Portable generators are useful during winter storms, but if not used safely, they can cause injuries and death.

  • Use portable generators outdoors in well-ventilated areas away from all doors, windows and vents.
  • Make sure you have carbon monoxide alarms in your home.
  • Do not use a generator in a wet area. This can cause shock or electrocution.
  • Connect appliances to the generator with heavy-duty extension cords.
  • Do not fuel your generator when it is running. Spilling gas on a hot engine can cause a fire.

This page explains what actions to take when you receive a winter weather storm alert from the National Weather Service for your local area and what to do before, during, and after a snowstorm or extreme cold.

Know your risk

What

A winter storm occurs when there is significant precipitation and the temperature is low enough that precipitation forms as sleet or snow, or when rain turns to ice. A winter storm can range from freezing rain and ice, to moderate snowfall over a few hours, to a blizzard that lasts for several days. Many winter storms are accompanied by dangerously low temperatures.

Winter storms can cause power outages that last for days. They can make roads and walkways extremely dangerous or impassable and close or limit critical community services such as public transportation, child care, health programs and schools. Injuries and deaths may occur from exposure, dangerous road conditions, and carbon monoxide poisoning and other conditions.

Where

Winter storms and colder than normal temperatures can happen in every region of the country.

When

Winter storms can occur from early autumn to late spring depending on the region.

Before Snowstorms and Extreme Cold

  • Make a Family Communications Plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency.
  • Make an emergency kit for at least three days of self-sufficiency.
  • Keep space heater safety in mind: Use electric space heaters with automatic shut-off switches and non-glowing elements. Remember to keep all heat sources at least three feet away from furniture and drapes.
  • Prepare your home:
    • Make sure your home is well insulated and that you have weather stripping around your doors and window sills to keep the warm air inside.
    • Make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector.
    • Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. House fires pose an additional risk, as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions.
    • Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts).
    • Insulate your home by installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic from the inside to keep cold air out.
  • Hire a contractor to check the structural ability of the roof to sustain unusually heavy weight from the accumulation of snow – or water, if drains on flat roofs do not work.
    • If you have a wood burning fireplace, consider storing wood to keep you warm if winter weather knocks out your heat. Also, make sure you have your chimney cleaned and inspected every year.
    • Have at least one of the following heat sources in case the power goes out:
      • Extra blankets, sleeping bags and warm winter coats
      • Fireplace or wood-burning stove with plenty of dry firewood, or a gas log fireplace
  • Prepare your vehicle:
    • Fully winterize your vehicle: Have a mechanic check antifreeze, brakes, heater and defroster, tires, and windshield wipers to ensure they are in good shape. Keep your gas tank at least half full.
    • Keep an extra emergency kit specifically created for your car. In addition to the basic essentials, consider adding a portable cell phone charger, ice scraper, extra blanket, sand for traction and jumper cables.
    • Rock salt or more environmentally safe products to melt ice on walkways. Visit the Environmental Protection Agency for a complete list of recommended products.
    • Sand to improve traction.
  • Make sure you have a cell phone with an emergency charging option (car, solar, hand crank, etc.) in case of a power failure.
  • People who depend on electricity to operate medical equipment should have alternate arrangements in place in case power is out for an extended period of time.
  • Plan to check on elderly/disabled relatives and neighbors.
  • Plan to bring pets inside.
  • Know where the manual release lever of your electric garage door opener is located and how to operate it in case you lose power.
  • Fill a gallon container with water and place them in the freezer to help keep food cold.
  • A NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts alerts and warnings directly from the NWS for all hazards. You may also sign up in advance to receive notifications from your local emergency services.

During Snowstorms and Extreme Cold

  • Stay indoors during the storm.
  • Drive only if it is absolutely necessary. If you must drive: travel in the day; don’t travel alone; keep others informed of your schedule and your route; stay on main roads and avoid back road shortcuts.
  • Walk carefully on snowy, icy, walkways.
  • Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow. Overexertion can bring on a heart attack—a major cause of death in the winter. Use caution, take breaks, push the snow instead of lifting it when possible, and lift lighter loads.
  • Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.
  • If you must go outside, wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
  • Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves.
  • Wear a hat and cover your mouth with a scarf to reduce heat loss.

Cold Related Illness

  • Frostbite is a serious condition that’s caused by exposure to extremely cold temperatures.
    • a white or grayish-yellow skin area
    • skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
    • numbness
    • If you detect symptoms of frostbite, seek medical care.
  • Hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature, is a dangerous condition that can occur when a person is exposed to extremely cold temperatures.  Hypothermia is caused by prolonged exposures to very cold temperatures. When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it’s produced. Lengthy exposures will eventually use up your body’s stored energy, which leads to lower body temperature.
    • Warnings signs of hypothermia:
    • Adults: shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech drowsiness
    • Infants:  bright red, cold skin, very low energyIf you notice any of these signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95° F, the situation is an emergency—get medical attention immediately.

Carbon Monoxide

Caution: Each year, an average of 430 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, and there are more than 20,000 visits to the emergency room with more than 4,000 hospitalizations. Carbon monoxide-related deaths are highest during colder months. These deaths are likely due to increased use of gas-powered furnaces and alternative heating, cooking, and power sources used inappropriately indoors during power outages.

