Extreme Weather: Safety and Preparation Tips

Mother and daughter looking through a window at the snow outside.

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With the ongoing influence of El Niño expected to last at least until this April, many of us are already aware of the severe hot and cold fluctuations we’ve been experiencing since last year. We’re here to offer helpful safety tips as the nation continues to experience extreme temperatures and weather patterns that can be disruptive to our routines, threaten our health and cause potential safety issues.

We want you to feel as prepared as possible for any unusual weather that comes your way this winter.

A Warming World and Extreme Weather Patterns

Last summer, emergency rooms saw an uptick in heat-related illness as record-breaking high temperatures impacted the country. Currently — not despite but because of — global warming, weather events such as El Niño create “the perfect storm” for extremities across the weather spectrum due to rising heat patterns that lead to geographical changes, such as unprecedented amounts of water evaporating from melting ice.

We’re all feeling the effects of a harsh winter. An ongoing arctic blast is impacting much of the United States, with dangerous lake-effect snow in the Northeast, life-threatening combinations of ice and wind in the Northwest, unrelenting snowfall in the Rockies, powerful winds disrupting travel in the Midwest and devastating tornados and thunderstorms in the Southeast. It seems like when one storm ends, another is trailing right behind, a trend that is expected to continue.

Control What You Can

We can’t control the weather. And with so much unpredictability, here’s how you and your family can stay safe from extreme winter weather in whatever form you may experience it.

Cold Weather Safety Tips

According to the CDC, “Winter storms and cold temperatures can be dangerous. Stay safe and healthy by planning ahead. Prepare your home and vehicles. Prepare for power outages and outdoor activity. Check on young children, older adults, and the chronically ill.”

Here’s what you can control when it comes to staying safe from the effects of winter storms.

  • Winterize your home:
    • Install weather stripping, insulation, and storm windows.
    • Insulate water lines that run along exterior walls.
    • Clean out gutters and repair roof leaks.
  • Check your heating systems:
    • Have your heating system serviced professionally to make sure that it is clean, working properly, and ventilated to the outside.
    • Inspect and clean fireplaces and chimneys.
    • Have a safe alternate heating source and alternate fuels available.
  • If you don’t have working smoke detectors, install one inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home, including the basement. Test batteries monthly and replace them twice a year.
  • Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning emergencies:
    • Install a battery-operated or battery backup CO detector to alert you of the presence of the deadly, odorless, colorless gas. Check or change the battery when you change your clocks in the fall and spring.
    • Learn the symptoms of CO poisoning: headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.
  • Stock food and keep cell phones charged in case you can’t leave or if there is a power outage.
  • Keep an emergency kit with flashlights, extra batteries, medicines, baby food and sand or cat litter for icy sidewalks.
  • Outside, wear appropriate cold-weather clothing, such as a tightly woven, preferably wind-resistant coat or jacket with inner layers of light, warm clothing, mittens, hats, scarves and waterproof boots.

Severe Storm and Tornado Safety Tips

The mental and emotional effects of preparing and recovering from a major weather event linger long after the skies clear and can surface in the form of stress.

Here are some tips to protect your physical and emotional health both before and after the storm.

  • Don’t Use Wet Electrical Devices

The danger of electrical shock is everywhere. If a device is wet and still plugged in, shut off the power to the house and remove it.

  • Use Flashlights Instead of Candles

There could be flammable gasses in your home, so don’t use any open flames. A flashlight is always your best bet.

  • Be Careful Near Damaged Properties

Because of high winds, tornados can cause massive structural damage that isn’t immediately obvious. Steer clear of damaged buildings and homes until a professional has deemed them safe.

  • Be Aware of Carbon Monoxide

Gas or coal-burning tools and equipment can create carbon monoxide. So, don’t use any of these things inside your home. If you’re using a portable backup generator, never place it inside or in a garage. It should be outside at least 15 feet from your home.

  • Avoid Floodwaters

Floodwaters are unpredictable and carry germs with the potential for disease. Steer clear whenever possible, and if you are exposed, be sure to take the recommended measures.

  • Steer Clear of Power Lines

Power lines and water are a deadly combination, so report and stay away from downed power lines.

  • Be Aware of Animals and Insects

Use mosquito repellant and stay away from stray animals.

Get Medical Care Whenever You Need It, Wherever You Are

Medical events can happen anywhere, anytime — and the chances of needing health care can increase when extreme weather is at play. If you find you and your family are sheltered in place due a winter storm, extreme temperatures or the aftermath of a tornado, know that you can still get help from an expert provider if you have working access to your laptop, tablet or smartphone.

Learn more, download the app and make an appointment here. Your health and safety come first.

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