Living in the Midwest, we know that the weather can change drastically on a day-to-day basis, and it is best to be prepared. But we usually associate that with spring and summer seasons. It is important to remember that winter weather can be just as severe.
With our first snow of the season behind us and temperatures below freezing levels, itís important to remember to always be prepared for severe winter storms and the dangers they can bring. There are several steps to take to make sure our homes and vehicles are winter ready.
During the winter months we donít always watch the news and weather daily, but this is an excellent habit to pick up. When the threat of winter weather is approaching, check your emergency supplies list and ensure that you have everything you need.
A few recommended preparations include creating a family emergency plan, developing a winter survival kit for your home and vehicle, and ensuring fireplaces and/or generators function properly. Be sure to include the essentials, such as blankets, bottled water, canned or dry foods, flashlights, extra batteries, manual can opener, jumper cables, sand/shingles for tire traction, shovel, and a first aid kit in your survival kit for both your home and vehicle.
Along with preparing a survival kit, you also want to be sure your home is ready for the winter temperatures. If you plan to use a fireplace or wood stove for emergency heating, have your chimney or flue inspected each year and install a smoke detector and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector near the area to be heated. Test them monthly, and replace batteries twice a year.
Cold air and drafts can dramatically affect the temperature inside your house; if possible, weatherproof your home by adding weather-stripping, insulation, insulated doors and storm windows, or thermal-pane windows.
Winter weather can also take a toll on your vehicle. You can avoid many dangerous winter travel problems by planning ahead. During winter, keep the gas tank near full to help avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines. In addition, replace windshield-wiper fluid with a wintertime mixture, replace any worn tires, check the air pressure in the tires, and check the antifreeze level with an antifreeze tester. Youíll also want to check to make sure all systems are in working order, including the heater, brakes, emergency flashers, defroster, battery and radiator.
Taking preventative measures is your best defense against having to deal with extreme-cold weather conditions. By preparing your home and vehicle in advance for winter emergencies, you can reduce the risk of winter weather related problems.
Larry Jones, MPH, is the director of the Independence Health Department.