The cold weather is upon us and it looks like we may be in for a long winter this year. The ice, snow and cold temperatures can make life challenging for everyone. For those that are outside during these times, safety becomes an issue. Follow our advice below to help stay safe this winter.
Prepare the Home
People during the winter spend more times indoors than usual so we are going to first look at how you can prepare the home for winter.
- Insulation – Make sure that all doors, windows, walls, and attic are insulated to stop the cold air getting in and the warmer air getting out.
- Freezing Pipes – Check out our guide to prevent your water pipes from freezing.
- Store Food – If you get heavy snowfall, you still need to eat and stores may be closed.
- Fire Alarms, Extinguisher – Most home fires happen during the winter months so keep a fire extinguisher accessible and make sure to test the smoke detectors.
- Emergency Kit – Put together an emergency kit and check if it contains all necessary tools. This should include flashlight, tools, utility shutoff tools, radio, medications, first aid kit, and other needed items.
Prepare Your Car
If you must go out in the rough winter weather, your car needs to be able to get you there and back safely.
- Tires – Use all-weather tires or go for winter tires.
- Antifreeze – Check the antifreeze level and service the radiator.
- Gas Tank – Gas stations may have to close so make sure that the gas tank is full.
- Windshield Washer – Use a wintertime formula in your windshield washer.
- Car Emergency Kit – Just like the emergency kit for your home, you need one for the car too. Check out our guide here.
If you must head out, be sure to inform a friend or relative of your proposed route and expected time of arrival. If you become stranded in your car, take the following steps:
- Make your car visible to rescuers. Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna, raise the hood of the car (if it is not snowing), and turn on the inside overhead lights (when your engine is running).
- Move anything you need from the trunk into the passenger area. Stay with your car unless safety is no more than 100 yards away.
- Keep your body warm. Wrap your entire body, including your head, in extra clothing, blankets, or newspapers. Huddle with other people if you can.
- Stay awake and stay moving. You will be less vulnerable to cold-related health problems. As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to improve circulation and stay warmer.
- Run the motor (and heater) for about 10 minutes per hour, opening one window slightly to let in air. Make sure that snow is not blocking the exhaust pipe—this will reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Sometimes we have no choice but to go out but by doing a little preparation, you can make sure that you do it safely.
- Always wear the appropriate clothing, hats, boots, mittens, gloves, socks, scarves.
- Prepare crampons for you and your family members in cases of freezing rain and sleet, frozen pathways, streets and sidewalks.
- Sprinkle salt or sand on frozen paths to avoid falling.
- Before leaving the house, check the weather conditions and forecast, in order to be always up-to-date with the situation. Weather can change abruptly. Don’t leave the house if the forecasters warn against it.
- If windy, make sure you wear wind- and waterproof clothes;
- Use the shovel to not only clean the pathways, but also the roof edges. Remove any icicles and hanging snow that can endanger you or your family. Never attempt to clean the roof alone. Always do it with a friend or neighbor. Ask them to help you by holding the ladder while you climb up. Instruct all your family members not to approach the house or leave it while you’re cleaning the ice and snow.
Above all, be ready to check on family and neighbors who are especially at risk from cold weather hazards: young children, older adults, and the chronically ill. If you have pets, bring them inside. If you cannot bring them inside, provide adequate, warm shelter and unfrozen water to drink.