Winter Storm Preparedness

Planning for winter storms follows many of the same procedures used when planning for hurricanes – it is more beneficial to prepare earlier than later.  Areas of the country that are prone to winter storms, or have the potential for an occasional severe storm, should begin preparing for the winter season well in advance.  Due to the fact that different areas of the country experience their winter weather at different times of the year, it is up to your own discretion to decide when to have all the necessary preparations completed.  It is generally safe to have these Winter Storm Preparedness procedures completed one to two months in advance of the normal winter season.

One important consideration to keep in mind when planning for winter storms is that, unless you are very unfortunate, everyone in the area is affected by a severe winter storm – they cover large areas of land.  This is in great contrast to a hurricane which normally maintains an erratic path, and often does most of its damage in concentrated areas.  Therefore, it should not be a great issue to immediately recover from such a storm; most of your competitors in the area are probably suffering the same problems that you are, and there is no need for panic.  Some helpful Winter Storm Preparedness hints, however, in preparing for winter storms, that may perhaps lessen their effects, are as follows:

  • Make sure that all dry pipe sprinkler systems have been drained completely, and that all wet pipe systems have been properly protected (with anti-freeze) against freezing and cracking.
  • Where applicable, make sure that the auxiliary generator has been tested, and is in fine operating condition.
  • Notify the public notification systems about a potential closing so that the public, parents and employees are informed of the situation at hand.
  • Make sure that the necessary supplies have been purchased, and restocked in case people are stranded at the building location.  These supplies would include candles, food, water, and most importantly, blankets.
  • Monitor the local and National Weather Service, remaining aware of storms that might potentially affect your area.  When there are storms in the near future, it is advisable to have a meeting of the ERT Coordinator and Chairmen to discuss possible plans of action.

Page Contents

Winter Storm Preparedness Checklist

Winter Storm Preparedness: Communication Checklist

Winter Storm Preparedness

  • Make sure you have at least one of the following in case there is a power failure:
    • Battery-powered radio (for listening to local emergency instructions). Have extra batteries.
    • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio receiver (for listening to National Weather Service broadcasts).
  • Find out how your community warns the public about severe weather:
    • Siren
    • Radio
    • Television
  • Listen to emergency broadcasts.
  • Know what winter storm warning terms mean:
    • Winter Weather Advisory: Expect winter weather conditions to cause inconvenience and hazards.
    • Frost/Freeze Warning: Expect below-freezing temperatures.
    • Winter Storm Watch: Be alert; a storm is likely.
    • Winter Storm Warning: Take action; the storm is in or entering the area.
    • Blizzard Warning: Seek refuge immediately! Snow and strong winds, near-zero visibility, deep snow drifts, and life-threatening wind chill.

Winter Storm Preparedness: Food and Safety Checklist

Have a week’s worth of food and safety supplies. If you live far from other people, have more supplies on hand.

  • Drinking water
  • Canned/no-cook food (bread, crackers, dried fruits)
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Baby food and formula (if baby in the household)
  • Prescription drugs and other medicine
  • First-aid kit
  • Rock-salt to melt ice on walkways
  • Supply of cat litter or bag of sand to add traction on walkways
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Battery-powered lamps or lanterns
    (To prevent the risk of fire, avoid using candles.)

Winter Storm Preparedness: Water Checklist

Keep a water supply. Extreme cold can cause water pipes in your home to freeze and sometimes break.

  • Leave all water taps slightly open so they drip continuously.
  • Keep the indoor temperature warm.
  • Allow more heated air near pipes. Open kitchen cabinet doors under the kitchen sink.
  • If your pipes do freeze, do not thaw them with a torch. Thaw the pipes slowly with warm air from an electric hair dryer.
  • If you cannot thaw your pipes, or if the pipes have broken open, use bottled water or get water from a neighbor’s home.
  • Have bottled water on hand.
  • In an emergency—if no other water is available—snow can be melted for water. Bringing water to a rolling boil for one minute will kill most germs but won’t get rid of chemicals sometimes found in snow.

Winter Storm Preparedness: Heating Checklist

  • Have at least one of the following heat sources in case the power goes out:
    • Fireplace with plenty of dry firewood or gas log fireplace
    • Portable space heaters or kerosene heaters
  • Check with your local fire department to make sure that kerosene heaters are legal in your area.
  • Never place a space heater on top of furniture or near water.
  • Use electric space heaters with
    • automatic shut-off switches and
    • nonglowing elements.
  • Keep heat sources at least 3 feet away from furniture and drapes.
  • Never leave children unattended near a space heater.
  • Have the following safety equipment:
    • Chemical fire extinguisher
    • Smoke alarm in working order (Check once a month and change batteries once a year.)
    • Carbon monoxide detector
  • Never use an electric generator indoors, inside the garage, or near the air intake of your home because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning:
    • Do not use the generator or appliances if they are wet.
    • Do not store gasoline indoors where the fumes could ignite.
    • Use individual heavy-duty, outdoor-rated cords to plug in other appliances.

Winter Storm Preparedness: Cooking and Lighting Checklist

  • Never use charcoal grills or portable gas camp stove indoors—the fumes are deadly.
  • Use battery-powered flashlights or lanterns.
  • Avoid using candles.
  • Never leave lit candles alone.

Winter Storm Preparedness: Car and Emergency Checklist

  • Cell phone; portable charger and extra batteries
  • Shovel
  • Windshield scraper
  • Battery-powered radio (and extra batteries)
  • Flashlight (and extra batteries)
  • Water
  • Snack food
  • Extra hats, coats, mittens
  • Blankets
  • Chains or rope
  • Tire chains
  • Canned compressed air with sealant (emergency tire repair)
  • Road salt and sand
  • Booster cables
  • Emergency flares
  • Bright colored flag; help signs
  • First aid kit
  • Tool kit
  • Road maps
  • Compass
  • Waterproof matches and a can (to melt snow for water)
  • Paper towels

Hopefully these Winter Storm Preparedness tips will help you prepare for your next winter storm.