Staying safe in a winter emergency

This week's Winter Weather Watch is a warning for people to take precautions at home and on the road during possibly icy and snowy conditions.

Here are some tips from the experts:

On the road:

  • Be prepared by keeping your gas tank full.
  • Check the weather, road conditions, and traffic before you leave. Plan to leave early if necessary.
  • Keep emergency items stocked (ice scrapers, flares, blankets, flashlights, jumper cables)
  • Check all fluids, tire tread, lights, etc.
  • Drive slowly. It's harder to control or stop your vehicle on a slick or snow-covered surface. Increase your following distance to give you time to stop for vehicles ahead of you.
  • Know what kind of brakes your vehicle has and how to use them. In general, if you have antilock brakes, apply firm, continuous pressure. If you don't have antilock brakes, pump the brakes gently.
  • If you find yourself in a skid, stay calm and ease your foot off the gas while carefully steering in the direction you want the front of your vehicle to go. This steering maneuver may require additional counter-steering before you can regain full control. Continue to stay off the pedals (gas and brake) until you are able to regain control of your vehicle.

At home: Be prepared

  • Follow the weather by monitoring a weather radio.
  • To prepare for a possible power outage:
  • Stock up on non-perishable foods, heating fuel and medications.
  • Have a manual can opener.
  • Fill your bathtub and spare containers with water, in case your electric water pump or the public water system goes out.
  • Have a flashlight, a battery-powered radio and fresh batteries handy.
  • Prepare older family members, friends or neighbors who live alone for the weather.
  • Store some cash in case banks are closed and ATMs are out of service.

At home, if there's an outage:

  • Non-electric, unvented space heaters can be a hazard. Use them only in well-ventilated areas.
  • Cook with a camp stove, fireplace or can of Sterno (cooking fuel). Never use charcoal or other fuels in unventilated areas.
  • If you use an electric generator, plug appliances directly into it. Never plug a generator directly into your home's electrical wiring.
  • Do not use generators indoors
  • Disconnect or turn off appliances you were using when the power went off. Leave one light on to tell you when service is restored.
  • Avoid opening refrigerators or freezers. Food will stay frozen in a fully loaded freezer for 36 to 48 hours if the door is closed. In a half-full freezer, food will keep 24 hours.
  • If you see fallen power lines, stay away. Dial 911 or report it to your local power company:

Protecting your pets:

  • When temperatures falls below 32 degrees consider keeping your animals inside the house or provide an insulated approved pet house. Add blankets, straw or wood shavings for added warmth.
  • For very cold days and nights, put a coat or sweater on your pet (especially those with short hair or if they appear to be shivering).
  • Antifreeze tastes sweet and a dog/cat will lap up any spills. Be sure to clean spills up immediately since as little as a teaspoon of antifreeze can kill your pet. If your pet ingests any antifreeze take them to your veterinarian immediately.
  • Animals can get frostbite. Their skin will turn bright red then pale and then black and begin to fall off. The most vulnerable parts are the ears, footpads and tails. If you notice skin discoloration, wrap the pet in a blanket and go to the vet.
  • Wipe paws when coming inside to remove road salt (if snowing), antifreeze and any other chemicals. Check for cuts and scrapes.
  • Replace frozen water in water bowls daily or more often if extremely cold. A heated water dish can be purchased if freezing is occurring daily.


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