Winter weather in West Texas but it can be deceptively dangerous. Each year, there are dozens of deaths across America caused by exposure to the cold. Add to that the number of injuries and fatalities from vehicle accidents, house fires, and exertion caused by winter-related circumstances and we begin to see that winter can be a dangerous time.
You can prepare yourself and your home for the winter months. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Before the winter weather arrives
- Write a family disaster plan.
- Assemble a home disaster kit.
- Assemble a vehicle travel kit that contains items you will need if you get stranded in your vehicle during cold weather. It should include nonperishable, high-calorie food items, drinking water, blankets, rain gear, a change of clothes for each traveler, flashlight and extra batteries, jumper cables, a tow rope, a knife, a first-aid kit.
- Familiarize yourself with the winter weather alerts. Winter storm watch means be alert; a winter storm is likely. A winter storm warning means take action; the storm is in or entering the area. A winter weather advisory means winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous, especially for motorists. A frost/freeze warning means below-freezing temperatures are expected and may cause damage to plants, crops, or some trees.
- Winterize your vehicle - check wiper blades, tires, lights, fluid levels and belts. Keep at least a half-tank of gas in the vehicle at all times. In addition, have your antifreeze tested to make sure you have enough winter protection.
- Have your heating system checked and cleaned by a qualified professional.
- Make sure your smoke detectors are in good working order and that they have fresh batteries in them.
- Weatherize your home by insulating pipes, sealing cracks and other gaps that allow cold air in, and add weather-stripping to doors and windows.
- If you do not have a carbon monoxide detector, consider getting one. A faulty heating system can produce and release carbon monoxide into your home. Carbon monoxide is a clear, odorless gas that is highly poisonous.
During a storm
In your home
- Stay inside as much as possible.
- When using alternative heating (fireplaces, wood stoves, etc.) be extra-vigilant to fire dangers. Use safeguards and ventilate properly.
- If you have no heat, close off unneeded rooms. Stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors. Cover windows at night.
- Eat and drink - your body will need extra calories to burn to keep warm.
- Wear layers of loose-fitting clothes.
- Remember your pets; make sure they have shelter, too.
- Dress in several layers of loose-fitting clothes when going outside. Cover all exposed body parts.
- If you are caught outside in a storm, try to find shelter and stay dry. If there is no shelter, build a windbreak or lean-to.
- Build a fire and surround it with rocks to absorb and reflect the heat.
- Do not over-exert yourself. The strain from cold added to heavy work such as pushing a car or shoveling snow can lead to a heart attack. Sweating can lead to chill and hyperthermia.
In your vehicle
- When traveling, know the "safe routes" to take.
- Make alternate travel plans in case bad weather causes trip delays.
- Let a friend or family member know your travel route and destination.
- If you are stranded in your vehicle, stay in your vehicle. Run your engine about 10 minutes each hour for heat. Open the window a little for ventilation.
- Tie a colored cloth to your vehicle antenna.
- From time to time, move around and exercise your limbs to keep warm and the blood circulating.