Jan. 13, 2012
Snow in the forecast: prepare now for possible winter weather emergencies
Restock your vehicle emergency kit and sign up for public alerts
The National Weather Service is forecasting cold weather and likely snowfall within the next several days. The King County Office of Emergency Management urges residents and businesses to prepare now for possible winter weather emergencies.
Before the weather turns bad, make sure your family, home, and vehicle are ready for whatever Mother Nature sends. The following guidelines can help you prepare.
- Listen to weather forecasts regularly and heed any warnings.
- Make sure everyone knows when and how to call 9-1-1.
- Make sure you understand the emergency plans and expectations at your child's school and your work.
- Check your emergency supplies and restock outdated items. Be sure to include plenty of water and non-perishable food, first aid supplies, a battery-operated radio, flashlight and extra batteries for both. A checklist can be found at www.TakeWinterByStorm.org.
- If you have pets, bring them indoors. If you cannot bring them inside, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure they have access to unfrozen water.
- Identify an out-of-state contact to call during a major disaster or emergency; it will be easier to call out of the area if local lines are tied up.
- Your ability to feel a change in temperature decreases with age, and older people are more susceptible to health problems caused by cold. If you are over 65 years old, place an easy-to-read thermometer in an indoor location where you will see it frequently, and check the temperature of your home often during the winter months.
- Monitor the weather forecast and adjust your travel plans if necessary. Know the snow routing for school buses and public transit.
- Check on neighbors, especially anyone who might need help.
- Subscribe to free regional alerts and news bulletins at www.rpin.org.
- Be sure you have sufficient heating fuel for emergency equipment in case the electricity is cut off (such as a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove).
- Install a smoke detector and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector. Test the batteries each month, and replace them twice a year.
- Take steps to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Never use a generator indoors, in garages, or in carports. Never use a gas or charcoal grill, hibachi, or portable propane heater to cook indoors or heat your home. Avoid combustion "space heaters" unless there is an exhaust vent.
- Insulate any water lines that run along exterior walls so your water supply will be less likely to freeze. To the extent possible, weatherproof your home by adding weather-stripping, insulation, insulated doors and storm windows, or thermal-pane windows.
- Learn how to shut off water valves in case a pipe bursts.
- Have your chimney or flue inspected each year.
- Learn more tips for preparing your home at www.TakeWinterByStorm.org.
- Make sure your vehicle is properly serviced and maintained. Ensure the electrical systems, brakes, batteries, lights, windshield wipers, antifreeze and heating and cooling systems are in good shape. Check fluid levels - antifreeze, windshield washer, and oil.
- Keep tires properly inflated and make sure they have adequate tread. Replace any worn tires.
- Build, or restock, a vehicle emergency kit, including flares, flashlight, extra batteries, ice scraper, tire chains, a blanket and warm clothing, sturdy shoes, first-aid supplies, water, and non-perishable food. You can find a detailed list at www.TakeWinterByStorm.org.
- Keep your gas tank at least half full; the extra gas helps reduce condensation that can plug your fuel line with ice and stall your engine in cooler weather. It also helps you avoid running out of gas if you experience long traffic delays.
- When driving in snow, stick to major arterials. Register for road alerts at www.kingcounty.gov/roadalert and transit alerts at www.kingcounty.gov/transit.
If snow piles up and roads become hazardous, postpone your trip if possible. Staying home will keep you and others safe. If you must travel, be aware of ice hazards, especially on shaded roadways, bridges, or in high elevation areas prone to freezing.
Hypothermia is a common problem during cold winter weather, especially with young children and older adults who are most vulnerable. Symptoms include uncontrolled shivering, slow or unclear speech, extreme tiredness, stumbling, confusion, semi-consciousness, or unconsciousness. If a person becomes unconscious, get medical help immediately. To prevent hypothermia, wear warm, multi-layered clothing with good head, hand, and foot protection. Avoid overly constricting wrist bands, socks, or shoes.
King County offices will be closed on Monday, January 16 for the Martin Luther King holiday. If closures or delays are necessary due to severe winter weather, they will be posted at www.kingcounty.gov and distributed by local media.