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Surviving Winter: Before the Storm

Life can get difficult when the temperature starts to drop, so here are a few tips on how to get through the colder times during the year.

Special Thanks

Thank you to the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Warren County, the Warren County Disaster Preparedness Office, and the New York Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) for the base of information that went into this guide.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Warren County
377 Schroon River Road
Warrensburg, NY 12885
Phone: (518) 623-3291 or (518) 668-4881
Fax: (518) 668-4912

Warren County Disaster Preparedness Office
4028 Main Street
Warrensburg, NY 12885
Phone: (518) 761-6490
Fax: (518) 623-2772

NY EDEN Coordinator
Ag. Health & Safety Program
Cornell University
777 Warren Road
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: (607) 255-1597
Fax: (607) 257-5041

Prepare for Winter

  • Make sure your household disaster plan is ready and all members of your household are familiar with how to contact one another in an emergency.
  • Winterize your Go Bag by adding warm, dry outerwear and waterproof footwear.
  • Your Emergency Supply Kit should be fully-stocked to allow you to sustain yourself for up to three days without power, or in the event you are unable to travel far from home. You may wish to include additional items such as extra blankets, additional warm clothing, and a battery-operated National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio to monitor weather conditions during a storm.

Winterize Your Home

  • Install storm shutters, doors, and windows, clean out gutters, repair any roof leaks, and have a contractor check the stability of your roof in the event of a large accumulation of snow.
  • Insulate walls and attic. Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows. Install storm windows, or cover windows with plastic inside.
  • Have safe emergency heating equipment available. For residences with functioning fireplaces, keep an ample supply of wood. Keep a fire extinguisher on hand.
  • Install and check batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Make sure you have sufficient heating fuel; you may have difficulty obtaining fuel in the immediate aftermath of a bad storm.
  • Service snow removal equipment, and have rock salt on hand to melt ice on walkways. Kitty litter can be used to generate temporary traction.

Winterize Your Car

Before winter sets in, have a mechanic check the following items on your vehicle:

  • Battery
  • Antifreeze
  • Windshield wipers and washer fluid
  • Ignition system
  • Thermostat
  • Lights (headlamps and hazard lights)
  • Exhaust system, heater, brakes, defroster
  • Oil level (if necessary, replace oil with a winter oil or SAE 10w/30 variety)

Install good winter tires that have adequate tread.

Regardless of the season, it's a good idea to prepare for an in-car emergency. Assemble an Emergency Supply Kit for your vehicle, and consider adding the following items for winter conditions:

  • Blankets, sleeping bags, extra newspapers for insulation
  • Plastic bags (for sanitation)
  • Extra mittens, socks, scarves and hat, rain gear, and extra clothes
  • Sack of sand or kitty litter for gaining traction under wheels, small shovel
  • Set of tire chains or traction mats
  • Working jack and lug wrench, spare tire
  • Windshield scraper, broom
  • Small tools (pliers, wrench, screwdriver)
  • Booster cables
  • Brightly colored cloth to use as a flag, flares, or reflective triangles

What To Do Before a Storm Strikes

  • Listen to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio and your local radio and TV stations for updated storm information. Know what winter storm watches and warnings mean.
  • Check on relatives, friends, and neighbors who may need assistance preparing for a storm.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions and avoid unnecessary travel.
  • Let faucets drip a little to help prevent freezing.
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Make an Emergency Reference Card

When developing your family's disaster plan, you should assemble and make individual copies of vital contact information for each family member.

Remember these important tips when designating emergency contacts:

  • Make sure everyone knows the address and phone number of your chosen meeting place.
  • Designate an out-of-state friend or relative that household members can call if separated during a disaster. This out-of-state contact can be an important way of communicating between household members. When local phone circuits are busy, long-distance calls may be easier to make.
  • Ensure that household members have a copy of your Household Disaster Plan to keep in their wallets and backpacks.

What to Have in Your Emergency Supply Kit

Keep enough supplies in your home to survive on your own for at least three days. If possible, keep these materials in an easily accessible, separate container, or special cupboard. You should indicate to your household members that these supplies are for emergencies only.

  • One gallon of drinking water per person per day
  • Non-perishable, ready-to-eat canned foods and manual can opener
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Battery-operated AM/FM radio and extra batteries (you can also buy wind-up radios that do not require batteries)
  • Whistle
  • Iodine tablets or one quart of unscented bleach (for disinfecting water only if directed to do so by health officials) and eyedropper (for adding bleach to water)
  • Personal hygiene items: soap, feminine hygiene products, toothbrush and toothpaste, etc.
  • Phone that does not rely on electricity
  • Child care supplies or other special care items

What to Have in Your Go Bag

Every household should consider assembling a Go Bag - a collection of items you may need in the event of an evacuation. Each household member's Go Bag should be packed in a sturdy, easy-to-carry container such as a backpack or suitcase on wheels. A Go Bag should be easily accessible if you have to leave your home in a hurry. Make sure it is ready to go at all times of the year.

  • Copies of your important documents in a waterproof and portable container (insurance cards, phone numbers, ID's, proof of address, etc.)
  • Extra set of car and house keys
  • Credit and ATM cards and cash, especially in small denominations. We recommend you keep at least $50 - $100 on hand
  • Bottled water and non-perishable food such as energy or granola bars
  • Flashlight, battery-operated AM/FM radio and extra batteries (you can also buy wind-up radios that do not require batteries at retail stores)
  • Medication and other essential personal items
  • A list of the medications each member in your household takes, why they take them, and their dosages
  • First aid kit
  • Sturdy, comfortable shoes, lightweight rain gear, and a Mylar blanket
  • Contact and meeting place information for your household and a small regional map
  • Child care supplies or other special care items

Subject Guide

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David Fuller
33 Oak Street
Plattsburgh, NY 12901
(518) 563-5190 ext. 122


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