When a severe winter storm strikes, it can trap people in their homes for days, often without heat, electricity or communications, leaving them susceptible to the cold and in utter isolation.
Should a storm hit, it's important that you and your family are prepared.
Click through for tips to help keep you safe when a winter storm approaches.
The main concern during any winter storm is the possibility of losing heat, power and communications for days at a time.
Rule number one to surviving a winter storm is to stay indoors. Try to remain at home, near a heat source. Should you find yourself with limited heat, try to consolidate the members of your household to one room and close any doors to that room to help trap heat and stay warm. Place a towel against your door cracks to prevent heat from escaping.
Sufficient Heating Fuel
Should your power go out during a winter storm and you need to rely on alternative heat sources, be sure to have enough fuel on hand. Keep accessible plenty of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace. When you use your fireplace, make sure the chimney is clear and open to prevent smoke inhalation.
If you use kerosene heaters, do so with caution, as kerosene is extremely flammable. Ensure proper ventilation from the fumes, and refuel the tank outdoors and away from objects that could catch fire.
Food and Water
A winter storm could strand you in your house for days. Be prepared for such an event and stock enough food and water to last you and your family at least seven days. Buy non-perishable food items like canned goods, peanut butter and granola bars.
Keep one gallon of water on hand per person, per day, to last at least seven days. A family of five should store 35 gallons of water.
Be sure to stock up ahead of time to avoid crowds or shortages at the supermarket.
Prevent Frozen Pipes
When the temperature drops below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, pipes run the risk of freezing and bursting, causing major damage. To prevent pipes from freezing, wrap your interior pipes in foam pipe insulation.
Also turn on a faucet and allow it to slowly drip, decreasing the pressure in the pipes. This could prevent bursting if the pipes do freeze. If you expect to be away during a particularly cold spell, turn off your water valve entirely.
If you suspect a pipe has frozen, call a plumber and turn off the water supply to prevent flooding. You can also try to thaw a pipe with a blow-dryer, or by wrapping the pipes with hot, wet towels. Never use an open flame.
Shovel with Caution
The most common snow-related injuries stem from shoveling, according to ABC News. Slips and falls account for the greatest number of injuries and can result in broken bones or back sprains.
Shoveling can also lead to increased heart rates, which create the most severe health hazard, heart attacks. Doctors recommend that people with a heart condition not shovel snow at all; consider asking a younger neighbor for help, or hiring a snow removal crew to do the job.
Others should take their time shoveling, and take frequent breaks to rest. Begin shoveling early, before the snow accumulates, and continue to shovel periodically to avoid heavy snow. To prevent back injuries, push the snow to one side, rather than tossing it over your shoulder.
It's always safest to stay indoors during a winter storm, but if you must leave your house, dress in warm, loose layers. Layering allows you to remove or add layers depending on the weather and your activity level.
The first layer you wear ought to be a wicking layer of long underwear. Wicking fabrics draw moisture away from your skin and through the fabric, so you remain dry and warm.
Next, don some insulating layers to keep your body warmth in and the cold out. These can include fleeces, sweatshirts, sweaters or vests.
Finally, you'll need a protective layer, which will keep you safe from elements like wind, snow, rain or sleet. Typically, this would be a shell jacket and pants that repel water.
In addition to your layers, wear a hat, mittens or gloves, sunglasses or goggles, and socks made from a wicking material.
Frostbite is a valid concern for anyone exposed to the freezing elements for a long period of time. Typically, the face, ears and nose are the first parts of the body to suffer from frostbite, so it's important to wear a hat and gloves, and a scarf covering the mouth and nose if you are outside in the cold for an extended time.
Symptoms of frostbite include sensations of numbness, itching, burning or tingling, and skin that appears white or gray and feels hard to the touch. In extreme cases, frostbitten skin can turn black.
If you suspect you have frostbite, head to an emergency room, where a doctor can perform a thawing procedure. Keep the affected area elevated and remove any clothing or jewelry around it to prevent constriction until you seek proper medical attention.
Constant exposure to cold temperatures can lead to hypothermia, in which the body temperature drops to below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Hypothermia can be caused by prolonged time spent outdoors, as well as in a house which has lost heat or electricity due to a winter storm.
Signs of hypothermia include slurred speech, constant shivering, loss of coordination, stiff joints, slow pulse, confusion, shallow breathing and drowsiness.
If you suspect you or someone you're with might have hypothermia, head to a hospital for treatment, or if that's not possible, try to get warm as quickly as possible, wrapping yourself in layers of clothing, blankets or sleeping bags.
It is also helpful to drink warm liquids and apply warm, moist towels to pulse points, such as the armpits, neck and groin, to increase body temperature.
Stay With Your Car
Avoid driving during a winter storm, but if you must, alert people to your exact route, what time you're leaving and the time you expect to arrive at your destination. Bring a cell phone and charger, and stick to main roads.
Should you become trapped in a winter storm, never leave your vehicle. Vehicles provide protection from the outdoor elements and some warmth. It's OK to run the car and heater once an hour for about 10 minutes, but to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, make sure the car's exhaust pipe is clear of snow and leave the windows cracked. Keep your blood flowing by frequently moving your legs, arms, hands and feet.
If you know you'll be driving in threatening conditions, keep an emergency kit in the car, including water, snacks, AM/FM radio, batteries, flashlight, small shovel, blankets, sleeping bag, flares, tow rope and a brightly colored scarf or towel.
If you get stranded, lift the hood of your car to indicate distress and tie the colored scarf to your car to help make it visible to rescuers.
In the event that you lose power, you should have tools on hand that don't require electricity. You'll want flashlights, extra batteries, a wrench to turn off your home's gas or water supply, whistles to alert authorities, a signal flare, fire extinguishers, a compass, an ax and a tarp or sheets of plastic.
In advance of any storm, be sure that you know how to turn off your gas and water supply.
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First Aid Kit
Keep a first aid kit on hand. FEMA recommends you keep the following items in your first aid kit: bandages, pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacid, antiseptic, tweezers, scissors, safety pins and soap.
You can purchase these items and create your own kit, or buy a pre-made kit.