Preparing for Winter
The leading cause of death
during winter storms is transportation accidents. Preparing your vehicle for the
winter season and knowing how to react if stranded or lost on the road are the
keys to safe winter driving.
Have a mechanic check the
following items on your car.
- Wipers and windshield
- Ignition system
- Flashing hazard lights
- Exhaust system
- Oil level (if
necessary, replace existing oil with a winter grade oil or the SAE 10w/30
Install good winter tires.
Make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually
adequate for most winter conditions. However, some jurisdictions require that to
drive on their roads, vehicles must be equipped with chains or snow tires with
Keep a windshield scraper
and small broom for ice and snow removal.
Maintain at least a half
tank of gas during the winter season.
Plan long trips carefully.
Listen to the radio or call the state highway patrol for the latest road
conditions. Always travel during daylight and, if possible, take at least one
If you must go out during
a winter storm, use public transportation.
Wear layers of loose-fitting, layered, lightweight clothing.
Carry food and water.
Store a supply of high energy "munchies" and several bottles of water.
Contact your local
emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter for more information
on winter driving.
Winter Car Kit
Keep these items in your car:
- Flashlights with extra
- First aid kit with
- Necessary medications
- Several blankets
- Sleeping bags
- Extra newspapers for
- Plastic bags (for
- Extra set of mittens,
socks, and a wool cap
- Rain gear and extra
- Small sack of sand for
generating traction under wheels
- Small shovel
- Small tools (pliers,
- Booster cables
- Set of tire chains or
- Cards, games, and
- Brightly colored cloth
to use as a flag
- Canned fruit and nuts
IF TRAPPED IN CAR DURING A
Stay in the car.
Do not leave the car to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100
yards. You may become disoriented and lost is blowing and drifting snow.
Display a trouble sign.
Hang a brightly colored cloth on the radio antenna and raise the hood.
Occasionally run engine to
Turn on the car's engine for about 10 minutes each hour. Run the heater when the
car is running. Also, turn on the car's dome light when the car is running.
Beware of carbon
monoxide poisoning. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, and open a downwind
window slightly for ventilation.
Watch for signs of
frostbite and hypothermia.
Do minor exercises to keep
Clap hands and move arms
and legs occasionally. Try not to stay in one position for too long. If more
than one person is in the car, take turns sleeping.
For warmth, huddle
Use newspapers, maps, and
even the removable car mats for added insulation.
Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Unaccustomed exercise such as
shoveling snow or pushing a car can bring on a heart attack or make other
medical conditions worse. Be aware of symptoms of dehydration.
"Wind chill" is a calculation of how cold it feels outside when the
effects of temperature and wind speed are combined. A strong wind combined with
a temperature of just below freezing can have the same effect as a still air
temperature about 35 degrees colder.
Winter Storm Watches and
A winter storm watch indicates that severe winter weather may affect your area.
A winter storm warning indicates that severe winter weather conditions are
definitely on the way.
A blizzard warning means
that large amounts of falling or blowing snow and sustained winds of at least 35
miles per hour are expected for several hours.
Frostbite and Hypothermia
Frostbite is a severe reaction to cold exposure that can permanently damage its
victims. A loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in fingers, toes, or
nose and ear lobes are symptoms of frostbite.
Hypothermia is a condition
brought on when the body temperature drops to less than 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Symptoms of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, slow speech, memory
lapses, frequent stumbling, drowsiness, and exhaustion.
If frostbite or
hypothermia is suspected, begin warming the person slowly and seek immediate
medical assistance. Warm the person's trunk first. Use your own body heat to
help. Arms and legs should be warmed last because stimulation of the limbs can
drive cold blood toward the heart and lead to heart failure.
Put person in dry clothing
and wrap their entire body in a blanket.
Never give a frostbite or
hypothermia victim something with caffeine in it (like coffee or tea) or
alcohol. Caffeine, a stimulant, can cause the heart to beat faster and hasten
the effects the cold has on the body. Alcohol, a depressant, can slow the heart
and also hasten the ill effects of cold body temperatures.