Disaster Readiness: Wintertime and Snowstorms

Disaster Readiness: Wintertime and Snowstorms

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For our churches and their members from the Disaster Resource and Response Team

Winter can bring extended periods of extreme temperatures and snowfall. Even short periods of exposure to this extreme cold can cause serious health problems. Heavy snow can lead to roof collapse and dangerous driving conditions. While it is true that there is little you can do to avoid a winter snowstorm, there is plenty you can do to prepare, to mitigate the damage after a winter storm and to save lives!


Before the storm

  • Develop and maintain an emergency response plan and communicate it to your staff and volunteers.
  • Provide instruction and training on your emergency response plan.
  • Sign up for local alerts and warning systems.
  • Outline shutdown procedures for the building and equipment.
  • Know how to shut off electric, gas and power.
  • Designate an emergency meeting location.
  • Develop and evacuation plan with multiple evacuation routes and evacuate when told.
  • Stock up and make accessible an Emergency Supply Kit.
  • First‐aid kit
  • Non‐perishable foods and a non‐electric can opener
  • Boiled water
  • Battery powered or crank radio (The American Red Cross makes an excellent one)
  • Fully charged spare cell phone battery or portable charger
  • Flashlight(s) or lanterns
  • Extra batteries
  • Extra blankets, sleeping bags and/or bedding
  • Sanitation supplies
  • Prepare your building.
  • Ensure your building’s attic and walls are properly insulated.
  • Ensure doors and windows are properly sealed and that all caulking is in good shape and free of cracks.
  • Make sure pipes in exterior walls are properly insulated.
  • Make sure gutters remain free from debris to ensure proper run off of rainfall
  • Inspect the roof to ensure that it is watertight.
  • Keep important documents in a waterproof container. Create digital copies if possible.
  • Make a list of building contents.
  • Make sure you have adequate insurance coverage.

During the storm

  • Listen to authorities. If ordered to find shelter, do so immediately.
  • Follow the steps of your emergency response plan.
  • Do not drive if possible.
  • Stay inside and avoid going outside for extended periods of time.
  • Use all generators and grills outdoors.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite.
For more information, please visit www.InsuranceBoard.org or email LossControl@InsuranceBoard.org .


Extreme cold: Frostbite and Hypothermia

Winter can bring extended periods of extreme temperatures. Even short periods of exposure to this extreme cold can cause serious health problems. The Insurance Board wants to make sure that everyone is safe as the temperatures unexpectedly go down. Here are some tips to cope.

Recognize the signs of frostbite:
  • Redness or pain in any skin area.
  • White or grayish skin area.
  • Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy.
  • Numbness.
Recognize the signs of hypothermia:
  • Shivering.
  • Exhaustion.
  • Confusion.
  • Fumbling when trying to use your hands.
  • Memory Loss.
  • Slurred Speech.
  • Low body temperature (Below 95 degrees).
Tips to prevent cold related illness:
  • Wear several layers of loose‐fitting clothing.
  • Wear water‐resistant boots.
  • Wear mittens or gloves.
  • Wear a scarf or mask that covers your face and mouth.
  • Wear a hat.
  • Wear a water‐resistant coat.
How you can treat frostbite:
  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
  • Get to a warm room or shelter and remove wet clothing.
  • Remove jewelry that could impair circulation.
  • Place dry gauze between toes and fingers to keep them from sticking together.
  • Elevate the affected area.
How you can treat hyperthermia:
  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
  • Get to a warm room or shelter and remove wet clothing.
  • