Winter storms may bring hazardous driving conditions and downed trees and power lines. It is important to prepare your home for the possibility of a power outage. When weather and driving conditions are severe, the best place to be is in your own home.
Assemble essential supplies
- Portable, battery-powered radio
- At least one gallon of water per person
- Small supply of nonperishable food
- Red Cross First Aid kit
What to do during a power outage
- Keep the refrigerator and the freezer closed; an unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for at least a few hours. If you lose power and believe that the power will be out for a prolonged period of time, prepare a cooler filled with ice for your perishable foods.
- If the power goes off while you are using appliances, turn them off immediately; by doing this, you reduce the risk of overloading their circuitry when the power comes back on.
- Keep batteries and flashlights in a central, easily accessible location known to everyone.
- Only use a flashlight for emergency lighting. Never use candles! They are a fire hazard.
- Do not run a generator inside a home or garage. If you use a generator, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect a generator to a home's electrical system.
- Never burn charcoal for heating or cooking indoors. Never use your oven as a source of heat. If the power may be out for a prolonged period, plan to go to another location (relative, friend, or shelter) that has heat to keep warm.
- Use the phone for emergencies only. Listening to a portable radio can provide the latest information. Do not call 9-1-1 for information -- only call to report a life-threatening emergency.
- Have emergency cash on hand. Remember that automated teller machines (ATMs) may not work during a power outage.
- Put on layers of warm clothing.
- When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe -- even at a trickle -- helps prevent pipes from freezing because the temperature of the water running through it is above freezing.
In the car
Prepare before you drive
Winterize your vehicle and keep the gas tank full; a full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing. Also, have a mechanic check the battery, antifreeze, wipers, fluid, ignition, thermostat, lights, exhaust, heater, defroster, brakes and winter-grade oil.
During a storm, driving can be perilous. Don’t be on the roads unless absolutely necessary. If you do find yourself having to drive, allow extra time when traveling. Monitor weather conditions carefully and adhere to travel advisories. Also, keep a Red Cross First Aid kit and a winter storm survival kit in your car.
At minimum, a storm kit should include:
- A battery-powered radio and extra batteries
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Blankets or sleeping bags
- Booster cables
- Bottled water
- Non-perishable snacks
- Compass and road map
Also consider including these items, which can be handy when stuck or facing emergency.
- Fire extinguisher (5 lb., A-B-C)
- Small shovel
- Tire repair kit and pump
- Sack of sand or cat litter (for traction)
If you are stranded
If stranded in cold weather, stay in your car. Many people succumb to the elements when they attempt to leave their vehicle during a storm to walk to safety. Instead, stranded drivers should stay with the car and tie a brightly colored piece of cloth to the car's antenna to signal rescuers. Move anything you need from the trunk into the passenger area.
To stay warm:
- Run the motor (and heater) for about 10 minutes per hour, opening one window slightly to let in air. Make sure that snow is not blocking the exhaust pipe—this will reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Wrap your entire body, including your head, in extra clothing, blankets, or newspapers.
- Stay awake. You will be less vulnerable to cold-related health problems.
- As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to improve your circulation and stay warmer.
- Do not eat unmelted snow because it will lower your body temperature.