HICKORY — As winter comes upon us, the threat for very cold weather and possible snow and ice increases. With that threat comes the possibility of losing power and getting stuck at home for a few days, or worse, getting stuck on the road. Fortunately, it’s never too early to make a plan and prepare for the possibilities winter brings.
Catawba County Public Health is dedicated to helping people prepare for potential disasters, especially those that can affect our wellness and health. Find out more about preparedness at www.catawbacountync.gov/phealth/Adult/Preparedness. Another trusted source of information during winter storms and extreme cold weather, the National Weather Service has simple suggestions on how families can become more resistant to the threats weather can bring.
• Have a plan. Don’t let a winter storm take you by surprise. Forecasters usually begin letting people know about a potential storm at least several days in advance. Prepare, just in case, to lose power, heat and telephone service at home and at work. What will you do? Make sure to have a backup plan.
• Have an emergency kit. It should include a flashlight and extra batteries for power outages, food and water for several days, extra prescriptions, an emergency heat source, extra pet food and first-aid supplies.
Ready.gov, a website dedicated to helping people prepare for emergencies, has detailed tips to help individuals and families prepare for snow and ice storms, and extreme cold.
• Before winter approaches, purchase ice melt products, sand for traction, shovels, sufficient heating fuel, and adequate clothing and blankets.
• Keep a disaster kit in your car in case you need to travel during a winter storm or in extremely cold conditions. Use this tool to build your kit: https://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit.
• Winterize your vehicle. Make sure there is sufficient antifreeze, and make sure the battery, ignition, brakes, exhaust system fuel and air filters, heater and defroster, windshield wipers, and lights are all in good working order. Check your oil level and weight. Heavier oils do not lubricate as well in low temperatures. Make sure your tires have adequate tread for winter weather.
• Winterize your home. Make sure walls, attics and other unused spaces are well insulated. Use caulking and weather-stripping around doors and windows to minimize drafts. Winterize other structures that house pets or livestock. Clear gutters, repair roof leaks, and clear away branches or dead trees that could fall and cause damage during a storm. Consider having your heating system serviced, and have chimneys cleaned before using them.
• Insulate pipes and allow faucets to drip to prevent pipes from freezing. Even a trickle of running water can help prevent freezing. Learn how to cut off water valves in case a pipe bursts.
Another major winter-weather hazard is carbon monoxide poisoning. In North Carolina, 42 people were taken to the emergency room for carbon monoxide exposure last December, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Each year, around 430 Americans die from, and more than 20,000 people are taken to the emergency room for accidental exposure to carbon monoxide, according to Ready.gov. Some of these are caused by the use of alternative heating, cooking, and power sources used inappropriately indoors during power outages. This includes the use of charcoal grills indoors and propane heaters and stoves used indoors.
Homeowners and residents should install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of their home and outside sleeping areas to provide early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide.
Another potential danger of using alternative heat sources is the threat of fire. Because of this, residents should keep fire extinguishers on hand and should make sure everyone knows how to use them. They should also make sure smoke detectors are installed in central locations, and near bedrooms, and should check batteries regularly.
These tips are just the beginning of what people can do to be prepared for winter weather. Want to know more about what to do when driving in winter weather or where to seek shelter if your power is going to be out for an extended period of time? Find out more at https://www.ready.gov/winter-weather.
Catawba County Public Health promotes and protects the health of all Catawba County residents through preventive services, innovative partnerships, and community health improvement initiatives. For more information, call 828-695-5800 or visit www.catawbacountync.gov/phealth.
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