It wasn’t so long ago that storms such as the 2011 Snowpocalypse or the 2012 winter Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the U.S. east coast and midwest states and emphasized how important it was to be ready for extended disasters. It seems that winter storms are becoming more and more unpredictable, sometimes they are mild and sometimes they arrive in a violent fury.
Those that are unprepared to bug in for days on end will have a very difficult road ahead of them. With the average household only having 3 days of food in their homes, if they find themselves ill-equipped to ride out the storm or are snowed in due to a blizzard and cannot access food or other basic needs, then they are gambling with their life. When these basic needs are not met on a massive scale, society begins to break down. We saw this first hand during Hurricane Sandy when Staten Island residents were begging elected officials to help them. “We’re going to die! We’re going to freeze! We got 90-year-old people!” Donna Solli told visiting officials. “You don’t understand. You gotta get your trucks down here on the corner now. It’s been three days!”
Have the Basics
No one is immune from inclement weather occurring in their communities. If you live in a highly populated area, understand that resources will diminish quickly, so preparing beforehand can circumvent this. Here is a list of supplies that disappear first. You can always start out with the basic 10 preparedness items you will need to skirt through a disaster:
- Food and alternative ways of preparing food
- Fuel for generators, cooking stoves, and mantels, charcoal for outdoor grills
- Emergency lighting
- Seasonal clothing
- Medical supply
- Baby formula
- Sanitation supplies
Or, if you want a more comprehensive supply, take a look at the 52-Weeks to Preparedness series. To make matters worse, the grid could go down. In this case, having extra winter clothing layers on hand to maintain body heat could be a lifesaver.
In case I haven’t stressed the importance of preparing before a disaster is imminent, on February 9, 2010, the Northeast was hit with a major snowstorm; and this is what the store shelves looked like then.
Checklists For Your Preparedness Needs
I have found that checklists are very helpful when preparing for these types of disasters. They help you visually see what you need and organize your supplies.
Suggestions for Preparing for a Severe Winter Storm
- Have an emergency plan in place with emergency contacts on alert in the case that a person needs to evacuate their home. If damage to the home makes it uninhabitable, evacuate to a pre-planned friend or neighbor who may be nearby.
- Have some winter disaster supplies in the home such as candles, matches/lighters, a battery operated radio, emergency food supplies, water, extra blankets, toilet paper, prescription medicines, over the counter medicines, a non-electric can opener, infant/baby needs if a child is in the home.
- Be prepared for the power to go out. Be prepared for this set back by having alternative power and heating sources to go along with the extra blankets. Having an emergency generator with extra gasoline could be a lifesaver in this situation.
- Avoid traveling in a blizzard. If a person is on the road when a blizzard hits, look for a hotel nearby and stay off the road until there are better road conditions.
- Have a 72-hour bag in the vehicle with lots of warm insulated clothing in the case that a person is stranded in their car during a blizzard. Additionally, having an extra supply of gasoline in the car would also be a good idea.
- If a person is stranded in the car, do not leave the engine running to keep warm. Snow can block the exhaust pipe and fill with the car with fumes, thus causing carbon monoxide poisoning. Keep one window open just a bit to avoid this. Run the car in short bursts to avoid running out of gas. Turn the engine on long enough to keep the car warm and then turn it off.
- Stock up on shovels and snow removal equipment prior to the storm.
- Additionally, those who were not hit with the blinding snow flurries, but were affected by coastal water flooding, should read over guidelines for emergency flooding and know what to avoid.
- Stay inside and stay warm! The winds from this type of storm are going to be extremely dangerous. Snowdrift can be a problem after a storm of this magnitude. Additionally, frostbite will be a major concern so a good rule of thumb is to keep everyone inside and warm until the threat is over.
- If a person must go outside, they should use the layered principle when dressing for the outdoors.
Let’s hope that we have already learned the important lesson of preparing for disasters before a storm threatens the area. Stay warm and stay prepared!