Have you ever been stuck on the road in a storm and had to pull over? Or do you remember the 2011 snowstorm in Chicago, which caused people to abandon their cars on the road? Winter storms seem to get more intense every year and with winter weather already here for parts of the country, it’s always good to remember that there are certain precautions you must take to stay safe. Blizzards can virtually stop cities; stranding drivers, delaying emergency responders, and even causing power outages. Usually, it is the elderly or very young who are most affected by the cold temperatures associated with winter storms. Many casualties are not directly related to the storm itself, but rather from the aftermath— elderly people stuck in their homes, heart attacks or strokes from shoveling snow, or car accidents due to unsafe roads. While it is difficult to estimate how much damage a winter storm can cause, it is possible to know when they will occur, and that vital piece of information will hopefully give you enough time to prepare.
Many people live in small towns and while this doesn’t mean total isolation during a storm, it could mean longer recovery time, so it is best to be prepared on your own. If you are at home during an extreme winter storm, make sure you have supplies that will allow you to stay comfortable and warm. If you have a fireplace, keep a pile of firewood available in case the heat goes out. Canned or non-perishable food will come in handy in case you lose power and the roads are snowed in. Emergency equipment such as flashlights and electric generators should be prepared for use and in working order. Keep bottles of clean water for drinking and cooking because your pipes can freeze.
When you are at home, weathering the storm, you will want to receive the latest weather updates. Luckily, many smart phones automatically update users on any weather warnings, but if your phone does not do this, then you should manually sign up for weather alerts on your mobile phone or email. The Weather Channel offers free weather alerts for any area on their website. However, if the internet goes out, have a radio readily available as well. All of your mobile devices should be charged in case of a power outage.
Mobile devices and landlines are extremely important for older people who live alone. Your family, wherever they may be living, will want to know that you are safe. If they live in another state, designate a friend or neighbor as an emergency point of contact. If you are an older person that lives near loved ones, it could be a good idea to group together at one location. Locate a place for everyone to meet when a winter storm warning is issued, depending on where you and your family are.
You should also make sure your home is ready for the winter. For example, be sure that your home’s walls and attic are properly insulated to avoid losing heat. To prevent your pipes from bursting, keep your faucets dripping. It is also important to know how to shut off your home’s water valves in case a pipe does burst. Set up emergency heating equipment, such as a fireplace with wood or a portable stove with plenty of fuel. Space heaters are helpful when used correctly. Keep your space heater at least three feet away from all furniture, flammable objects, or drapes. If no one is present in the room, turn off the heater. Never place any objects directly on a heater.
If you do need to travel in extreme conditions, or if you are stuck in the middle of a storm in your car, make sure that it is properly fitted to drive. Have your car’s radiator system serviced, use antifreeze in your car, and check your windshield wipers. If your tires have worn-down tread, replace them. It is also recommended that you keep jumper cables and chains in your car. These steps should help you stay safe during the cold winter months, and prevent an emergency from occurring.
Written by guest blogger: Jacob Edward
Jacob Edward is the founder of Senior Planning and Prime Medical in Phoenix, Arizona. Prime Medical Alert not only operates in Arizona, but across all fifty states, including Maryland. In his spare time, Jacob enjoys dining out and supporting his alma mater Arizona State's sports teams. Jacob lives in Tempe, Arizona.