Winter Storm Preparedness

Heavy snowfall, ice and extreme cold can quickly immobilize an entire region. The result can range from isolation due to power outages and blocked roads to the havoc caused by improperly equipped vehicles trying to maneuver on ice and snow covered roads. Your family should be prepared to protect themselves from the many hazards of winter weather - blizzards, heavy snow, freezing rain and sleet.

What to Do Before Winter Storms Occur

Know the terms used to forecast winter weather conditions:

  • A Winter Weather Advisory is issued when enough ice and snow are expected to hinder travel but the anticipated conditions are not serious enough to require warnings.
  • Freezing Rain is forecast when expected rain is likely to freeze when it strikes the ground creating a coating of ice on roads and walkways.
  • Sleet consists of small particles of ice mixed with rain. Sleet accumulation causes roads to freeze over or become slippery.
  • A Winter Storm Watch means that severe winter weather is possible. A Winter Storm Warning means that heavy snow, sleet or freezing rain is expected.
  • A Blizzard Warning means that heavy snow and winds of 35 miles per hour or more are expected. A Severe Blizzard Warning means that very heavy snow is expected with winds over 45 miles per hour and temperatures below 10 degrees. Visibility can be so poor that you will not be able to see for more than a few yards.

Be prepared before a winter storm occurs:

  • Develop an Emergency Plan.
  • Maintain a Disaster Supplies Kit.
  • Make sure that you have sufficient heating fuel; regular supplies may be curtailed by storm conditions.
  • Have emergency heating equipment (a kerosene heater, a gas fireplace or wood burning stove or fireplace) and fuel available so you can keep at least one room of your house warm enough to be livable. If your furnace is controlled by a thermostat and your electricity is interrupted by a storm, you will need emergency heat.
  • If you have a fireplace, store a good supply of dry seasoned firewood.
  • Keep fire extinguishers on hand and make sure your family knows how to use them.
  • Keep your car winterized and carry a winter car kit. A winter car kit includes: a high quality windshield scraper, flashlight, tow chain or rope, shovel, tire chains, a blanket, a bag of sand or salt and emergency flares.

What Do to During a Winter Storm

  • Listen to the radio or television for updates on the weather condition. With early warning you may avoid being caught in a storm or be better prepared.
  • Dress for the season, many layers of thin clothing are warmer than single layers or thick clothing.
  • Over-exertion can bring on a heart attack, which is a major cause of death during and after winter storms. If shoveling snow isn't critical, don't do it. If you must shovel snow, don't over exert yourself.

If you are isolated at home:

  • Use heating fuel sparingly. Conserve fuel by keeping your house cooler than usual or by temporarily "closing off" heat to unoccupied rooms.
  • Whenever fuel heating devices are used (such as kerosene heaters) maintain adequate ventilation to avoid buildup of potentially toxic fumes. Be sure to use only the proper fuel recommended by the manufacturer and follow operating instructions.

If a blizzard traps you in your car:

  • Pull off the highway; stay calm and remain in your vehicle where rescuers are most likely to find you.
  • Set your directional lights to "flashing" and hang a cloth or flag from the radio antenna or window.
  • If you run the engine to keep warm, create ventilation by slightly opening a window. This will protect passengers from carbon monoxide poisoning. Periodically clear away snow from the exhaust pipe.
  • Be careful not to use up battery power. Balance electrical energy needs- the use of lights, heat and radio-with supply.

Heating Safety

  • Any and all heating systems can be dangerous or fatal if not used and or maintained properly.
  • All fueled heaters must be vented properly to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Have all chimneys and vents inspected by a professional before use.

Space heaters:

  • Keep all combustible materials away from portable and space heaters.
  • Keep all heaters a safe distance from flammable objects, walls, furniture etc.
  • Never plug a heater into an extension cord.
  • Always use appropriate capacity outlets.
  • Turn off space heaters whenever room is unattended, unoccupied or before going to bed.

Liquid fuel:

  • Use proper fuel grade for heater.
  • Never use gasoline for any heater not approved for gasoline.
  • Refuel outdoors and only when equipment has cooled.

Gas fueled:

  • Fuel burning equipment must be vented to the outside.
  • Venting must be kept clear, unobstructed properly sealed.
  • Never install non-vented gas-heaters in living areas.
  • Carbon monoxide can build up in any small, enclosed space.

Wood coal:

  • Use only on an adequately protected floor.
  • At least 3 feet away from walls and combustible surfaces.
  • Use only dry, seasoned wood.
  • Do not use flammable liquids to start fires.


  • Have chimney inspected by professional annually.
  • Use fire screen.
  • Burn only seasoned wood.