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Muskego's Mild Winter: Don't Get Caught Off Guard

We've had it easy when it comes to winter. However, you know we'll get our share of snow, and it's worth repeating how to be smart and stay safe when 'the big one' hits.

It seems almost silly to remind people of how to be safe during a winter storm, but last February's blizzard had people sure they could handle the roads, when they couldn't. In addition, we've added household preparedness tips which you should consider before the first flake flies. The following list is a compilation from our friends at FEMA's Ready.gov site and WikiHow.

Take care of you

  • Stay indoors during the storm.
  • If you must go outside, layers of clothing will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat. Wear gloves or mittens and a hat to prevent loss of body heat. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs.
  • Walk carefully on snowy, icy sidewalks.
  • If you shovel snow, be extremely careful. It is physically strenuous work. Take frequent breaks. Avoid overexertion – heart attacks from shoveling heavy snow are a leading cause of deaths during winter.

Take care in your car

  • Avoid traveling by car, but if you must, keep the gas tank full for emergency use and to keep your fuel line from freezing.
  • Let someone know your destination, the route you are taking, and when you expect to arrive. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
  • If you do get stuck, stay with your car. Do not try to walk to safety. Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna for rescuers to see. Start the car and use the heater for about ten minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes don’t back up in the car. Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so you can be seen. As you sit, move your arms and legs to keep blood circulating and stay warm. Keep one window open to let in air.

Be prepared at home, especially if you lose power

  • Check outside exhausts for your furnace and dryer vents to make sure they do not become snow-covered
  • Have a backup heat source. Have a fireplace, wood stove, or kerosene heater heater available to keep you warm. Be sure you know how to use these sources safely, and have appropriate fuel at hand. Be careful to conserve energy if you're anticipating a long outage.
    • Even if you have a gas furnace, remember that it will not run without electricity
    • Gas stoves can be lit with matches, however, be extremely careful using a gas stove for emergency heat. Dangers include oxygen depletion, CO poisoning, and serious fire risk. If possible, use only the oven. (However, with many newer ranges, the oven cannot be operated without electricity)
  • Have candles, matches, and flashlights. When the power goes out, you will need to have light to see by. Be sure you have extra batteries. Conserve; you don't usually have to try to illuminate the whole house to be safe.
    • Purchase self-powered radios and flashlights. Some of these models will also charge your cell phone. Also purchase Light sticks as well.
  • Make sure you have water. If you have a well which relies on an electric pump you should fill several pots or jugs with water because in a power outage you may be left without running water. If worse comes to worse, you can melt snow to get water. Keep in mind that snow is mostly air, and won't yield that much water. Don't waste fuel in melting snow if you need fuel for heating your food or house.
  • If the house temperature drops to near freezing, turn off the main water supply and open faucets to drain the pipes. This will prevent water from freezing in the pipes and rupturing them, thereby avoiding future expensive damage.
  • Drink liquids and eat plenty of food to keep your body's energy high and prevent dehydration.
  • Again, dress in layers to stay warm in extended periods without heat
  • After a very heavy snowfall, you may need to clear your roof, ideally with a roof rake. Otherwise the weight of the snow may damage your house, especially flat or low-angle roofs.
  • Add the following supplies to your emergency kit:
    • Rock salt or more environmentally safe products to melt ice on walkways. Visit the Environmental Protection Agency for a complete list of recommended products.
    • Sand to improve traction.
    • Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment.
    • Sufficient heating fuel. You may become isolated in your home and regular fuel sources may be cut off. Store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove.
    • Adequate clothing and blankets to keep you warm.
  • Make a Family Communications Plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency.
  • Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or other local news channels for critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS). Be alert to changing weather conditions.
  • Bring pets/companion animals inside during winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas with non-frozen drinking water.

After the storm, avoid driving until conditions have improved. Listen to local radio and television stations for updates. Help a neighbor who may require special assistance, especially families with infants, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

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