To begin to prepare for severe winter weather, first create a preparedness kit. Stay tuned for storm watches and warnings issued by the National Weather Service. Know the terms used by the NWS, which can be seen on the NWS’ Learning About Winter Weather page.
Winter Readiness for Individuals & Families
Before the watches and warnings are issued, prepare a winter storm plan that will enable you and your family to survive for up to 72 hours without any outside assistance…
- Have extra blankets on hand.
- Ensure that each member of your household has a warm coat, gloves and mittens, hat and water-resistant boots.
- Make sure all family members know what to do when a winter storm watch or warning is issued.
Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit for Your Home Containing:
- Flashlight and extra batteries.
- Portable, battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio and AM/FM radio; and extra batteries.
- First aid kit.
- One-week supply of food (include items that do not require refrigeration or cooking in case of power loss).
- Nonelectric can opener.
- Bottled water.
- One-week supply of essential prescription medications.
- Extra blankets and sleeping bags.
- Fire extinguisher (A-B-C type).
Develop an emergency communications plan. In case family members are separated from one another during a winter storm (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), have a plan for getting back together.
Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the “family contact.” After a disaster, it’s often easier to call long distance. Make sure all family members know the name, address and phone number of the contact person.
Make sure all family members know how to respond after a severe winter storm. Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1 and know local radio stations to tune in to for emergency information.
If You Must Be Outdoors During Winter Weather Conditions:
- Dress warmly. Wear loose-fitting, layered, light-weight clothing. Layers can be removed to prevent perspiration and chill. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Mittens are warmer than gloves and are recommended.
- Stretch before you go out. If you go out to shovel snow, do a few stretching exercises to warm up your body. Also take frequent breaks. Those with heart problems or if lead a sedentary lifestyle, be careful of over exertion and heart attack. Be aware of the symptoms of dehydration.
- Cover your mouth. Protect your lungs from extremely cold air by covering your mouth.
- Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
- Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.
- Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance-infants, elderly and people with disabilities.
Winter Readiness for Your Home
A major winter storm can be lethal. Preparing your home for cold weather conditions and responding to them effectively can reduce the dangers caused by winter storms.
- Service snow removal equipment and have rock salt on hand to melt ice on walkways and kitty litter to generate temporary traction.
- Make sure you have sufficient heating fuel; regular fuel sources may be cut off.
- Winterize your home:
- Insulate walls and attic.
- Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows.
- Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside.
- Have safe emergency heating equipment available.
- Fireplace with ample supply of wood.
- Small, well-vented, wood, coal or camp stove with fuel.
- Portable space heaters or kerosene hears (See Kerosene Heaters below).
- Install and check smoke detectors.
- Keep pipes from freezing.
- Wrap pipes insulation or layers of old newspapers.
- Cover the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture.
- Let faucets drip a little to avoid freezing.
- Know how to shut off water valves.
During a Winter Weather Event:
- Stay indoors and dress warmly.
- Conserve fuel. Lower the thermostat to 65 degrees during the day and 55 degrees at night. Close off unused rooms.
- If the pipes freeze, remove any insulation or layers of newspapers and wrap pipes in rags. Completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they were most exposed to the cold (or where the cold was most likely to penetrate).
- Listen to the radio or television to get the latest information.
Winter Readiness for Your Automobile
If you plan to travel during the winter, you should stay abreast of local weather reports. When forecasters are predicting threatening weather, the best bet is to seek shelter and wait out the storm.
The Missouri Department of Transportation provides up to the minute road conditions at http://traveler.modot.org/map/ . Knowing real-time road conditions can mean the difference between arriving on-time or not arriving at all.
All those who travel are advised to carry a winter storm supply kit in their vehicle. Assemble a separate disaster supplies kit for the trunk of each car used by members of your family that includes:
- Blankets or sleeping bag.
- Extra sets of dry clothing.
- A windshield scraper.
- A shovel.
- A container of sand.
- Tire chains.
- Battery booster (“jumper”) cables.
- A tow chain or rope.
- First aid kit.
- Flashlight or emergency light with extra batteries.
- Transistor radio with extra batteries.
- A brightly colored cloth.
- A high calorie, nonperishable food.
Ensure that your cell phone is fully charged before your begin your trip. If you are stranded in your car during a blizzard, make a call and wait for help to arrive. Do not try to walk to safety.
Avoid Traveling by Car in a Winter Storm, but If You Must Travel…
- Have emergency supplies in the trunk.
- Keep your car’s gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel lines from freezing.
- Travel during daylight and let someone know your destination and route. Try to travel with other vehicles.
Survival Tips: Frostbite & Hypothermia
Frostbite is a severe reaction to cold exposure that can permanently damage its victims. A loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in fingers, toes or nose and ear lobes are symptoms of frostbite.
Hypothermia is a condition brought on when the body temperature drops to less than 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, slow speech, memory lapses, frequent stumbling, drowsiness and exhaustion.
If frostbite or hypothermia are suspected, begin warming the person slowly and seek immediate medical assistance. Warm the person’s trunk first. Use your own body heat to help. Arms and legs should be warmed last because stimulation of the limbs can drive cold blood toward the heart and lead to heart failure. Put person in dry clothing and wrap their entire body in a blanket.
Never give a frostbite or hypothermia victim something with caffeine or alcohol.
- American Red Cross Winter Storm Preparedness
- Ready.gov Snowstorms & Extreme Cold
- NWS Winter Storm Safety
- 2007 Greene County Ice Storm After Action Report