Snow is a welcome part of winter for many of us, but when it starts falling so hard and fast that it knocks out power and makes travel impossible, it can be deadly. Don't be caught unaware by a severe winter storm. Learn how to prepare for a blizzard now, and you won't have to brave the panicked crowds at the grocery and hardware stores the day before the storm hits.
There are six major steps you should take to make sure that you and your family will be able to stay warm and safe:
Stock up on essentials. Well before a storm hits, make sure that you have at least a three-day supply of non-perishable foods, water, first aid supplies, pet supplies, batteries, canned heat, flashlights, candles, heating fuel and any required medications in case you become isolated in your home by heavy snow, ice or fallen trees. You should also have rock salt to melt ice on walkways, lots of clothing and blankets to keep you warm, and a snow shovel to remove snow from around your vehicle if necessary. Consider purchasing a battery-operated NOAA weather radio if you don't already own one, so you can get updates on changing weather conditions.
Some ideas for emergency foods to have on hand include:
Instant oatmeal and soup
Canned goods including soup, vegetables, fruit, chili and tuna
Applesauce, fruit and pudding cups
Hot cocoa and instant coffee
Charge your cellphone and make lists of emergency contacts. Be sure that you have the contact numbers for friends and family members, your power company and any other numbers that might be helpful. Download a Family Emergency Plan from Ready.gov, fill it out and either print or email copies to your important contacts. This plan will make it much easier to bring your family together to a safe place in the event of an emergency.
Prepare your vehicle for hazardous winter weather. Get a winter tune-up, pack an emergency kit for your car and learn how to respond if your vehicle begins to skid, or if you become snowbound on the road. Keep your gas tank full at all times in case a snowstorm makes traffic slower than usual, and drive cautiously.
Storm-proof your home. Apply weatherstripping to doors and windows, caulk any air gaps, insulate your pipes, clear your rain gutters, have your heating equipment or chimney inspected and trim any tree branches that could fall onto your home in heavy snow or strong winds. If the power goes out, cover windows with plastic sheeting to keep cold air out and close off all unnecessary rooms to concentrate heat. Never use a generator, grill, gas or oil-powered heater or camp stove indoors or in partially enclosed areas due to the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, and always have a fire extinguisher on hand. If the pipes freeze, remove the insulation, open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes starting where they are most exposed to the cold.
Stay indoors and restrict travel to emergencies only. If you must go outdoors, wear warm, loose-fitting layers including waterproof boots, mittens and hats. Avoid overexerting yourself if you must shovel snow, and be sure to watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia including loss of feeling in the extremities, shivering, slurred speech and disorientation.
Know when to go to a shelter. If your home loses power for an extended period, you run out of supplies or the weather is extremely cold, text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43352 (4FEMA). The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will text you the location of the nearest shelter.
Got other tips for how to prepare for a blizzard? Leave us a note in the comments below.