December 4 – 10 is Winter Preparedness Week in Virginia. Is your entity prepared for colder weather conditions?
Winter weather can lead to power failures, icy roads, and exposure to cold temperatures. Outdoors you may deal with icy sidewalks, driveways and roads. Indoors the lack of heating can cause problems as well – especially when space heaters are used, increasing the risk of fires or carbon monoxide poisoning.
VML Insurance Programs (VMLIP) has many safety resources to help you with winter preparedness, including white papers and recorded webinars. VMLIP members can access the following white papers online.
- Snowplow Safety – white paper
- Tips on Winter Driving – white paper
- Understanding Wind Chill – white paper
- Winter Safety Reminders – white paper
- Prepare for Winter Driving – white paper
- Preparing Buildings for Inclement Weather – white paper
- Fall and Winter Driving Preparedness – white paper
- Exposure to Cold Weather Conditions – white paper
In addition to white papers, VMLIP members have access to a 14 minute DVD on Cold Stress, which educates viewers on hypothermia and frostbite, including the warning signs and measures to take before working. The VMLIP Multimedia Library also has three videos on chain saw safety – for trees downed during heavy ice storms.
For those who must drive in the snow, the VMLIP Online University has a 60 minute course focused on Winter Driving Safety.
To plan for your family, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management offers a free family plan worksheet and an online fillable version at: http://www.vaemergency.gov/readyvirginia/makeaplan. Being prepared to stay where you are until conditions improve is another important part of winter planning.
For more ways to get ready, VDEM recommends:
- Get a kit. You’ll need emergency supplies on hand at home, in the car and at work.
- For home, start with these basics: three days’ food and water; a battery-powered and/or hand-crank radio with extra batteries; and a family emergency plan. After getting these supplies, add a first aid kit, medications if needed, blankets and warm clothing, supplies for special members of your household, and pet items
- For your car, start with some bottles of water and food bars; bag of sand or kitty litter to provide traction under tires; hats, gloves and blankets; and cell phone charger
- For your office, have some bottles of water and food bars and a radio to hear local information about whether or not it is safe to travel. Officials may advise staying in place until it is safe to travel.
- Make a plan. Choose an out-of-town relative or friend to be your family’s point of contact for emergency communications. Decide on a meeting place if your family cannot return home because of closed roads. Discuss with your family what you would do in case of severe winter weather in your area.
- Stay informed. Before, during and after a winter storm, listen for up-to-date information from your local media and emergency officials. Local media will give instructions from local, state and federal agencies that cover road conditions, winter storm watches and warnings, power outages and health information. Make sure your battery-powered radio is working and you have extra batteries in case the electricity goes out.
Additional winter safety tips (from VDEM)
- Keep space heaters at least three feet from other objects. Never leave space heaters unattended. Install a smoke detector in every bedroom and on each level of your home. Check the batteries monthly, and replace them once a year at the same time every year.
- In case of power outages, use flashlights instead of candles for light.
- Use generators only outdoors and only in well ventilated areas.
- Make sure outdoor pets have adequate shelter, unfrozen water and food.
- If your household includes someone with special needs (has a disability, requires electricity to operate home medical equipment, needs to go to dialysis, etc.) call your local emergency manager to let them know where you live and what you will need during an emergency.
- Driving is most dangerous when the temperature is at or under 32° F. If the road is wet, patches of ice are possible, especially on bridges and curves. Avoid using cruise control in winter weather conditions.
- Keep a safe distance of at least five seconds behind other vehicles and trucks that are plowing the road.
- Don’t pass a snowplow or spreader unless it is absolutely necessary. Treat these as you would emergency response vehicles.
- Keep an emergency winter driving kit in your car.
The Centers for Disease Control also provides many winter safety tips online, including this printable guide – Extreme Cold: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety.