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Tips to Prepare Now for Severe Winter Weather Ahead

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Release date: 
November 7, 2014
Release Number: 
RV-NR-2014-57

CHICAGO – Cold temperatures, heavy snow, and treacherous ice storms are all risks of the impending winter season. 

“Severe winter weather can be dangerous and even life-threatening for people who don't take the proper precautions,” said FEMA Region V acting administrator Janet Odeshoo. “Preparedness begins with knowing your risks, making a communications plan with your family and having an emergency supply kit with essentials such as water, food, flashlights and medications.”

Once you’ve taken these steps, consider going beyond the basics of disaster preparedness with the following tips to stay safe this cold season:

Winterize your emergency supply kit:

  • Before winter approaches, add the following items to your supply kit:
    • Rock salt or other environmentally safe products to melt ice on walkways. Visit the Environmental Protection Agency for a complete list of recommended products.
    • Sand to improve traction.
    • Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment.
    • Sufficient heating fuel and/or a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove.
    • Adequate clothing and blankets to keep you warm.

Stay fire safe:

  • Keep flammable items at least three feet from heat sources like radiators, space heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves. 
  • Plug only one heat-producing appliance (such as a space heater) into an electrical outlet at a time.
  • Ensure you have a working smoke alarm on every level of your home. Check it on a monthly basis.

Keep warm, even when it’s cold outside:

  • If you have a furnace, have it inspected now to ensure it’s in good working condition.
  • If your home heating requires propane gas, stock up on your propane supply and ensure you have enough to last an entire winter. Many homeowners faced shortages due to the record freezing winter weather last year, and this season there’s the possibility of lower than normal temperatures again. Don’t be caught unprepared.
  • Avoid the dangers of carbon monoxide by installing battery-powered or battery back-up carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Winterize your home to extend the life of your fuel supply by insulating walls and attics, caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows, and installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic.

Prevent frozen pipes:

  • If your pipes are vulnerable to freezing, i.e., they run through an unheated or unprotected space, consider keeping your faucet at a slow drip when extremely cold temperatures are predicted.
  • If you’re planning a trip this winter, avoid setting your heat too low. If temperatures dip dangerously low while you’re away, that could cause pipes to freeze. Consider draining your home’s water system before leaving as another way to avoid frozen pipes.

You can always find valuable information to help you prepare for winter emergencies at www.ready.gov/winter-weather. Bookmark FEMA’s mobile site http://m.fema.gov, or download the FEMA app today to have vital information just one click away.

FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

Follow FEMA online at twitter.com/femaregion5, www.facebook.com/fema, and www.youtube.com/fema.  Also, follow Administrator Craig Fugate's activities at twitter.com/craigatfema. The social media links provided are for reference only. FEMA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies or applications.

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