical services may be severely limited once extreme weather hits a region. It's important to know what to do before, during, and after a winter storm:
- Have your car winterized. This includes quality winter tires.
- Prepare a family disaster supplies kit. Families with children should have each child create their own personal pack.
- Establish an out-of-area contact (such as a relative or family friend) who can coordinate family members' locations and information should you become separated. Make sure children learn the phone numbers and addresses, and know the emergency plans.
- Prepare your home for the winter months. Install storm windows and shutters and insulate attics and walls. Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows and wrap pipes with insulation. Learn how to disconnect gas, water, and electric power in case you must evacuate your home.
A winter storm watch means conditions are right for a severe storm to develop within 36 to 48 hours. Avoid going outside or traveling -- the safest place to be during a winter storm is indoors. During a winter storm watch:
- Listen to the radio or TV for the latest weather information.
- Review your family's disaster plan.
- Watch for changing weather conditions.
- Move any pets or other animals to a sheltered area (make sure they have water).
A winter storm warning means a life-threatening severe winter storm has begun or will begin within 24 hours. A blizzard warning is issued when conditions are likely to produce deep drifts, life-threatening wind chills, and blinding snowfall. During a winter storm or blizzard warning:
- Listen for news and weather updates.
- Dress in many layers.
- Implement your disaster plan regarding food, water and supplies if you are unable to go out for a prolonged period.
- To conserve fuel, lower the thermostat to 65° F during the day and 55° F at night.
- If power goes out, you may be forced to find other means of keeping warm during the storm. Use only safe emergency heat sources, such as a fireplace with a sturdy metal screen and a supply of wood; a well-vented wood, coal, or camp stove; a portable space heater. Read NFPA's heating fact sheet for more information on safe home heating.
Use common sense before going outside after a storm. Dress warmly in many layers, and always wear a hat. Protect your lungs by covering your mouth. Stretch before shoveling heavy snow and remember to take breaks to avoid overexertion. Continue to listen to the news and weather updates.
Date source: NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Most of the U.S. is at risk for winter storms, which can cause dangerous and sometimes life-threatening conditions. Blinding wind-driven snow, extreme cold, icy road conditions, downed trees and power lines can all wreak havoc on our daily schedules. Preparing before winter, and knowing what to do during and after a storm, will help ensure you and your family greatly reduce your risk for injury and damage to your home in a fire.
- Test all smoke alarms. Do this at least once a month. This way you will know they are working. Install and test carbon monoxide alarms in your home.
- Plan two ways out of the home in case of an emergency. Clear driveway and front walk of ice and snow. This will provide easy access to your home.
- Make sure your house number can be seen from the street. If you need help, firefighters will be able to find you.
- Be ready in case the power goes out. Have flashlights on hand. Also have battery-powered lighting and fresh batteries. Never use candles.
- Stay away from downed wires. Report any downed wires to authorities.
Winter fire safety by the numbers
- Home fires occur more in the winter than in any other season.
- Heating equipment is involved in 1 of every 6 reported home fires, and 1 in every 5 home fire death