  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal¬ burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors. Keep these devices at least 20 feet from doors, windows, and vents.
  • The primary hazards to avoid when using alternate sources for electricity, heating or cooking are carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock and fire.
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas to provide early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide.
  • If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door.
  • Call for help from the fresh air location and remain there until emergency personnel arrive to assist you.

Stay or Go

STAY:

  • If stuck on the road to avoid exposure and/or when rescue is likely
  • If a safe location is neither nearby or visible
  • If you do not have appropriate clothing to go outside
  • If you do not have the ability to call for help

GO:

  • If the distance to call for help is accessible.
  • If you have visibility and outside conditions are safe.
  • If you have appropriate clothing.
  • Once the storm has passed, if you are not already home, follow instructions from your local transportation department and emergency management agency to determine if it is safe to drive and, if so, which route will be safest for you to get home. Drive with extra caution.

After Snowstorms and Extreme Cold

  • If your home loses power or heat for more than a few hours or if you do not have adequate supplies to stay warm in your home overnight, you may want to go to a designated public shelter if you can get there safely. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (e.g., SHELTER20472)
  • Bring any personal items that you would need to spend the night (such as toiletries, medicines). Take precautions when traveling to the shelter. Dress warmly in layers, wear boots, mittens, and a hat.
  • Continue to protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia by wearing warm, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in several layers. Stay indoors, if possible.

Smart Phone Chargers

Smart phone chargers can and do cause fires! Look closely at this charger cord. The phone end was frayed, a condition all too typical of these popular devices. It was not plugged in to the phone at the time that it was discovered burning. This one was inside an automobile plugged into the car charger and laying idle on the console. This same thing can very easily occur in a house. These devices easily carry enough electrical current to start a fire! Always replace damaged or frayed charger cords. Never leave them plugged in when not in use. And never lay a charging phone on easily combustible surfaces, such as pillows, beds, couches or similar.

In a fire, seconds count. Seconds can mean the difference between residents of our community escaping safely from a fire or having their lives end in tragedy. That’s why this year’s Fire Prevention Week theme: “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out!” is so important. It reinforces why everyone needs to have an escape plan.

Keys to Making Every Second Count

  • Draw a map of your home by using our grid in English (PDF) or Spanish (PDF) with all members of your household, marking two exits from each room and a path to the outside from each exit.
  • Practice your home fire drill twice a year. Conduct one at night and one during the day with everyone in your home, and practice using different ways out.
  • Teach children how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them.
  • Make sure the number of your home is clearly marked and easy for the fire department to find.
  • Close doors behind you as you leave – this may slow the spread of smoke, heat, and fire.
  • Once you get outside, stay outside. Never go back inside a burning building.

Watch this NFPA video for help creating the holiday atmosphere you love, and the security of knowing you’re keeping yourself and your family and friends safer from fire.

Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are more likely to be serious. Carefully decorating your home can help make your holidays safer.

Picking the tree
  • Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.
Placing the tree
  • Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 2″ from the base of the trunk.
  • Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.
  • Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
  • Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water daily.
Lighting the tree
  • Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use.
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of light strands to connect.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
  • Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
After Christmas
  • Get rid of the tree after Christmas. Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home. Check with your local community to find a recycling program. Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.
Many things in your home can catch on fire if they touch a flame or something hot.
Any open flame is dangerous. If possible, use battery-operated candles. If you use candles in your home, prevent a fire by making sure the below statements are true in your home!
  • Put candles in sturdy holders.
  • Place candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn.
  • Make sure candles cannot be reached by children or pets.
  • Blow out all candles if you leave the room, get sleepy, or go to bed.

Source for Content: U.S. Fire Administration

 

Did you know?
Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires. When you fry foods, you increase the risk of a cooking fire. Watch below for great turkey frying tips from William Shatner.

As spring approaches thoughts turn to cleaning up from the long winter, making repairs around the home and enjoying the outdoors. Keeping a few safety thoughts in mind will help you make your spring experience much more enjoyable.

Inside the Home:

  • Check and clean your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Check your fire extinguishers
  • Check for overloaded or damaged extension cords
  • Prepare for storm related outages (make sure your flashlights and portable radios have batteries and that other supplies, such as bottled water, are stocked and available)
  • Practice exit drills with your family so everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency
  • Properly store household chemicals and never mix cleaning agents

Outside and Around the Yard:

  • Make sure your address numbers are up and visible from the street
  • Clean up yard debris. Cut back dead limbs and grasses
  • Maintain a clear ‘fire zone’ of 10′ around structures. Clean up leaves and debris and consider using stone or non-combustible mulches
  • Check outdoor electrical outlets and other electrical appliances
  • Get your grill cleaned and serviced. Check all propane tanks and lines for leaks and damage
  • Keep 100′ of garden hose with an attached nozzle connected and ready for use

In the Garage or Shed:

  • Clean up and properly store paints, pool and yard chemicals
  • Check fuels containers for leaks and make sure they are properly stored
  • Have all power equipment cleaned, serviced and readied for use

For more information, contact the Fire Prevention Bureau at Lyndon Fire by calling (502) 425-7474.