Polar Vortex: Safety Tips for Winter Weather

This week much of the nation is bracing for a cold snap that could bring about some of the lowest temperatures seen in decades. Known as a Polar Vortex, this massive weather system will send frigid arctic air down from Canada across the Midwest and East Coast, bringing with it dangerous wind chills. I know we have thousands of UnFranchise Owners who will be affected by this winter weather, and I pray that all of you remain safe and warm in the coming days.

I’ve included some great tips below for winter weather safety from The Weather Channel, which can help you cope with the cold. I’ve also included a helpful infographic from the CDC to help you prepare – so be sure to share this with everyone you know who’s dealing with this frigid weather!

Stay safe, and stay warm!

-JR Ridinger

 

winterweather

Winter Storms: Before the Storm

Though winter storms can be difficult to predict far in advance, it is possible to know when they are most likely to occur, to give yourself and your family adequate time to prepare for severe winter weather.

When a winter storm hits, you want to have the following ready:

  • The ability to get weather forecasts and storm updates as they are released.
  • Emergency supplies to keep you and your family warm and safe during a storm.
  • Home preparations, including for your pipes, roof and indoor comfort.
  • Car preparations, including antifreeze and ice removal equipment.

Weather Forecasts

You’ll want to be able to receive all of the latest weather updates during a winter storm, which means you’ll need more than one reliable source of weather information. We recommend the following:

  • Sign up for The Weather Channel Alerts for your mobile phone and/or email. Receive all our alerts by signing up here.
  • Purchase a NOAA Weather Radio, which broadcasts all of the latest weather updates as well as winter storm watches and warnings for your area. Learn more at the NOAA Weather Radio site.
  • Make sure you have fresh batteries for your radio(s), in case your home loses power for an extended period of time.
  • Learn the difference between a winter storm watch and warning.

Emergency Supplies

If you know a winter storm will arrive in your area soon, make sure you have the following ready, especially in the case of a severe winter storm:

  • Firewood, if you have a fireplace.
  • Food that is non-perishable, if you lose power.
  • Emergency equipment such as generators and flashlights, tested and ready for use.
  • Water for drinking and cooking, collected in bottles in case your pipes freeze.
  • Make sure to charge your mobile phone, laptop and other mobile device batteries.

Family Preparedness Plan

Develop a disaster preparedness plan for your family that includes the following:

  • Plan on a place to go when a winter storm warning is issued, depending on where you are ”“ at home, school, work, or if you’re outdoors or in your car.
  • Plan for a friend or relative you’ve designated as your point of contact if you are separated from your family during a severe winter storm.
  • Place where family members can meet if you’re separated in a storm.

Prepare Your Home

  • Make sure your home’s attic and walls are properly insulated.
  • Let your faucets to drip to prevent freezing water from causing pipes to burst.
  • Make sure your pipes are properly insulated and leave cabinet doors open around pipes to ensure they receive warmth from the air flowing through your home. Learn more about taking care of pipes here.
  • Apply weather stripping to exterior-facing windows and doors, and put storm windows in place as needed.
  • Set up emergency heating equipment, such as a fireplace with wood or coal and a camp stove with fuel.
  • Purchase space heaters as needed and learn how to use them safely ”“ keep space heaters away from furniture, drapes and all flammable objects, and never leave them turned on in a room where no one is present. Never drape wet clothes, gloves, hats or socks over a space heater to dry.
  • Learn how to shut off your home’s water valves in the event that a pipe breaks.

Prepare Your Car

Avoid dangerous winter travel problems by taking a few simple precautions. When the season changes from fall to winter, remember to have the following maintenance service performed:

  • Check your car’s radiator system and have it serviced as needed.
  • Check the antifreeze in your car, to make sure you have the right amount and mixture for winter.
  • Check your windshield wiper blades and replace your wiper washing fluid with one that’s specifically for wintertime driving.
  • Check your tires for any worn-down areas or treads.
  • If you don’t already have them, purchase jumper cables and store them in your car.
  • Purchase an ice removal tool and store it in your car, in case your windshield and windows become covered in ice.

 

Winter Storms: During the Storm

When a winter storm is imminent or already occurring in your area, it’s time to put your plan into action. The first thing you want to do is pay attention to any winter storm watches or warnings that have been issued for your location.

Safety Tips for Staying Indoors

You’ll want to be able to receive all of the latest weather updates during a winter storm, which means you’ll need more than one reliable source of weather information. We recommend the following:

  • Listen to your NOAA Weather Radio or check The Weather Channel and weather.com frequently for weather updates and emergency information.
  • Use extreme caution with electric space heaters. Keep them at least a few feet away from anything flammable, such as drapes, bed sheets or blankets. Never place them on top of furniture or near water, and never let children play unattended around them.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher close by the area in which you plan to use a space heater or kerosene heater.
  • Use your fireplace, wood stove or other similar heater only if it is properly ventilated and does not leak gas into your home’s indoor air space.
  • Conserve heat and fuel, if necessary, by temporarily closing off heat to unused rooms.
  • Eat regularly and drink plenty of water, but avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages. Instead, drink warm, sweet beverages, or try soups or broths.
  • If you use an electric generator, make sure you keep it outdoors ”“ never bring a generator indoors ”“ and connect appliances to it using only heavy-duty, outdoor-ready cords.
  • If you experience a power failure, use battery-powered flashlights and lanterns instead of candles whenever possible.
  • If you do use candles, never leave them unattended when lit.
  • Wear warm clothing in multiple layers as needed.
  • Monitor body temperature, both your own and your family members’. Because infants younger than a year old lose body heat more easily than adults, make sure they wear warm clothing and try to keep your home warm inside if you have an infant at home. If you cannot maintain a warm temperature inside your home, try to make alternative arrangements.
  • For adults age 65 and over, maintaining body heat during severe cold can be a concern, thanks to their lower metabolism. Check the temperature in your home often during a winter storm, and check in frequently with older friends and neighbors to ensure they stay warm.
  • Drip all faucets in your home continuously during severe cold, including kitchen and bathroom sinks as well as shower and tub faucets, to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting.
  • Open cabinet doors around pipes (especially in bathrooms) to allow warmer air to circulate around water pipes.
  • If your pipes have already frozen, don’t try to thaw them out with a torch or other flame. Instead, use a hair dryer to slowly thaw them out.
  • Use bottled water if instructed by your local emergency management authorities.

