Winter storms and extreme cold
You can protect yourself, your car and your household from the many hazards of winter weather, by thinking and planning ahead.
Each winter we plan which roads will be gritted when ice and snow are forecast. It is a good idea to have this information at hand if you are driving during the winter months.
- Drive with extra care and never assume that a road has been salted even if ice or snow has been forecast.
- Is the journey necessary? If not, then don’t travel.
- Find out if you can get to your destination using public transport.
- Always check the weather forecast before starting your trip.
- Plan your journey using the primary route road network.
- Allow extra time for your journey.
- Run your car engine for a few minutes before starting your trip to help clear the windscreen.
- Ensure your vehicle has suitable anti-freeze added to its radiator and low-freezing screen-wash to the washer bottle.
- Ensure that your vehicle is in good working order – wash all lights and indicators frequently.
- Tune into your local radio station for regular travel news updates.
- Use dipped headlights when driving during periods of rain, fog or snow.
- Always keep your fuel tank full.
If you get stuck in a winter storm in a remote area, you can do the following:
- Pull off the road. Turn on hazard lights and hang a distress flag from the radio aerial or window.
- Remain in your vehicle where rescuers are most likely to find you. Only leave the car if buildings are nearby where you know you can take shelter. Distances are distorted by blowing snow. A building may seem close but may too far to walk in deep snow.
- Run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm. When the engine is running, open a window slightly for ventilation to protect you from carbon monoxide poisoning. Periodically clear snow from the exhaust pipe.
- Exercise to maintain body heat, but avoid over-exertion. Huddle with passengers and use your coat as a blanket
- Take turns sleeping, so you see the rescue crews.
- Drink fluids to avoid dehydration.
- Don’t waste battery power, but at night if rescuers are nearby turn on the inside light so rescuers can see you.
- Carry a candle and means of lighting it. Leave a gap in the window for fresh air.
Car emergency supply kit
Have an emergency supply kit in your car, in case you break down or get stuck. This should contain;
- A warm coat, extra hat and mittens or gloves
- Suitable winter footwear
- Blanket or sleeping bag
- Torch and extra batteries, or wind up torch
- Shovel, Tow chain or rope
- Windscreen scraper, Jump leads, Mobile phone and batteries
- Battery-powered radio and extra batteries, or wind-up radio
Make your home safe for winter
Prepare to survive in your home on your own, without outside help, for at least three days. Assemble a disaster supply kit and be sure to include winter specific items such as rock salt to melt ice and sand to improve traction, snow shovels or other snow removal equipment. Keep a stock of food and extra drinking water.
If your house could be isolated, here is some useful advice
Have sufficient heating fuel, as regular fuel sources may be cut off, as well as emergency heating equipment plus sufficient fuel for it in case electricity is cut off, such as a portable gas fire, a wood burning stove, a fireplace or a kerosene heater. Keep all heaters at least three feet from flammable objects. Maintain ventilation when using kerosene heaters to avoid a build-up of toxic fumes and always refuel outside. Keep fire extinguishers on hand and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. Never burn charcoal indoors.
- Make sure that your walls and attics are well insulated before winter.
- During a storm, listen to the local radio or television for weather reports and emergency information.
- Eat regularly and drink ample fluids, but avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Dress for the season with several layers of loose fitting, lightweight warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer layer should be water repellent. Mittens are warmer than gloves. Always wear a hat, most body heat is lost through the top of your head.
- Don’t over-exert yourself when shoveling snow, as it can bring on a heart attack.
- Watch for signs of frostbite: loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately.
- Watch for signs of hypothermia: uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. If symptoms are detected, get the person to a warm location, remove any wet clothing, warm the centre of the body first, and give warm non-alcoholic beverage if victim is conscious. Get medical help as soon as possible.
Extreme heat can do you harm. Most heat disorders occur because the victim has been overexposed to heat or has over-exercised for his or her age and physical condition. The elderly, young children and those who are sick or overweight are more likely to be effected by extreme heat. This is what you can do to counter the effects;
- Stay indoors as much as possible
- If you do not have air conditioning, stay on the lowest floor away from the sunshine.Remember that electric fans do not cool. They just blow hot air around.
- Eat well-balanced, light and regular meals. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by your doctor.
- Drink plenty of water regularly even if you do not feel thirsty (If you have epilepsy or heart, kidney or liver disease, are on fluid-restrictive diets or have a problem with fluid retention, you should consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake).
- Limit intake of alcoholic beverages. Alcohol causes dehydration.
- Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.
- Dress in loose fitting clothes that cover as much skin as possible.
- Protect face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
- Avoid too much sunshine. Use sunscreen, SPF 15 or higher.
- Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day. Try not to work alone when working in extreme heat and take frequent breaks.
- Regularly check on family and friends who are vulnerable, such as the elderly.
- Look up heat-induced illnesses such as sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke in your first aid manual and be prepared to give first aid.