By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteeer.
With the first day of winter only one day away, like it or not, Jack Frost is getting ready to spend a few months in Northeast Ohio.
While winter weather in Northeast Ohio can be unpredictable, the one thing you can expect is that it will bring headaches. Blizzards, freezing cold, Nor’easters and ice storms can all have significant impacts on travel, schools, businesses and health. They can even impact our homes.
Pretending winter is not coming is not going to make the calendar fast forward to July. Do not let winter catch you off guard. Here are some winter tips to help you stay safe and be prepared for Jack Frost.
It is important to know the difference between advisories, watches and warnings to understand what they mean when one is issued in your area by the National Weather Service:
- Advisory: Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconvenience and may be hazardous. When caution is used, these situations should not be life threatening.
- Watch: Winter storm conditions are possible within the next 36 to 48 hours. People in a watch area should review their winter storm plans and stay informed about weather conditions.
- Warning: Life-threatening, severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours. People in a warning area should take precautions immediately.
Prepare your home
- Protect your pipes from freezing. To learn how to protect your pipes, click here.
- Make sure your home heating sources are installed according to local codes and permit requirements and are clean and in working order.
- Install storm windows and cover windows with plastic from the inside to provide an extra layer of insulation to keep cold air out.
- Caulk and weather-strip doors and windowsills to add additional protection from the cold winter air.
- If you have a fireplace, keep a supply of firewood on hand. Be sure the fireplace is properly vented and in good working order.
Get your vehicle winter ready
- Have a mechanic thoroughly look over your vehicle by checking your battery, antifreeze, wipers and windshield washer fluid, ignition system, thermostat, lights, exhaust system, heater, brakes, defroster and oil.
- Install good winter tires.
- Items to keep in your vehicle all winter include a windshield scraper and a small broom, a small sack of sand for generating traction under wheels, matches in a waterproof container, a bright colored (preferably red) cloth to tie to the antenna and an emergency supply kit, which includes warm clothing.
While the Red Cross encourages you to stay off the road if possible, if you must drive during inclement weather, follow these tips on how to drive safely during a winter storm and what to do if you become stuck in your vehicle:
- Fill the vehicle’s gas tank and clean the lights and windows to help you see.
- Pay attention to the weather forecast. Before you leave, let someone know where you are going, the route you plan to take and when you expect to get there. If your car gets stuck, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
- Make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones.
- Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways.
- Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
- Don’t pass snow plows.
- Know that ramps, bridges and overpasses will freeze before roadways.
If you happen to become stuck:
- Stay with the car. DO NOT try to walk to safety.
- Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna for rescuers to see.
- Don’t run your engine and heater constantly to help avoid running out of gas. Don’t use things like lights or the radio without the engine running to avoid draining the battery.
- If you can, move your vehicle off the roadway. Stay with it –- don’t abandon it. If you have to get out of your vehicle, use the side away from traffic.
- Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes won’t back up in the car.
- Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running to help rescuers see the vehicle.
- Keep one window slightly open –- away from the blowing wind –- to let in air.
Be sure to download and use the American Red Cross Emergency App for instant access to weather alerts and to let others know you are safe if severe weather occurs. You can find this and all of the Red Cross apps in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or by visiting redcross.org/apps.