Tom Heneghan, the senior manager of community preparedness education for the American Red Cross, shares that “planning before any emergency is always key.”
With that advice in mind, here are some of the things to think about as we head into the winter season.
1. Know your network
Think about your immediate neighbors, your friends, your family. If you have school-aged kids who live in the area, coordinate with their parents to share drop-off and pick-up duties.
2. Assess your risk
In the event of a winter storm and power outages, is home the safest place for you and your family? How will you stay warm? Do you have enough food, or are you better off going to a nearby shelter?
3. Check the forecast
Having a general sense of what’s expected — like heavy snowfall or heavy rain — can help you plan ahead. Arrange to work from home, fill up the tank ahead of time and stock up on groceries before the crowds.
4. Understand fire safety
Did you know the American Red Cross responds to 70,000 home fires per year? Many of those happen in the winter because well-intentioned people are desperately trying to keep warm at home. They plug in a dusty heater that hasn’t been used in a year, put it too close to a wall or curtain, and the house catches on fire. Or, out of desperation, someone tries to heat their house with the oven. Heneghan explains, “There’s already a weather emergency, and you’ve created another emergency. It will be that much harder on public services to dig you out if they’re trying to deal with fire and smoke.”
5. Stay off the road
If it’s at all possible, avoid driving during storms and other emergency situations. Share the driving responsibility (read: carpool) with neighbors and friends when possible. Work from home or stay at a hotel overnight to avoid the road. Additionally, prepare your car. Keep up with regular maintenance checks and make sure the car is always full of gas. Check that the battery power is full and keep a shovel or kitty litter in the trunk, along with a warm jacket, clothes, boots, blankets, snacks and water, and a flashlight.
Karine Bengualid, [email protected]