Winter is officially here. Depending on what kind of climate you live in, that can mean very different things. There may be sledding and snowball fights, or trips to the beach. If you live in an area that gets really cold however, you may have to deal with a blizzard. This can be quite an ordeal, particularly if you’ve never endured one before. The first and most important step, though, is to be ready. Here are some emergency preparedness steps you can take when a major snowstorm is headed your way.
Before the Blizzard
The more precautions you take before a storm hits, the better you’ll be able to get through it. The first step is to winterize both your home and your vehicle. Make sure your walls are properly insulated, as are your pipes, to prevent them from freezing. Then install storm windows and be sure to weather strip everything.
For your car, make sure you have good winter tires, as well as chains. Check your antifreeze levels, as well as your oil. A heavier oil is less likely to do well in lower temperatures and can cause serious damage to your vehicle.
Also be sure to have an emergency kit for both your house and car. This should include:
- Food and water (including for your pets)
- Extra warm clothing
- A basic first aid kit
- A radio and extra batteries
Finally, always have a plan in place before the blizzard hits. Everyone in the family should know what to do and where to go in the event of a snowstorm. If you’re not together when it hits, how will you contact one another and where will you meet? The more prepared you are in advance, the less you’ll have to worry about when the time comes.
During the Blizzard
Once the storm hits, stay inside at all times, unless you absolutely have to go out. This is why it’s so important to have enough food and water for everyone, for several days at least. Bring your pets inside as well, and make sure they’re warm and cared for.
Also be sure to stay dry. Snow will make your clothes wet, which will keep you cold and may even cause hypothermia. Change out of wet clothing as soon as you can and into something clean and dry, to maintain your body heat.
If you do have to go outside, be very careful of ice and snow on the sidewalks, roads, and everywhere else. If you’re driving, only do so in the daytime. Use the buddy system and make sure someone knows where you are at all times. Only use the main roads (which are first to be plowed anyway), and take the most direct route to your destination and back.
Be aware of the signs of hypothermia, frostbite, and other cold-related afflictions. If anyone in your family begins to exhibit them, have your first aid kit handy and know how to treat them and get them warmed up. If things continue to get bad, call emergency services and get them proper medical attention.
Keep listening to the radio for further instructions. If the storm continues for any length of time, particularly if you find yourself without power, you may want to make your way to a public shelter, which can keep you safe and warm until the blizzard passes. Bring an overnight bag with you, and dress warmly. To find a shelter near you, text “SHELTER” and your zip code to 4FEMA.
After the Blizzard
Once the storm has passed, it’s time to assess the damages. Make your family and pets are all OK, and that no one needs medical attention, either from hypothermia or from injuries sustained during the blizzard.
Check for broken or frozen pipes, any structural damage to your roof or chimney, and any broken windows. Get someone in to repair it as soon as possible. If the storm has left your house unlivable, stay with a friend or neighbor until you can get everything fixed up. Also look for fallen trees in your yard and downed power lines around the neighborhood. For the latter, call the power company to have them take care of it—DON’T touch them yourself.
A blizzard can be a difficult and dangerous experience. However, forewarned is forearmed. If you take the proper steps beforehand, and know what to do in case of emergencies, you’ll be able to brave the bitter cold much more effectively and make it through safely in the end.