Health Department

Be Prepared for Winter Emergencies

Be Prepared for Winter Emergencies
Article by Larry D. Jones, MPH
December 10, 2012

As cold temperatures return to our area, I encourage families to begin planning for the threat of severe winter storms and the dangers these storms can bring. Living in the Midwest, winter weather is always a possibility, and it is best to be prepared. There are several steps we can take to be prepared, including preparing our homes and our vehicles.

It is important to listen to weather forecasts daily during the winter months. 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, and check the air pressure in the tires and have the radiator system serviced, or check the antifreeze level yourself with an antifreeze tester. You’ll 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 health problems. For more information, please contact the Independence Health Department at 816-325-7185.

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