Be Prepared for Winter Weather

Wednesday December 16th, 2009

The holiday season is here, and with it comes colder weather and its accompanying dangers. Fire Corps programs can act now to remind their communities of the dangers during the winter season and how to prevent them. Since each community faces different threats, here are some ideas of topics that may apply in your area:

  • Ice: Even in small amounts, ice can result in significant damage. Icy roadways are more hazardous to drivers, especially in areas with many bridges and overpasses, which will freeze over first. Black ice poses a severe threat because the driver cannot see it on the road. Remind citizens to stay at home whenever possible if icy conditions exist. In large accumulations, ice can down trees and power lines, leaving many people without power; therefore, encourage your community members to keep safety kits in their homes. They should also have safety kits in their vehicles in case they become stranded. At a bare minimum, the vehicle safety kit should include blankets, cat litter for traction, a windshield scraper, water, and non-perishable food.

  • Snow: Each year, heavy snow is responsible for collapsing roofs and downing trees. In the worst cases, large accumulations can shut down a city or town by making all roads impassable. Remind your community members to have a first aid kit in their homes and vehicles in case emergency personnel are unable to respond. In mountainous regions, warn citizens, and especially tourists, of the danger of avalanches.

  • Cold Temperatures: Temperatures at or below freezing bring many dangers. Pipes can burst; outdoor water bowls or troughs can freeze, leaving animals to suffer from dehydration; and frostbite can occur. In areas where the wind chill dips below zero, be especially diligent in informing people of prevention methods, warning signs, and treatment and/or consequences of frostbite and hypothermia.

  • Watches and Warnings: Make sure that your community is aware of the meaning of winter weather terms, watches, and warnings. Knowing the difference between a forecast for snow showers, snow squalls, and blizzards, for instance, can be a life-saver. Do not assume everyone is informed, as some members of your community may be new to the area and, therefore, unfamiliar with the weather.

There are many preparedness steps Fire Corps programs can take to ensure the safety and security of individuals in the community. Remind local businesses to post signs outside to caution customers about slick steps or walkways. These businesses can also recommend certain items for inclusion in emergency kits. Fire Corps members can actively assist community members by shoveling snow, especially for the elderly, and conducting home safety and smoke alarm checks, focusing on the seasonal dangers related to space heaters, fireplaces, candles, and electric blankets.

For more information about winter weather hazards, disaster plans, and emergency kits, refer to the National Weather Service’s preparedness guide, Winter Storms: The Deceptive Killers. The Fire Corps web site at also includes preparedness resources. Refer to the FEMA Winter Ready Guide or visit or call 1-800-BE-READY for information from the Ready Campaign on how to get a preparedness kit, make a plan, and stay informed on what to do in an emergency.


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