Well it’s been another icy, cold week here in Central PA and the forecast is saying there is more snow coming. Winter storms are not easy for anyone, but for those with disabilities, the ever-colder winters that bring storms are much more dangerous and difficult to overcome. With ice frozen on the sidewalks and streets and facing possibly several feet of snow in some areas, it is crucial for the disabled to have a preparation plan in place before the immediate danger strikes.
Prepare ahead of time. Make a plan with your loved ones and friends. Work out the details that will allow you and your family to avoid driving. Will you be meeting at home, or will you be meeting at another safe location during the storm? Discuss these emergency procedures with your family beforehand, especially considering that these winter storms may bring a wave of power outages and jammed cell phone networks along with them. If possible, try to secure an outside generator and a long electrical cord that allows the generator to stay at least 20 feet from any door, window, or vent.
- Be sure to have an emergency kit – first aid supplies, candles, flashlights and batteries, and a wind-up radio to stay up-to-date on the weather should all be in this kit – on hand in your home or meeting place, with notes for prescription directions tucked inside, as well.
- Back-up battery power for assistive supplies, such as oxygen tanks and power-dependent mobility devices, should also be considered.
- Keeping in mind that you won’t be leaving your home for several days, it is also a good idea to keep some non-perishable food stored away. FEMA recommends that you keep three days worth of food and clean bottled water (store more than a three day supply, if possible) for members of your household, including pets.
Weather out the storm. If the power goes out, you may be stuck in your home for days without utilities. Take extra care to layer clothing and stay bundled up for warmth. Never heat your home with a stove or other cooking equipment, such as a propane stove or charcoal grill. Closing the doors in your house to consolidate the heat into the areas where you are weathering out the storm with your other family members (don’t forget to bring in all of your pets and outdoor plants sensitive to cold!) will also help to prevent precious heat being lost.
One of the most important things to remember for survival is to stay inside and away from the elements. Both driving and walking outside during a winter storm are extremely dangerous and should be avoided. This will help you to prevent frostbite and hypothermia, as well as the potential of car accidents.
Survive the aftermath. Driving conditions can remain dangerous for several days after the storm has passed. It is best to continue to avoid driving altogether until the temperature rises a few degrees to melt all of the ice that waits on the sidewalks and roads. If possible, it is even better to wait until all of that melted ice has drained away, too. If you must leave your home, dress warmly and in layers, and wear weather-proof rain boots to keep your feet dry.
By keeping these tips in mind, you and your family will be more prepared for the dangerous, unpredictable winter storms that plague the north yearly.