CareNow® - December 10, 2021

As the cold weather months approach, it’s important that you’re properly prepared for the winter storms that may head your way. Sadly, hundreds of people in the U.S. alone are injured or killed as a result of winter storms, whether from exposure to cold, car accidents or fires resulting from improper use of heaters.

So what do you need to do to prepare for winter storms this year? We’re sharing a look at precautions you could take to better ensure you and your family stay safe this winter.

Be Aware of These Important Words

It’s unlikely that a winter storm will show up out of nowhere; typically, you will have some warning beforehand. There are certain words your local news channel may use that should cause you to take immediate precautions, including: 

  • Winter Storm Warning: This means that a severe storm has already started (or will be starting within 24 hours) that could be life-threatening. 
  • Blizzard Warning: If you about a blizzard warning on the news, it’s implying that sustained winds or frequents guests of 35 miles per hour or greater are coming. A blizzard warning also means that ice or snowfall will be considerable or that it may be blowing enough to reduce your visibility to less than a quarter-mile. 
  • Wind Chill Temperature: Whenever you see a wind chill temperature, you’re seeing the temperature that it feels like outside to people and animals. Heat leaves your body at a faster rate, causing your body temperature to drop, as the wind increases. 
  • Winter Storm Outlook: This means that winter storm conditions may occur within the next two to five days and that you should keep an eye on the news for updates. 
  • Winter Storm Watch: With a winter storm watch, it’s possible for conditions to turn into a winter storm within the next 36 to 48 hours, so you should be prepared to take precautions if necessary.
  • Winter Weather Advisory: If it’s anticipated that conditions could cause massive inconveniences or be potentially dangerous (but likely not life-threatening if you’re cautious), you will see a winter weather advisory.

How to Prepare for a Winter Storm

Although winter storms can be unexpected, you typically have time to prepare beforehand. How you prepare for a winter storm could mean life or death for you and your family, so it’s important that you take the proper steps to stay safe.

How to better Protect Your Family

Whether you live in a cold-weather city or not, it’s a good idea to have an emergency preparedness kit placed somewhere that’s easily accessible. This kit should include at a minimum, non-perishable food, water, flashlights and a first aid kit.

Talking about winter storms before they actually happen can help alleviate fears, especially with children. Come up with a household evacuation plan before you ever need one. This plan should include your pets as well.

Make sure your vehicle is winter-ready with good winter tires and a full tank of gas. Have a mechanic do a thorough inspection of your vehicle before winter to make sure everything is working properly.

It’s also smart to keep a number of items in your vehicle in case you need it, including:

  • A windshield scraper and small broom
  • Matches (in a waterproof container)
  • A small sack of sand (to help build traction under wheels)
  • A set of tire chains
  • A bright cloth that can be tied to your antenna
  • An emergency supply kit
  • Warm clothing

How to better Protect Your Pets

If you anticipate a winter storm is headed your way, always bring any pets indoors. Make sure that they have enough food and medication (if needed) to last several days.

For animals that must remain outdoors (such as livestock), create a safe space outdoors that can withstand wind, heavy snow and ice, where they can take shelter in a storm. Always make sure they have access to a protected food supply and water that is not frozen.

When the snow and ice start to melt, it’s possible that flooding could occur. Ensure that any outdoor animals can easily access high ground.

How to better Protect Your Home

Before a winter storm, properly protect your pipes from freezing and double-check that your home is insulated as well as possible. This should include caulking and weather-stripping on doors and windowsills.

If you have concerns about your heating system, you may want to buy emergency heating equipment (like an electric heater). Note that it is critical that you properly ventilate the area. You should also unplug electric heaters when they’re not in use to avoid starting a fire.

How to better Stay Safe During a Winter Storm

While you’re in the throes of a winter storm, there are certain things you can do to keep you and your family safe.

  • Don’t leave your home if possible and dress in layers of clothing that are loose-fitting and warm.
  • Keep your television or radio on your local news station for the latest updates.
  • Make sure all animals are safe and indoors. Move animals that must remain outdoors to a sheltered area that has plenty of non-frozen water.
  • Eat often as food gives your body energy to continue producing its own heat.
  • Hydrate regularly to prevent dehydration. Try to avoid drinking caffeine and alcohol.
  • Check on your loved ones, especially those who are elderly or living alone.

If you absolutely have to go outside during a winter storm, cover your body as much as possible. Layered clothing, gloves and a hat will help prevent body heat from leaving your body. Watch out for signs of frostbite  as well.

Although winter storms can be extremely dangerous, if you take the right precautions before and during the storm, you and your family can stay safe.

If you need to seek medical attention following a winter storm, consider visiting your local CareNow® once the roads have returned to normal. For emergency care, call 911.

Before your visit to CareNow®, check-in online using our Web Check-In® tool and wait from anywhere that’s convenient for you. We’ll call to let you know when it’s time to see a healthcare provider. 

Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.