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Office of Emergency Management offers cold weather tips

By Staff | Jan 18, 2019

Side and back roads, such as this street in Harpers Ferry, were snow covered for several days following the weekend storm. More snow is on tap for the upcoming weekend as well. Toni Milbourne

CHARLES TOWN — As winter weather hits the region, officials with the Jefferson County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management continue to provide residents with information that will help in preparation for the dropping temperatures.

Cold temperatures, heavy snow and ice storms are all potential risks for the area and preparing means knowing the risks of adverse weather, according to Steven Allen, director of JCHSEM.

“It also begins with making a plan with family members and having an emergency supply kit,” Allen said.

The basic kit should contain water, food, flashlights and medications. For winter weather, one may need to add rock salt or other environmentally safe products to melt ice on walkways or sand to improve traction, snow shovels and other snow removing equipment, sufficient heating fuel or seasoned wood for the fireplace or wood-burning stove and adequate clothing and blankets for warmth.

The safest practice is to remain inside during the storms, many of which bring extreme cold, freezing rain, snow, ice and high winds. These storms can last anywhere from a few hours to several days. There is always the potential for power outages and breaks in communication services, so one cannot always rely on standard preparation for these types of emergencies.

Allen advocates the following steps to prepare for winter weather.

Prepare your home to keep out the cold with insulation, caulking and weather stripping. Learn how to keep pipes from freezing. Install and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors with battery back-ups.

Allen also advises that individuals pay attention to weather reports and warnings of freezing weather and winter storms. One should gather supplies in case a storm confines one to home for several days without power. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medication. Do not forget the needs of pets. Have extra batteries for radios and flashlights.

During a storm, one should remain inside, off the roadways if at all possible. If trapped in the vehicle, stay inside.

One should never attempt to heat their home with a gas stovetop or oven. The risk for carbon monoxide poisoning is high, and often unrecognizable. Only use generators and grills outdoors, away from windows.

“Remember to dress in layers if you need to go out, and don’t over exert yourself,” Allen said. “It is also important to check on your neighbors, especially older adults who may be at higher risk in the cold.”

“Create an emergency supply kit for the car, as well,” Allen said, mentioning the kit should include jumper cables, sand, a flashlight, warm clothes, blankets, bottled water and non-perishable snacks. Keep the gas tank full.

Another precaution to take is to learn the signs of, and basic treatments for, frostbite and hypothermia.

Frostbite causes loss of feeling and color around the face, fingers and toes. Signs include numbness, white or grayish-yellow skin or firm or waxy skin. If these signs appear, one should go to a warm room, soak in warm water and use body heat to warm. Do not massage or use a heating pad.

Hypothermia is described as an unusually low body temperature; one below 95 degrees is an emergency. Signs include shivering, exhaustion confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech or drowsiness. Should these signs appear, go to a warm room. Warm the center of the body first – the chest, neck, head and groin. Keep dry and wrapped in warm blankets including the neck and head.