Winter has come early in some parts of the country. In mid-November temperatures dropped into the 20’s with wind chills in the teens, while in the North, records amount of snow, wind and below-freezing temperatures caused chaos. Usually severe cold and heavy snowfalls don’t occur until mid-winter (January or February). In the northern parts of the United States, roads have been shut down, some people have been stranded in cars for up to 30 hours due to dangerous driving conditions, and 12 people have died because of the severe weather. With conditions this severe, the danger of getting caught unprepared becomes more likely.
People living in the South are typically not as well prepared for severe cold weather conditions. When ice storms hit the Southeast in January and February of 2014, the Southeast was unprepared. Cities were shut down, schools and universities closed and many roads were blocked off or shut down because they were considered too dangerous to drive on.
In the hopes of helping people become more prepared, Virginia Morgan-White, administrator for outreach programs with the Alabama Cooperative Extension Systems, has compiled some helpful tips for surviving any severe cold weather conditions that the upcoming months may hold.
Morgan-White’s first tip is that people should always have a way to contact family, friends and loved ones. No matter if the cold weather affects you when you’re at home, in your car, at work or at school, being able to tell those close to you that you are safe is important.
“You should always have a plan for how you might contact members of your family and a plan for what they could do in the event that you are separated,” Morgan-White said. “You should have a disaster plan in place.”
Once you have your disaster plan in place, Morgan-White advises that you begin thinking about preparing emergency kits if you haven’t already. According to Morgan-White, you should prepare emergency kits for your home and your car. That way, no matter where you are when the crisis happens, you will be prepared.
Morgan-White, the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) advise that a few key items be added to your emergency kit. These items include: water, non-perishable and easy to prepare foods, a flashlight, a first aid kit, a blanket and even a change of clothes.
If you have already prepared an emergency kit, Morgan-White advises that you check to make sure that none of your foods have expired and that your change of clothes is weather appropriate.
After you have prepared your emergency kit or checked to make sure that your supplies are up to date, you should consider making a plan for if you are unable to make it home because you get stuck on the roads.
According to Morgan-White, you should stay up to date on changes in the weather as well. Staying up to date is made easy by being able to download weather apps on your smartphone, such as those provided by The Weather Channel. Some apps even let you set alerts for locations nearest you, something that Morgan-White advises that you do once you download the app. If you do not own a smartphone, you may want to consider adding a radio and some batteries to your emergency kit so you can listen to weather reports.
Morgan-White also advises that you make sure that you have a plan set in place for if you are on the road and the weather begins to get nasty.
“You should know in advance where alternate routes are,” Morgan-White said. “If you have to drive a long way, you might want to consider keeping an eye out for a potential place to stay, if you need to stop at an exit along the way.”
Of course, if you are on the road when nasty weather hits, you should always drive carefully and defensively. In addition, keeping an eye out for reckless drivers is always a good idea because there will be fewer accidents if more drivers are aware and driving carefully.
If you keep these tips in mind during the upcoming months, you should be fully prepared in the case of a cold weather crisis. But remember; if you are truly in trouble do not hesitate to call emergency services to get assistance as soon as possible.