Here in Maine, we got hit with back-to-back snowstorms here in Maine not so long ago. Some areas got hit harder than others, but everyone felt the effects. Regardless of how serious, any winter storm can pose a serious danger.
Did you know that thousands of people are injured and dozens die as a result of winter-related dangers? And that doesn't even count those who suffer carbon monoxide poisoning or start a home fire by using unsafe alternative heat sources (such as kerosene heaters or space heaters) during a bad storm or power outage.
Thankfully, planning and preparation can help avoid these nasty outcomes.
More often than not, the greatest danger doesn't come from the storm itself, but its effects, namely loss of heat and power and a shortage of supplies. So before a storm hits, prepare your home and family for these possibilities. The first thing you should do is make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors have fresh batteries and are in working order. If you don't have a carbon monoxide detector, now would be a good time to get one.
Another part of your prep should be adding winter-related items to your home emergency kit. If you don't have such a kit, create one. According to UL, a family emergency kit should include:
- o Five days' worth of non-perishable food and water
- o Can opener
- Portable emergency radio (battery-operated, hand-crank or solar-powered)
- Prescription medicine needed by family members
- First aid kit
- List of phone numbers for friends, relatives, neighbors and utility companies (along with account information)
- Pictures and descriptions of your family
- If you have pets, five days' worth of canned pet food and water, leashes, harnesses or carriers, current photos/descriptions and a litter box
- Emergency heat source and knowledge of its safe use
- Fire extinguisher
- Matches stored in a waterproof container
Should you lose your power and/or heat during a storm, don't panic. In addition to your emergency kit, there are a few things to remember. First, stay inside. Even without heat, it's warmer than being outside. The clearing away snow can wait until after the storm passes.
For keeping warm inside when the heat is out, close off unneeded rooms, cover windows at night and place towels or rages under any cracks in doors. Wear loose layers of lightweight warm clothing and pay attention to young children, whose body temperature can drop quickly. If kids are active, remove a layer or two to prevent overheating and the ensuing chill when they slow down.
Also be sure you know how to safely use your alternative heat sources and exercise extreme caution with them. Children should be no closer than three feet from any heat source, and proper fire safety and ventilation is essential. Read this article for important safety information about space heaters specifically.
If you have a generator, make sure it's in a covered but well-ventilated area like a shed or unattached garage. Because carbon monoxide could enter your home, never place it in an attached garage.
With planning, preparation and good common sense, you can easily avoid becoming another statistic this winter.