By: Lorelei Elkins & Don Campbell

For great tips and information on staying safe this winter and in other emergencies, visit  http://readyguilford.org/   While you’re there, sign up for G.E.A.N.I – Guilford Emergency Alert – Notification – Information 

Each year people suffer property damage or are injured or killed by exposure to extreme weather, accidents on wintry roads, or fires from improper use of heaters.  Learn these simple steps you can take to keep you, your family, and your pets safe this winter.

First, it’s very important to talk to your family about what to do if a winter storm watch or warning is issued, or extreme winter temperatures are forecast. Discussions ahead of time reduce fear and insure the whole family is prepared. Listen to local radio or NOAA radio and be prepared.  Take time before the emergency to build an emergency kit for your home and car to ensure you can stay safe in the event of an emergency.  You can find recommended items for your kit at http://readyguilford.org/kit/

For your vehicle:

Keep a window scraper tucked in the glove box or under the seat, along with an extra pair of gloves and a hat (90% of heat loss is from the top of our heads!) It wouldn’t hurt to put an extra blanket in the car in case you’re stranded in bad weather or break down, and it’s a good idea to have a brightly colored cloth ready to tie onto the antenna.  Toss a flash light and few protein bars in there while you’re at it.

If snowy weather is expected, fill the gas tank and make sure the vehicle is in good working order.  If you drive a relatively light car of small pick-up, a bag of sand or non-clumping kitty litter in the back will serve to weigh you down a little, reducing the possibility of sliding on icy roads. If you do become stuck, the sand or litter can be used for traction under wheels.

For your home:

Learn how to keep your pipes from freezing by visiting this informative American Red Cross site.  It’s relatively inexpensive and not difficult to do.

Consider purchasing emergency back-up heating equipment such as a wood or coal burning stove or an electric or kerosene heater.  It is vitally important you follow all the safety directions for these heaters and have a carbon monoxide detector on hand as well.  They can be purchased from most department or home improvement stores inexpensively.  Many people keep some extra wood on hand for the fireplace in case of power outages as well. Portable generators are also useful.  Again, make sure you follow all safety tips to avoid home fires and carbon monoxide poisoning!

Keep some extra food and water put by incase the roads are impassable or the power goes out. Choose foods that can be readily eaten without needing to be cooked.  Also keep flashlights with batteries handy.  They are far safer than candles.  If you are on medication, be sure to have a 7-day supply on hand. Charge all phones ahead of time.

For your animals:

Bring your pets indoors during extreme weather. If this is not possible, create a comfortable outdoor area which is out of the wind, covered and well insulated.  Make sure your outdoor animals have access to water and check that it hasn’t frozen.  Ensure that any outbuilding that house or shelter animals can withstand wind, snow and ice. Outdoor animals may need extra feed during cold weather as they burning more calories to stay warm.

Being prepared isn’t just for Boy Scouts.