Embassy's Tips For Winter Weather!

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How to survive a winter storm: Tips for keeping you and your family safe

 Living in a rural area for the past 21 years, I've had lots of practice coping with severe weather. That includes winter storms.  As a news photographer, I've traveled straight into bad weather instead of running from it. Here are some tips and common sense ways I prepare for winter storms.

The National Weather Service is forecasting a possible snow storm with accumulation Wednesday. Now is the time to prepare. Everyone in Central Alabama remembers the snow storm in January 2014 that stranded thousands so prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Stay home if you can

Staying home is the best option for many reasons. All of your stuff is there, including flashlights, food, medications, water, heat and a warm place to sleep. Why risk driving somewhere else when most folks have most everything they need in the house?

If things get rough, I don't want to be stranded at work, a shopping center or worst case, in my car on the side of the road. 

Prepare for roads to be shut down

Have enough supplies on hand for three or four days. Go ahead and make a "milk and bread" run if that makes you feel better but while at the store, stock up on things that will probably be more useful. Here is a list.

- Flashlights: When the power is out, flashlights are invaluable. Candles work well also but be careful and don't leave them unattended. 

- Batteries:  For weather radios, flashlights, lanterns, anything you might need to power up if the electricity goes off.

- Food: Stock up on items  that don't require a lot of preparation. Canned foods and pre-packaged meals work best. If you have an all-electric house, a grill can be used for food preparation. I prepare a big pot of chili or beef stew a day before. It can be heated up on a grill or camp stove and provides several quick, hearty meals.

- Generators: If you have a generator, get it out and fire it up. Plug in a couple of items to make sure it functions properly. I've had one fail on me just before a storm. I checked it a couple days before and was able to repair it so I could use it. Allow it to run for several minutes during your test just to make sure.

- Fuel: All types of fuel may be needed. Top off all of your gasoline and kerosene cans and fill the car gas tank. Make sure your propane tanks are full, especially if you heat your home with it like I do. Fill smaller propane tanks in case you need to use your grill for cooking. Some folks heat with a wood stove so make sure you have plenty of wood cut and stored in a dry place. If you plan on using a fireplace for heat, make sure the chimney flue is clean and unobstructed.

- Charged cell phones: Make sure your cell phones are fully charged before the bad weather hits. At home, leave them on the charger until they are needed. Keep your laptop charged as well.

- Weather radio: A weather radio is a very important item to have. Make sure it works and is tuned to the proper NWS frequency. It may be your only link to important information.

- Clean clothes: This may sound a little odd to some. If you need to do a couple of loads of clothes, do it before the power goes out. While you're at it, run the dishwasher too. Have everything clean that you might need.

- Ice chest and ice: This one isn't as important during winter storms but it never hurts to be ready. If the power goes out it helps to have a place to put refrigerated items to keep them from spoiling. Frozen items will hold a couple days as long as you don't open the door too often. If it snows, use the snow in the ice chest if you don't have ice.

- Your pets: Make sure you bring the pets inside. It's cold and snow adds more danger. If they must stay out provide a warm dry shelter, plenty of water and food. Use hay or straw for bedding. Cloth blanket and towels will get damp and freeze. Bring them into the house or garage if possible.

If you must drive...

If you can't stay home, prepare your car beforehand and stock it with things you might need. Here is a list.

- Fill the gas tank: Make sure you have a full tank of gas. You may have to drive much more that you anticipated and gas stations may not have power for you to pump gas. Also, service stations may run out of gas. Always have a full tank. In weather emergencies I will top off the tank whenever possible.

- Blankets, extra clothes and hand warmers: These items stay in my car year round. If you get stranded, warmth is your best friend. You can always take layers of clothes off. Extra jackets, sweatshirts, gloves, hats, scarves and blankets can save your life. I also keep a large package of disposable hand warmers in my vehicle. Extremities are the first part of the body to get cold. Hand warmers can be tucked into shoes to keep feet warm. I'll pack a small bag with extra clothes, a shaving kit and a wide selection of medications in case I get stranded or need to check into a hotel. 

- Cell phone and charger: Your cell phone is your life line if you get stranded. Make sure it is fully charged and remains on a car charger as long as the car is running. Test the car charger regularly to make sure it is working.

- Bag of sand or rock salt: Having a bag of sans or rock salt may be the one thing that can get your vehicle the traction it needs if you get stuck. I wrap a bag of rock salt in a plastic garbage bag and keep it in my trunk. Salt will melt ice and provide traction when scattered under a slipping tire.

- Flashlights, flares and lanterns: Make sure you have a couple flashlights or flares with you. Test them regularly and have extra batteries in your vehicle.

- Small shovel: If you get stuck, a shovel will allow you to dig snow from around the car tires. It's a lot easier to move snow and debris with a shovel than with your bare hands.

- Prescription medications: Always have a few days' supply of prescription medication with you in your vehicle. You may get stranded or need to stay in a hotel. Have what you need with you.

- Bottled water and food: Keep a few bottles of water and some pre-packaged food and snacks in your vehicle. Hunger and thirst can make you weak. 

If you get stranded, DON'T PANIC.

Here are some tips if you get stranded away from home.

- Call someone: If you can, call a family member and tell them your EXACT location. Then, if you have to leave your vehicle, someone will know where to start looking. If you are in danger, call 911. Let the authorities know where you are and what has happened.

- Stay warm: If you are stuck and your vehicle is in a safe place, stay in your car. It is the safest and warmest place to be. Venturing out can get you injured. The best thing to do is stay hydrated and alert until help arrives. Use the blankets and hand warmers to stay comfortable.

Leaving your car

In some cases, you may have to leave your vehicle and venture out to find safety. 

Make sure you have your flashlight, wallet or purse, cell phone, water and enough clothes to stay warm. Make sure to call your family and let them know you are leaving your vehicle and where you are headed. When venturing out in an emergency, communication can save your life.

Let me know what tips you have for staying safe during a winter storm.