Spend time now planning for winter weather and avoid being caught off-guard when snow and ice hit later

Last week the Shelby County Office of Preparedness and the National Weather Service reminded us of the importance of planning for our upcoming winter weather season. While thoughts of snow remind us of the holidays, winter can also bring dangerous weather that can cause property damage, injuries and even loss of life if we are not prepared.

“Winter weather can certainly present emergency situations. Most winter emergencies in the Mid-South affect households instead of entire communities. Emergency management takes on a different context when we consider an emergency can be as simple as a homeowner responding to a broken water pipe or flooded basement. Citizens have some power to manage their personal winter emergencies. Citizens are encouraged to do what they can to lessen the impact of extreme winter weather on their health, homes, and vehicles,” said Loretta Hurt, Project Manager of Strategic Initiatives and United Way staff member working with emergency and disaster organizations in our region.

(The photo and information below come courtesy of the Shelby County, TN Office of Preparedness HLS/EMA)

There are four key steps to winter weather safety and preparedness:

1. Know our risks: In the MidSouth, winters are comparatively mild but we can experience high winds, tornadoes, flooding, frigid tempertures, freezing rain, sleet and snow.

2. Get a kit or make a kit: An emergency “go kit” for home, work, and auto should contain enough supplies to sustain you and your pets for at least seven days, including:

• Flashlights and batteries
• ALERT FM receiver and NOAA weather radio with a battery back-up and tone alert
• Sand or cat litter for icy surfaces
• Blankets
• Eye glasses or contact lenses
• First-aid kit and medications (prescription and over-the-counter)
• Water and non-perishable food
• Tools: pocket knife, shovel, wrench, pliers, crow bar, hammer, all purpose tool, can opener
• Mobile phone and charger
• Personal protective equipment (helmet, gloves,mask, goggles, reflective vest)
• Clothing in light layers, boots, coat, mittens, scarf
• Cash (during an ice event, you may not have access to an ATM and stores may be unable to process credit or debit cards)
• Copies of important documents (insurance, medical, identifcation, photos, phone numbers)
• Pet supplies (identifcation, medication, kennel, leash, food, water, toys)
• Infant supplies (formula, diapers, medication, toys)
• Special needs items (medication, hearing aid and wheelchair batteries, oxygen)

Auto “go kits” should include all the above plus:
• Road maps and GPS
• Tow rope
• Ice scraper
• Emergency flares, emergency blankets
• Red flag and HELP / OK sign

3. Make a Plan:
• Check the weather ahead of time and only travel when it is safe. Let others know your route and estimated time of arrival.
• Winterize your auto with a thorough tune up (check antifreeze, tires, wipes, heater, hazard lights)
• Winterize your home with insulation and have a secondary heat source. Insulate or wrap pipes before temperatures freeze. Have a working smoke alarm and an ABC fire extinguisher for each floor of your home.
• Program ICE (in case of emergency) phone numbers into your cell phone.
• Make a communications plan with your family as to where you will meet in case you get separated.
• Select an out-of-town relative each family member can call to check in with.
• Practice your plans!

4. Stay Informed:
Have an ALERT FM and NOAA weather radio with you at all times and heed the warnings.

It is also wise to learn the winter weather terms:

Freeze warning: temperatures at or below 32 degrees F for 3 or more consecutive hours.
Wind chill advisory: wind chill readings between – 10 and 0 degrees F
Wind chilll warning: wind chill readings at or below –10 degrees F
Winter weather advisory: 1 – 2 inches of snow or sleet will accumulate in less than 12 hours
Winter storm watch: 2 inches of sleet or snow or ¼ inch of ice will accumulate in the next 12 hours
Winter storm warning: greater than 2 inches of snow or sleet in 12 hours or greater than 4 inches of snow in 24 hours will accumulate.

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