Each year, it seems that winter weather patterns become more unpredictable. In late 2016, after an unseasonably warm 70-degree day in the Northeast United States, Winter Storm Argos produced record snowfall in Binghamton (NY) and Syracuse (NY). As we move into the thick of the unpredictable winter months, it’s important to make sure your communities are prepared for the possibility of inclement and extreme weather.
Encouraging personal preparedness ahead of the season and providing extra care to vulnerable populations will improve community resilience for not only the regular winter season, but for the extreme weather events of which are becoming more frequent with every season. To help communities prepare, local health departments should emphasize the basics: the importance of having personal preparedness kits, a family communications plan for extreme weather events, and agreements to check on elderly neighbors, all stocked and ready in advance of any storm.
According to Ready.gov, winter storms can range from moderate snowfall over a few hours to blizzards that last several days, and many are accompanied by dangerously low temperatures, strong winds, icing, sleet, and freezing rain. Winterizing the home will keep families warm and reduce risks during an extreme winter weather event. Roofs should be checked for any leaks or damage and gutters should be clear in preparation for a heavy snowfall or strong windstorm. People should also insulate water piping that runs along the exterior to prevent freezing. For mobile homes, proper insulation should be installed underneath the flooring as well. Families should store a water and food supply that will not require cooking or refrigeration, along with flashlights and batteries should the power be knocked out. Keep emergency money on hand in the event that power is out for an extended period of time; any store that may be open will not be able to charge cards and ATMs will be down.
Finally, in order to be ready for any type of winter weather, preparedness kits should be stocked to handle all situations. Basic recommended items include: rock salt, sand, snow removal equipment, heating fuel, warm clothing and blankets, food, water, and some sort of communication device. Local health departments should also remind community members to keep their cell phones charged, their vehicles filled with gas, and their kits easily accessible.
For more information on winter weather preparedness tips, visit:
- NACCHO Winter Weather Toolbox
- Winter Storms & Extreme Cold (Ready.gov)
- Winter Weather Emergency Preparedness and Response (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Winter Weather Toolkit (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Winter Safety (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
- Winter Weather Social Media Toolkit (Federal Emergency Management Administration)