Good storm prep readies us for other emergencies, such as earthquakes and man-made disasters.
Winter storms are something we can count on happening every year. Whether they create a minor inconvenience or result in days without power, we all need to be ready to “take winter by storm.” The steps we take today to plan and know the hazards of floods, windstorms and freezing temperatures also prepares us for other serious emergencies, such as earthquakes and man-made disasters.
Get ready for heavy rains and flooding
Watch weather forecasts for the potential of heavy rains or rainfall build-up over multiple days. These guidelines can help you get prepared before the waters rise.
For your personal preparedness
Keep rain gear, water-repellent clothing and extra warm clothing handy at home, at work and in your vehicle to use in an emergency.
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Maintain drainage and prevent and avoid landslide risks
Rake leaves and debris away from storm drains to keep them clear to avoid flooding streets and damage to personal property.
Report flooding drains and streets as soon as possible.
Double-check your homeowner’s policy to see if you are covered for stormwater damage in your home – if not, add this coverage to your insurance.
Watch the patterns of stormwater drainage on slopes near your home and note the places where runoff water converges.
Grade property so water drains away from the foundation and downspouts direct water away from property into the storm drainage system.
Watch the hills around your home for any signs of land movement, such as small landslides, debris flows or progressively tilting trees. Contact your local geotechnical or structural engineer to determine the severity of the problem.
When flooding occurs
Keep valuables on high shelves when storing materials in basements or in areas that are prone to floods.
Stay out of flooding basements. You could be electrocuted or drown.
Turn around. Don’t drown. Never drive into standing water or around road-closure signs.
If your vehicle stalls in water, abandon it and get to higher ground. It takes only a foot or two of rapidly-moving water to sweep away a car.
If you live near rivers that historically flood, be prepared for river flooding. Have an emergency kit ready to grab and go in case of evacuation.
Be safe. If a flood warning is issued, get to higher ground immediately. Follow evacuation and other official directions during flood emergencies, but don’t wait for them if you think you are in danger.
Walking or playing around flood waters is dangerous; you can be knocked from your feet in water only six inches deep.
Homeowners, renters and businesses should purchase flood insurance.
If your natural gas furnace shuts down because of flooding, shut off the electric supply to the furnace until the water recedes and ducts are dry.
If you smell a natural gas odor or suspect a leak, leave your home or building immediately and call your natural gas utility or 911.
Notify your natural gas utility if flooding causes water levels to cover your gas meter. A representative from the utility will need to check the meter and regulator before any gas appliance can be used.
If you have to evacuate your home or building as the result of a flood, shut off your gas and electricity only if you can do so safely. This may prevent damage to your gas and electric appliances.
Call your natural gas utility to schedule a service-check for your natural gas appliances after they have dried out and the area around the affected appliances has been cleaned.
Get ready for windstorms
Watch weather reports for potential windstorms. These guidelines can help you get prepared before the winds blow.
For your personal preparedness
Keep flashlights, extra batteries and your utility’s contact information in an easy-access location at home and at work in case of power outages.
During power outages
Report power outages or downed power lines as soon as they occur by calling your utility.
Always stay away from downed power lines or anything near a power line.
If you find yourself near a downed power line, shuffle your feet away from the power line to avoid ground shock.
Do not drive over downed power lines. Should a power line fall on your car when you’re driving, stay in the car until help arrives.
If you must leave your car because of fire or other danger, jump away from the vehicle so that you do not touch the vehicle and ground at the same time. Land with your feet together and shuffle your feet away from the line to a safe location.
If your power goes out, use flashlights. Avoid candles, oil lamps or anything with an open flame.
Never use charcoal or gas grills as an indoor heating or cooking source. They can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
Use light sticks or small flashlights as landing strips for trip-prone areas in your home. Pick up clutter around the floors to avoid stubbed toes.
Follow manufacturer’s instructions when operating a generator. Test the operation of generators prior to a power outage and review manufacturer recommendations on connections and fueling. Locate generators outdoors and far from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
Never use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds or similar areas. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these areas and can linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off.
Install battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms or plug-in carbon monoxide alarms with battery back-up in your home, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Test batteries often.
Keep your contact devices (cellphones, smartphones, laptops, tablets) fully charged in case of a power outage or prior to heading out into the elements for an extended time. To ensure backup, bring chargers and vehicle chargers for your contact devices with you.
Use text messaging if power outages and network disruptions are causing phone calls not to go through. Wireless phones will not work if the electricity is out. Corded (also known as land line) phones are the most reliable.
Stay informed. Use your battery or hand-crank radio to tune in to local media channels for important updates and directives. Go to www.takewinterbystorm.org for links on how to register for alert systems in your area.
Get ready for freezing temperatures and snowfall
Watch weather forecasts for potential of freezing temperatures and snow. These guidelines can help you get prepared before the freeze and snow.
Keep cold-weather clothing and extra blankets handy at home, at work and in your vehicle to use in an emergency to minimize heat loss.
Keep portable heaters away from furniture, draperies and other flammable materials.
Home maintenance during cold temperatures
Before the cold hits
Insulate pipes in your home’s crawl spaces and attic. These exposed pipes are most susceptible to freezing. Remember – the more insulation you use, the better protected your pipes will be.
Heat tape or thermostatically controlled heat cables can be used to wrap pipes. Be sure to use products approved by an independent testing organization, such as Underwriters Laboratories Inc., and only for the intended use (exterior or interior). Closely follow all manufacturers’ installation and operation instructions.
Seal leaks that allow cold air inside near where pipes are located. Look for air leaks around electrical wiring, dryer vents and pipes. Use caulk or insulation to keep the cold out and the heat in. With severe cold, even a tiny opening can let in enough cold air to cause a pipe to freeze.
Wrap outdoor pipes and faucets to keep them from freezing.
Disconnect garden hoses and, if practical, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the short span of pipe just inside the house.
When the mercury drops
A trickle of hot and cold water might be all it takes to keep your pipes from freezing. Let warm water drip overnight, preferably from a faucet on an outside wall.
Open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to uninsulated pipes under sinks and appliances near exterior walls.
Clear your sidewalks of snow and ice with salt, deicer and/or snow shoveling to avoid injuries on your property.
Keep snow buildup off of surfaces that could collapse.
Before you leave your home for travel
Set the thermostat in your house no lower than 55 degrees.
Ask a friend or neighbor to check your house daily to make sure it’s warm enough to prevent freezing.
Shut off and drain the water system. Be aware that if you have a fire-protection sprinkler system in your house, it will be deactivated when you shut off the water.
When winter storms strike, first ensure your own safety. Then check in with family, friends, and neighbors to make sure they are OK.
TakeWinterbyStorm.org is a one-stop emergency preparedness information hub that includes safety tips and regional resources for information about high winds, heavy rains, snow, freezing conditions, power outages, flooding and more.