Wintertime in Idaho often brings snowfall, which, aside from the picturesque landscapes and winter fun, these colder months often bring winter storms that usher in a slew of dangers. Winter storms increase the risk of car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning, and heart attacks from overexertion. These conditions also can bring extreme cold, freezing rain, snow, ice, and high winds, leaving a trail of hazards in their wake.
A winter storm can last for a few hours or carry on for several days which can disrupt daily life and pose significant risks to communities. These storms can cut off heat, power, and communication services, and put individuals into potentially life-threatening situations. Among those most vulnerable are older adults, children, individuals with pre-existing health conditions, and even pets, face greater risks during severe winter weather events. Idaho Office of Emergency Management (IOEM) urges all Idahoans to be ready and prepared for anything.
How to Protect Yourself from Winter Weather
- Stay Informed: Familiarize yourself with winter weather terms such as Winter Storm Warning, Winter Storm Watch, and Winter Weather Advisory. Pay attention to weather reports, warnings, and advisories issued by local authorities. Sign up for your community’s warning system, and stay on top of emergency alerts through platforms like the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and NOAA Weather Radio.
- Prepare Your Home: Take proactive measures to keep the cold out of your home with proper insulation, caulking, and weather stripping. Learn how to prevent pipes from freezing and install and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups. Stock up on essential supplies in case of power outages and consider the specific needs of each household member, including medications and provisions for pets.
- Be Ready for Emergencies: Whether at home, work, or on the road, ensure you’re prepared for winter weather emergencies. Create an emergency supply kit for your car, including essentials like jumper cables, sand, flashlights, warm clothing, blankets, bottled water, and non-perishable snacks. Keep your gas tank full to avoid being stranded in wintry conditions.
Safety Tips During Winter Weather
- Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Only operate generators and grills outdoors and away from windows. Avoid using gas stovetops or ovens for heating your home.
- Stay Off Roads if Possible: Minimize travel during severe winter weather, and if trapped in your car, remain inside until help arrives.
- Limit Time Outdoors: Wear layers of warm clothing and be vigilant for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow to reduce the risk of heart attacks.
- Recognize Frostbite and Hypothermia: Familiarize yourself with the signs and basic treatments for frostbite and hypothermia. Take prompt action if symptoms arise.
Generators can be invaluable during power outages, but it’s crucial to use them safely to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and other hazards:
- Always operate generators outdoors and at least 20 feet away from windows, doors, and attached garages.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home and keep the generator dry and protected from the elements.
- Use heavy-duty extension cords to connect appliances and allow the generator to cool before refueling.
By staying informed, prepared, and vigilant, you can navigate winter storms and protect yourself, your loved one, and neighbors against winter storm challenges. For more information on prepared before an emergency, visit ready.gov/winter-weather.