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How to prepare for the winter season

Updated: Mar 1, 2021

This year (2021) has proven that winter weather does not always affect the same areas that it usually does. Texas and much of America's South experienced inclement weather recently, and many people were caught off guard and unprepared. Many people in the United States lost their lives due to the freezing weather in January and February.

The most significant winter weather risks include:

  • Car accidents

  • Hypothermia

  • Frostbite

  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

  • Heart Attacks

Winter can be very harsh, and if you do not plan, you may put yourself and your family in danger. Weather conditions can change rapidly. It is best always to prepare for the worst. Heavy snow, high winds, and sleet are the main hazards of a threat during the winter months.

Following are guidelines to help you keep healthy and safe during the winter season.

Tips to Winterize your Home

  • Insulate water lines running along exterior walls so they do not freeze

  • Use weather strips on doors and windows

  • Insulate your attic and walls

  • Install storm and thermal-pane windows, or you can cover your windows with plastic sheeting from the inside.

  • Repair leaks in roof and cut away tree branches that could fall on your home or other structures.

  • Clean your chimney or have it inspected yearly

  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby (multipurpose, dry chemical is best).

  • All fuel-burning equipment should have vents to be safe.

  • Watch your thermometer inside your home. Older adults may need an easy-to-read thermometer placed in a convenient place to read frequently. Be aware that older adults are more susceptible to health problems in the winter, and their ability to feel temperature change decreases.

  • Install a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector in your home, test them monthly, and replace the batteries twice a year.

  • If you have a fireplace or woodstove, have them inspect them for safety yearly.

Tips to Winterize Vehicles

According to the FHWA, about 17% of car accidents occur in snowy conditions. Over 1800 die per year due to driving in snowy conditions. Black ice is dangerous and you must learn how to control your car if you hit it while driving.

Have your car fully-serviced, especially before winter arrives. If you plan to be out on the roads, be sure to create a car emergency kit that includes:

  • Warm blanket, coats, gloves, and hats

  • Winter windshield scraper

  • Shovel

  • Knife

  • Flashlight and extra batteries

  • Cell phone with backup charger and extra batteries

  • Flashlight with plenty of extra batteries

  • Water

  • First aid kit

  • Tow chains and rope

  • Tire chains

  • Emergency tire repair kid including canned compressed air and sealant

  • Sand to help tires get traction

  • Road salt to melt ice

  • Booster cables or jumper cables

  • Hazard reflectors

  • Emergency distress flag and emergency flares

  • Waterproof matches

  • A can for melting snow for water to drink

  • Road maps

How to Prepare Yourself Physically for Winter

Learn ways to prevent cold-related health problems. Cold dry air can irritate your airways and lungs. It causes the upper airways to narrow making it harder to breathe. Cold air disrupts the moist layer that lines the lower airways in the lungs causing it to evaporate faster than replaced.

Heart attacks are high during the winter months. Cold weather makes your heart work harder to keep your body warm. Your blood vessels constrict so the heart can concentrate on pumping blood to your brain and other major organs. The cold can also increase the risk of developing blood clots, which could lead to a heart attack or stroke. Wear the appropriate clothing to shield yourself from the bitter cold. It includes coats, scarves, hats, gloves, and warm boots.

Other ways to prepare that you should consider:

  • Get your flu shot to avoid influenza.

  • Take your vitamins and have on hand over-the-counter medication.

  • Make sure you exercise regularly. Sedentary habits make you susceptible to sickness.

  • Get out of the house when weather permits. Staying indoors exposes you to air pollutants such as dust, dander, and mold. These can trigger asthma attacks.

  • Protect yourself from winter exposure and hypothermia. Low temperatures can be dangerous and being exposed for extended periods can lead to frostbite and hypothermia. Often the person in that situation does not even aware they are in danger.

  • Prepare yourself with winter supplies such as lotion, hydrocortisone cream, and chapped lip balm to control skin conditions due to dry winter weather. Severe skin issues require a doctor's attention.

  • Some people suffer from SAD, which is Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is basically depression due to lack of sun. Light therapy can be useful to treat it as well as Vitamin D3.

  • Do not overeat, especially during the holidays. Walk around, so you allow your circulatory system to work.

How to Plan for Blackouts

You may lose electricity because the grid is down. Consider saving for a power generator, to help keep your family warm and sustain vital electricity. Without heat, life can be very uncomfortable and even dangerous. Generators also keep your fridge and freezer running so food will not spoil. Also, when the power fails, there may be a loss of communication with family members and outside emergency services.

Get a 72-hour kit ready in case you have no electricity. This includes water, food, and supplies to keep you and loved ones safe for 72 hours. Winter temperatures can plummet leaving you vulnerable to sickness or worse. Make sure your winter supplies include warm blankets, warm clothing, and safe heating resource to cook your food and to keep yourself and family comfortable.

Prepare a winter disaster plan, which includes a way to communicate with your family in and emergency situation. Prepare and do not let a winter storm catch you by surprise!!

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