Emergency Preparedness: Winter Weather & Blizzards

Winter weather can be very challenging for some. Besides the obvious winter clothing, your home and your car will need some extra attention prior to the first snowflakes of the season. Winter is the most difficult driving season due to many reasons, including ice, snow, lower temperatures, and fewer daylight hours. Winter storms can cause roads to be impassible for hours, and your home may even lose power (and possibly heat), so it is best to be prepared.

General Tips

  • Have an emergency supply of water, food, and extra batteries in your home
  • If possible, stay home until the roads are clear after a heavy snowfall
  • Never turn your heat below 55 degrees in the winter months when you are away
  • Buy at least 2 snow shovels – look for a quality, sturdy shovel as snow can be very heavy
  • Consider contracting a snow-removal team before you need it. Even if you have a service, it is recommended that you have a shovel in case of an emergency
  • A portable phone charger will also save you in a pinch if you lose power in your home

Home Winterization (check with the landlord to see who is responsible)

  • Clean gutters in late fall prior to colder weather and make sure they are free of standing water
  • The pipes that go to your exterior faucets may need to be drained
  • An outdoor sprinkler system will need to be drained in the fall
  • Routinely change the heating filters, especially in cold weather climates (monthly)
  • Clear snow and ice buildup from outdoor vents, such as from the dryer and furnace
  • The furnace should be checked yearly at the beginning of the heating season to be sure it is in proper order
  • Disconnect and take hoses inside

Driving and Car Tips

  • Always have an ice scraper in your car that you can easily access
  • Keep a winter emergency kit in the car, including: winter boots, mittens, hats, a blanket, a flashlight, and a shovel. Be aware that trunks can freeze shut during ice storms so it’s recommended you keep your emergency kit items in the passenger seating areas
  • Run your car 10-15 minutes before driving depending on the outdoor temperature so it has a chance to warm up
  • Remove all snow and ice from your vehicle, clearing all windows, headlights, and tail-lights. Do not start driving until your windshield is defrosted and clear
  • Make sure you clear off the front intake vent of your car – poor airflow can cause big problems like overheating even in the winter
  • Never have the gas tank below half
  • If you get stuck and can’t get out, run the engine only for brief times and open a window to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure the tailpipe is free of snow and debris
  • Carry extra water in your car
  • Check your car’s antifreeze to keep your vehicle’s radiator water from freezing
  • Fill your car’s windshield washer – never put water on the windshield since it will freeze over
  • Check your windshield wipers for signs of aging and cracking and replace if necessary
  • Snow tires may be necessary in your area – these are more effective than all-season tires, which lose their elasticity and grip at about 20 degrees
  • Brake slowly. Gentle braking in slow, steady strokes helps you find out how much traction you have. Begin braking early when you come to an intersection or stop sign
  • Approach bridges, shaded spots, overpasses, and turns with caution. These areas freeze first and may remain icy after the rest of the roadway is clear and dry