We’ve all been there – the weatherman announces a big winter storm is coming and everyone immediately hops into their car and races to the nearest grocery store for the essentials (bread, toilet paper, milk… you know the drill). But in all the flurry of activity that precedes a big snow, something is bound to get lost in the shuffle.
So take a deep breath, relax, and make a list of what you need to do. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
Check (or Build) Your Emergency Kit
One of the best things you can do to prepare for any emergency – whether it’s a winter storm, a tornado, an earthquake, or something else entirely – is to have a kit of supplies on hand that you can help you deal with a wide variety of situations. Here are some important items that we recommend having in your winter emergency kit:
- Rock salt or chemical ice melt
- Dry sand
- Snow shovel(s)
- Additional snow removal equipment (e.g., a snow blower)
- Firewood (if you have a fireplace or wood burning stove)
- Plenty of clean, dry clothing and blankets
Make a Communication Plan
Sometimes there is plenty of notice before a big snowstorm. In some cases, these big events are even forecasted to be larger than they end up. But in some cases, a forecast of flurries or a light dusting can turn into something much bigger. Having a communication plan with your loved ones can make an impact in any situation, but especially if there’s an unexpected severe weather event. Figure out how you’re going to contact each other, and how you’re going to reunite in case poor driving conditions or other weather emergencies separate you.
Plan to Minimize Travel
This is where the trip to the grocery store comes in before any big weather event. Make sure you have enough food and other essentials prior to a big snowstorm to keep your family safe, warm and healthy until it’s safe to travel again. Don’t forget to make sure you have enough food for pets, too!
Learn How to Safely Use Your Major Home Systems
This can range from a fireplace to a hot water heater. If you’ve got systems in your home that use natural gas, oil, or wood to generate heat, it’s important to know how to safely use those systems – and how to shut them off in case something goes wrong! Similarly, make sure you know where your water shut-offs are in case of burst pipes or other system failures.
Finally, make sure you have carbon monoxide detectors (with working batteries) near any system that produces exhaust, including HVAC systems that vent to the outdoors. Snow buildup on ventilation outlets and chimneys can cause fumes not to vent properly, which can be dangerous for you and your family. NEVER use propane stoves or generators indoors. If you hear your carbon monoxide detector going off, move to an area with fresh air (probably outside) immediately and contact emergency personnel for help.
Sign Up For Weather Alerts
Many local news and radio stations, as well as local fire departments and police stations, offer free mobile applications, text messages, and email notifications for weather alerts in your area. You can also sign up for weather alerts from FEMA or the Red Cross.