CHICAGO — With winter just around the corner, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region V reminds everyone to start preparing for the possibility of severe winter storms and extreme temperatures. Midwesterners can find helpful tips and recommendations to help them get prepared at www.ready.gov/winter.
“Most of us in the Midwest are familiar with severe winter weather, but you can never be too prepared,” FEMA Region V Administrator Andrew Velasquez III said. “Take the time now to winterize both your home and your vehicle to protect you and your family.”
Severe winter weather can include snow or subfreezing temperatures, strong winds and ice, or heavy rain storms. An emergency supply kit at home and in the car will help prepare people for power outages and icy or impassable roads.
An emergency supply kit should include a three-day supply of food and water for each person, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries, and any items to meet the unique needs of your family.
In preparation for winter weather, thoroughly check and update your family’s emergency supply kit to include the following:
• Rock salt or more environmentally safe products to melt ice on walkways. Visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s website for a complete list of recommended products.
• Sand to improve traction.
• Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment.
• Sufficient heating fuel. You may become isolated in your home and regular fuel sources may be cut off. If you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove, be sure to store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood. If your heat goes out, never use a generator or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home.
• Adequate clothing and blankets to keep you warm.
Additionally, the following tips will help you and your family get through the winter:
• Make a family communications plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency.
• Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or other local news channels for critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS) and public safety officials. Be alert to changing weather conditions.
• Minimize travel. If travel is necessary, keep an emergency supply kit in your vehicle.
• Bring pets/companion animals inside during winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas.
Finally, everyone should get familiar with the terms that are used to identify a winter storm hazard and discuss with your family what to do if a winter storm watch or warning is issued. Terms used to describe a winter storm hazard include the following:
• Freezing rain creates a coating of ice on roads and walkways.
• Sleet is rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes roads to freeze and become slippery.
• Winter Weather Advisory means cold, ice and snow are expected.
• Winter Storm Watch means severe weather such as heavy snow or ice is possible in the next day or two.
• Winter Storm Warning means severe winter conditions have begun or will begin very soon.
From the Dec. 14-20, 2011, issue