Blizzards, heavy snow, extreme cold, and ice storms are some of the most common natural hazards that Ohioans face. Roads can quickly turn treacherous or impassable. Pipes can freeze and burst, disrupting water supply. Power can be out for days, threatening residents with hypothermia. Life and limb can literally be in peril unless preparation is made before the storm. It is not too late to protect yourself and your family.
Here are a few things you can do.
Keep a disaster supply kit. Besides the usual items of non-perishable food, water, first aid, flashlight, and battery-powered radio or television; make sure you have extra clothing, coats, long pants, hats, mittens, scarves, shoes or boots, and sleeping bags or blankets for every family member.
Be sure to winterize your vehicle. Check the battery, windshield wipers, and tire tread as well as antifreeze and washer fluid levels. Include a blanket, water, snacks, flashlight, first aid kit, distress flag, and hand/foot warmers in your car emergency supply kit.
In severe weather, dress for the weather, not fashion. Wear several layers of warm, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. Wear a hat, mittens and scarf to prevent frostbite.
To stay safe in harsh winter weather
• Listen to the radio, television or NOAA Weather Radio for emergency information
• Eat regularly and drink enough fluids. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol
• Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow to reduce risk of heart attack — a major cause of death in the winter.
• Never go onto an ice-covered body of water. If someone has fallen through the ice, try reaching them with a rope, ladder, or long tree limb.
• Watch for signs of frostbite — a loss of feeling and whitish appearance on fingers, toes, and tip of nose.
• Watch for signs of hypothermia — uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion. If these symptoms occur, get the person to a warm location, remove wet clothes, warm the center of the body first and if the person is conscious, give warm, non-alcoholic beverages.
• It frostbite or hypothermia symptoms are present, seek medical help immediately.
• Always maintain ventilation when using a kerosene heater to avoid build-up of toxic fumes and keep them at least three feet from flammable objects. Refuel kerosene heaters outside.
• Drive only if absolutely necessary. If you must drive, travel only during daylight hours, don’t travel alone, and let others know your route and schedule. Stay on main roads.
To survive being stranded in a vehicle:
• Pull off the highway, turn on the hazard lights, and hang a distress flag from the antenna or window.
• Remain in your vehicle where rescuers can find you. Do not try to go for help. Distances are distorted by blowing snow. A building may seem close, but may be too far to walk to, especially in strong winds or deep snow. It may be vacant or locked and provide no protection from the cold.
• Be sure the tail pipe is clear of snow and run the car engine and heater about 10 minutes every hour to keep warm. Keep a window cracked slightly for ventilation while the car is running to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
• Be careful not to waste battery power by over-using lights, heat and radio.
• Exercise to maintain body heat. Maps, newspapers, seat covers and floor mats can provide insulation against the cold. Huddle with passengers to conserve body heat.
• Take turns sleeping. One person should be alert at all times to spot rescue crews.
• Drink fluids to avoid dehydration.
• At night turn on the inside light so that work crews or rescuers can see you.
Severe winter weather poses numerous dangers. Planning ahead can keep you and your family safe.