Safety Tips for Outdoors

When a winter storm or extreme cold threatens, you should avoid going outdoors unless absolutely necessary. In the event that you must, however, always dress warmly and return indoor as soon as possible.

  • Wear multiple layers of clothing to stay warm, as well as a hat, scarf, mittens, a water-resistant jacket and boots.
  • Make sure you stay as dry as possible, as water against the skin from wet clothing can chill the body quickly.
  • If you need to de-ice or refuel your car, or use a snow blower, avoid getting gasoline or alcohol on your skin. These will cause your body to lose heat outdoors more quickly.
  • Don’t ignore shivering. If you shiver persistently while you’re outdoors, it’s a sign that you need to return inside.
  • Avoid over-exerting yourself while shoveling snow or performing any other hard work or heavy lifting. Extreme cold puts extra strain on your heart and cardiovascular system, so heed your doctor’s advice if you have experienced any signs of heart disease or high blood pressure in the past. If don’t have to do outdoor chores in the cold, wait until the storm passes and the outside temperature warms up.
  • Avoid ice wherever possible. It’s extremely easy to fall on ice-covered pavement, sidewalks, stairs and curbs, and many winter weather injuries occur every year on icy surfaces like these. Use rock salt or other de-icing chemicals to keep your porch, driveway and sidewalk as free of ice as possible, or spread sand to reduce the risk of slipping.

Travel Safety Tips

If at all possible, avoid driving during a winter weather event, as even small amounts of snow and ice can make traveling on roads extremely dangerous. If you must drive, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Stay on main roads and highways, and stick to the flattest roads you can. Avoid hills and roads with sloping surfaces wherever possible.
  • Drive only during daylight hours, and avoid driving alone if you can.
  • Bring blankets with you to keep warm in case you become stranded. Also bring bottled water or warm beverages, to avoid becoming dehydrated.
  • Let family members know where you’re going and when you’re expected to return.
  • If a snowstorm or blizzard forces you to stop, pull off the highway and turn on your hazard lights. If you have a distress flag or sticker, hang it from your radio antenna or apply it to your window. Remain in your car, where rescuers are most likely to find you.
  • If you’re stranded for an extended period of time, run your engine for about 10 minutes every hour to stay warm. Open a window slightly for ventilation while the car is running, to prevent any carbon monoxide buildup. Remove any snow that builds up on your car’s exhaust pipe.
  • If you have to spend the night in your car, turn on the interior overhead light so rescuers or work crews can see you.

Know Your Terms

Depending on the amount of snowfall and the expected duration of a storm, the National Weather Service may issue one or more of the following:

  • A winter weather advisory means that a significant winter storm or other hazardous winter weather is occurring, imminent and is an inconvenience.
  • A winter storm watch is issued when significant winter weather ”“ such as heavy snow, sleet, freezing rain or a combination of these ”“ is expected but not imminent for the watch area. Severe winter weather is possible within 12 to 36 hours.
  • Winter storm warnings are issued when a significant winter storm or hazardous winter weather is occurring, imminent or likely, and is a threat to life and property.
  • Blizzard warnings are issued for winter storms with winds of 35 mph or higher, blowing snow that reduces visibility to a quarter mile or less for at least 3 hours, and which cause dangerous wind chills in the warning area.
  • Frost/freeze warnings are issued when below-freezing temperatures are expected and may cause significant damage to plants and crops. In areas where freezing temperatures are rare, people living in homes without heat should take added precautions.

 

Winter Storms: After the Storm

When winter storms blow through and skies are sunny again, it can be tempting to go outside immediately, especially if you’ve been stuck inside for multiple days. Roads, sidewalks and other hard surfaces can still be dangerous for days after a storm, however, and very cold temperatures may linger on.

Monitor weather conditions closely and follow these tips once a winter storm has passed:

  • Continue to conserve food and water until you can be sure it is safe to travel to replenish your food supplies. If your area’s emergency management authorities have issued an alert to boil water before drinking, be sure to heed their warnings until the alert has been lifted.
  • Avoid walking outside on slippery or hilly surfaces until all ice has melted. Even when snow, sleet and/or freezing rain are no longer falling, it may take considerable time for frozen precipitation on the ground to melt.
  • If you’ve been stranded in a car by a winter storm, wait until the storm has passed completely before setting out on foot.
  • Be extremely careful when driving, as snow and ice can melt during the day and then re-freeze to an icy glaze when the sun goes down and temperatures drop below freezing again.
  • If you’ve lost power, use battery-powered flashlights rather than candles or other open flames for light. Many injuries and deaths result from accidental fires caused by candles during winter storms.
  • If you suspect your pipes have frozen, call a plumber to inspect the pipes as soon as possible. If a pipe has indeed frozen and/or burst, shut off your home’s water valve immediately.