Contributed by Info Guru Lindsay Shugerman
Winter officially starts around December 21st, but in many parts of the country, winter weather has already made it’s entrance. That means it’s time for snowmen and hot cocoa — and to review important winter weather safety tips.
It doesn’t matter if you’re heading outside to romp with the kids or loading up the car for a long drive to Grandmom’s for the holidays, being aware of winter’s hazards can keep you and your family safer.
10. Know the forecast
This is one of the most basic rules of winter safety, but it’s also the one too many people ignore. Before you head out for a day of winter fun, travel, errands or just the drive to and from work, make sure you know what’s likely to be happening out there.
Keep track of approaching snow or ice and dropping temperatures, so you can plan how to deal with whatever weather the day brings.
9. Keep emergency supplies ready
Winter weather can play havoc with power and traffic. It can also bring down trees, block roads entirely and even force evacuations. That’s why it’s critical to make sure you have emergency supplies ready and accessible for every member of your family.
Packing a basic 72 hour kit for each person will ensure that you have the things you need to survive for three days. Make duplicate kits for your cars. And it’s a good idea to create another 72 hour kit to keep at daycare or with the babysitter for little ones.
8. Dress for the weather
The bulky winter coat, big boots and huge mittens might not fit with your fashion sense, but winter is no time to choose style over comfort. Not only will a warm winter coat keep you from catching a chill, and lowering your resistance to germs, it will also make being outdoors more enjoyable.
If there’s ice on the ground, make sure your winter boots have a secure non-slip sole. Maybe they’re not as stylish as your designer shoes, but falling on the ice isn’t a fashion moment either.
7. Learn how to drive in snow and ice
Most of us learned how to drive when the weather was clear and the sun was shining. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that most of us also do a bad job of driving when the white stuff comes falling out of the sky.
Check in your area for winter defensive driving courses, and learn how to deal with the joys of winter roads like black ice, drifting snow, wind, low visibility and what to do when your car starts to slide. It’s an investment that could save a life.
6. Make sure your car is winterized
Just as we have to trade our shorts and T’s for coats and boots, your car needs a winter wardrobe, too.
If snow or ice are common, trade regular tires for snow tires. Stock your trunk with a set of chains, a couple of sturdy ice scrapers, and a bag or two of old-fashioned kitty litter or a container of sand (for adding traction in slippery spots.) Make sure your oil is winter-grade, and have your antifreeze checked to make sure it’s ready for icy temps.
5. Keep track of time
It’s easy to get involved in outdoor activities and not realize how long we’ve been out in the cold. And this is doubly important if you have kids with you.
Make it a point to schedule regular warm-up breaks every few hours for adults, and every hour or so for children and babies. Just a few minutes indoors, some hot cocoa and a chance to dry out soggy mittens can help protect you against hypothermia … or worse.
4. Don’t forget the pets
Just because your pets have fur doesn’t mean they don’t feel winter’s cold. Dogs and cats are warm-blooded animals, just like us, and should never be left out in the cold for long periods of time. And if your pet is short-haired, they need even more protection from cold weather.
Provide any outdoor pets with a warm space out of the wind. A heated dog house, access to a barn or a heated pet bed on a sheltered porch are all options. But when the temps dip into the 20’s and below, bring them all indoors. At that point, it’s about life and death.
3. Little people need extra care
Kids need extra protection from winter weather. Experts agree that small children (under 10 or so) need one more layer of clothing than an adult would wear for similar winter temperatures. And a baby’s delicate skin needs to be protected from extreme temperatures and winter wind.
While you probably don’t need to go to extremes in snowsuits, multiple hats and layers of scarves (think “A Christmas Story”), you do need to make sure that kids stay warm and completely dry while they’re outdoors.
2. Take care of your pipes
Bursting pipes is one of the common hazards of winter, and could result in severe damage to your house and everything in it.
Make sure pipes in external walls are well insulated. If you have a separate valve for outdoor water supply, turn that off and drain the lines when a freeze threatens. Indoors, keep faucets on outside walls (such as the kitchen sink) at a slight drip overnight when a hard freeze is in the forecast. That will help prevent the water from freezing in the pipes and keep your water flowing the next day.
1. Understand hypothermia and frostbite
Hypothermia and frostbite aren’t just for mountain climbers. In fact, both can and do happen in backyards, cities and on the job. Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of both, and make sure you know what to do in an emergency. This, among all the winter weather safety tips, could be the one that saves a life when winter unleashes its worst weather.