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Safety tips for during and after a blizzard.

Winter storms can pack a devastating punch bringing not only snow and ice, but by dangerously low temperatures, severe wind gusts, and flooding. These blasting storms can also cause power outages that last for days. They can make roads and walkways extremely dangerous or impassable and close or limit critical community services such as public transportation, child care, health programs, and schools. Injuries and deaths may occur from exposure, dangerous road conditions, and carbon monoxide poisoning and other conditions. We want you to take extra care of yourself and your family during this time. Below are a few safety tips on what to do during and after a major winter storm.

During Blizzards and Extreme Cold

  • Stay indoors during the storm.
  • Drive only if it is absolutely necessary. If you must drive: travel in the day; don’t travel alone; keep others informed of your schedule and your route; stay on main roads and avoid back road shortcuts.
  • Walk carefully on snowy, icy, walkways.
  • Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow. Overexertion can bring on a heart attack—a major cause of death in the winter. Use caution, take breaks, push the snow instead of lifting it when possible, and lift lighter loads.
  • Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.
  • If you must go outside, wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
  • Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves.
  • Wear a hat and cover your mouth with a scarf to reduce heat loss.

After Blizzards and Extreme Cold

  • If your home loses power or heat for more than a few hours or if you do not have adequate supplies to stay warm in your home overnight, you may want to go to a designated public shelter if you can get there safely. Text SHELTER + your ZIP CODE to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (e.g., SHELTER20472)
  • Bring any personal items that you would need to spend the night (such as toiletries, medicines). Take precautions when traveling to the shelter. Dress warmly in layers, wear boots, mittens, and a hat.
  • Continue to protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia by wearing warm, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in several layers. Stay indoors, if possible.

Cold-related Illness

  • Frostbite is a serious condition that’s caused by exposure to extremely cold temperatures.
    • a white or grayish-yellow skin area
    • skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
    • numbness
    • If you detect symptoms of frostbite, seek medical care.
  • Hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature, is a dangerous condition that can occur when a person is exposed to extremely cold temperatures.  Hypothermia is caused by prolonged exposures to very cold temperatures. When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it’s produced. Lengthy exposures will eventually use up your body’s stored energy, which leads to lower body temperature.
    • Warnings signs of hypothermia:
    • Adults: shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech drowsiness
    • Infants:  bright red, cold skin, very low energy. If you notice any of these signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95° F, the situation is an emergency—get medical attention immediately.

Carbon Monoxide

Caution: Each year, an average of 430 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, and there are more than 20,000 visits to the emergency room with more than 4,000 hospitalizations. Carbon monoxide-related deaths are highest during colder months. These deaths are likely due to increased use of gas-powered furnaces and alternative heating, cooking, and power sources used inappropriately indoors during power outages.
  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal¬ burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows, and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors. Keep these devices at least 20 feet from doors, windows, and vents.
  • The primary hazards to avoid when using alternate sources for electricity, heating or cooking are carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock, and fire.
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas to provide early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide.
  • If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door.
  • Call for help from the fresh air location and remain there until emergency personnel arrives to assist you.
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What if a flood happens in my community?

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As we begin to approach the end of summer and continue to see the widespread flooding in Louisiana and growing fires in California, we ask ourselves, “what’s next, and will my community be affected?”.

It is important to know that we are still in the midst of hurricane season, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has recently increased their hurricane estimate from 10 to 16 named storms to 12 to 17. They are now expecting five to eight of those storms to become hurricanes.

Much of the US will feel the impact of these storms. Are you prepared? Does your family have a plan in place in case your home or community are flooded? Do you have flood insurance?

Even if you’re located in a part of the country not commonly impacted by hurricanes, sudden microbursts, severe thunderstorms and melting snow can also lead to flooding. Don’t hesitate to prepare in advance; the best time to put a flood plan in place is when it’s not flooding.

Here’s a few tips on what you can do now to be better prepared for flooding throughout the year:

- Know your flood risk. (www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/flooding_flood_risks/understanding_your_risk.jsp)

- Make a flood emergency plan. (www.ready.gov/make-a-plan)

- Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies. (www.ready.gov/kit)

- Consider buying flood insurance.

- Familiarize yourself with local emergency plans. Know where to go and how to get there should you need to get to higher ground, the highest level of a building, or to evacuate.

- Stay tuned to your phone alerts, TV, or radio for weather updates, emergency instructions, or evacuation orders.

How will I know when a potential flood is coming?

The last bullet point above advises us to stay informed by phone, TV and radio for weather updates. It’s necessary to understand the terminology you are hearing:

Flood Watch = “Be Aware.” Conditions are right for flooding to occur in your area.

Flood Warning = “Take Action!”  Flooding is either happening or will happen shortly.

Educating yourself and your family about potential flooding can be one of the most important things you do.

This graphic is called "3 Fast Flood Facts," and features tips on how to stay safe during flooding. The text reads as follows: 3 Fast Flood Facts Heavy rain can bring dangerous flash flooding. 6 inches of moving water can knock a person down. 2 feet of moving water can sweep a vehicle away. Whether you're walking or driving, stay clear of floodwater. Share these facts with friends so they're safe too.

Sources:

www.newyork.cbslocal.com/2016/08/17/hurricane-season-2016

www.ready.gov/floods

www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/preparation_recovery/before_a_flood.jsp

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