Winter Weather Preparedness : Safety Tips From CVPIN

PRESS RELEASE: 12/6/13

A winter weather system is slated to track through the Central VA area over the weekend, potentially producing ice, snow, or sleet. These fronts can create hazardous conditions in a short period of time, including power outages, downed trees and/or power lines and icy roadways. To minimize weather-related risks, citizens are reminded to take the following safety steps:

AT HOME:

• Obtain the recommended three-day supply of water (three gallons per person) and non-perishable foods. Other items to have on-hand include: battery-operated radios, flashlights, extra batteries, basic tools/manual can openers, first-aid supplies, prescription medicines, sanitation supplies, pet food and adequate fuel for generators and other equipment.

• If necessary to use a generator due to power outages, place the unit outside to minimize exposure to toxic fumes. Connect appliances directly to the generator, not building wiring systems, to avoid the risk of electrical shock. Refrain from using matches, candles, or other open flame sources of lighting – flashlights and battery-operated lanterns and lighting sources are better choices.

• Use extra caution if using wood, kerosene, or other fuels as supplemental heating sources. Ensure proper ventilation is present; refill units outside. Keep space heaters away from flammable items. Have chimneys inspected and cleaned prior to winter use.

• If pipes freeze, carefully remove the insulation layers and wrap pipes with rags. Open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting at the most exposed point.

• If at any time you detect the smell of natural gas, evacuate immediately to another safe shelter. Do not ignite matches/lighters, or use any devices/objects that may produce sparks. From a safe distance, call your local gas company as well as 911.

• Check on neighbors who may need assistance.

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IF TRAVELING:

• Be aware of conditions which cause “black ice”. Even though roadways may appear to be clear, certain areas may be exposed to lower temperatures causing un-detectable icy patches, especially on shaded pavement sections and on bridges and overpasses. Reduce speed to ensure safe travel. Watch for slippery patches on sidewalks and in parking lots.

• Avoid traveling if roadways are impacted by wintry precipitation. If travel is necessary, ensure vehicles’ gas tanks are filled with fuel and windshields/windows are fully de-iced for maximum visibility.

• Be aware that highway service vehicles will be clearing and applying materials to roadways– take measures to park your vehicle in an area that will not obstruct snow/ice removal efforts. If following a highway service vehicle remain at a safe distance.

• Place an emergency kit in the vehicle that contains water, blankets, a cell phone/charger, a battery-powered radio, a flashlight, extra batteries, a first aid kit, non-perishable food items, a brightly colored safety flag, bag of sand or kitty litter (for tire traction) and all emergency contact numbers.

• Do not cross roadways obstructed with trees, debris or downed power lines; assume all downed power lines are live.

• If your vision is hindered by excessive precipitation, select a spot to pull over that is out of the line of traffic and away from trees, power lines, and other structures. Turn on caution lights to indicate your location to other drivers. Tune into local radio stations for updates.

• If stranded, call for assistance immediately, noting your location. Hang a distress flag from the radio antenna or window. Remain in your vehicle unless shelter is clearly visible. Run the engine/heater approximately 10 minutes each hour for warmth. Open a window slightly and clear snow from the exhaust pipe (to minimize the risk of possible carbon monoxide poisoning). Drink fluids to avoid dehydration and move arms and legs periodically to generate heat.

• Call the Virginia Department of Transportation’s hotline at 511 or visit http://www.511virginia.org for updates on road closings or delays.

EMERGENCY PLANNING:
An on-line emergency plan template is available at: http://www.vaemergency.gov/ReadyVirginia/MakeAPlanForm.

• If you have special needs, contact your local Public Safety or EMS office for assistance in coordinating specific emergency resources.

• Monitor local conditions and stay tuned to local media for updates; keep apprised of public safety notices and the opening/locations of any emergency shelters. For additional preparedness resources, citizens may visit the Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s (VDEM) website at http://www.vaemergency.gov or the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s website at: www.fema.gov

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