Be ready for winter hazards

By The Examiner staff

As wintry weather draws nearer, safety experts recommend taking some basic steps to be better ready for everything from cold and snow to power outages. 

Things to have in the trunk of your car in the winter include jumper cables and tools, a blanket, extra clothes, an ice scraper, a shovel, sand or kitty litter for traction if you get stuck, a flashlight with spare batteries, paper towels, a few nonperishable food items such as energy bars, a first-aid kit, and a red cloth that you can tie to the antenna to get the attention of police. Also, the National Weather Service advises, make sure your car is in good working order before any winter travel. 

More generally, it's important to have about 72 hours' worth of supplies  – food, water, blankets, first-aid kit – stored in a dry, readily accessible space at home if bad roads or other conditions keep you from getting to the grocery store or pharmacy, according to preparemetrokc.org. 

The group suggests starting with the basics: 

• Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1. 

• Show everyone in the household how to turn off utilities. 

• Find the safe places in your home for each type of disaster. Discuss the types of disasters most likely to occur, which in this part of the country include extreme cold; extreme heat; severe winter storms, businesses and roads; and thunderstorms severe enough to create tornadoes. 

• Conduct a “home hazard hunt.” 

• Check the emergency plans of your children’s schools. 

• Pick two emergency places for your family to meet – one right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency such as a fire, and one outside your neighborhood in case you can’t return home.  

Make an emergency supply kit 

The more you have on hand, the better things can go when an emergency arises. Preparemetrokc.org advises: 

• Water – one gallon per person per day for at least three days. 

• Food – three days’ worth of non-perishable items. Don’t forget food for the pets. 

• First aid – have a good kit at home and one in your vehicle. 

• Tools – flashlight (with fresh spare batteries, a battery-operated radio, a multi-tool, a utility knife, a non-electric can opener, matches, fire extinguisher, plastic sheeting, duct tape, a wrench to shut off the gas. 

• Clothes – extra clothes for everyone in the household, plus sturdy shoes or boots, rain gear, hats and gloves. 

• Plenty of blankets and sleeping bags. 

• Don’t forget: baby formula and bottles, diapers, prescription meds, personal hygiene items, supplies for your pets, cash, maybe a deck of cards or some games for entertainment. 

Take cold-weather precautions 

According to the National Weather Service, hypothermia – body temperature dropping below 95 degrees Fahrenheit – has been a factor in 631 deaths in Missouri since the winter of 1979-80. It says frostbite and hypothermia are the main dangers during extreme cold, and it says excessive cold is a leading cause of weather-related deaths nationwide. 

“Frostbite occurs,” says the Weather Service, “when the skin becomes cold enough to actually freeze. A loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, or the nose are symptoms of frostbite.” 

A person with hypothermia "will become disoriented, confused, and shiver uncontrollably, eventually leading to drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. In severe cases, death is possible.” 

So dress for the conditions. The Weather Service suggests several layers of light-weight, warm clothing plus outer garments that are tightly  woven, waterproof and hooded. Mittens that are snug at the wrists give better protection than gloves.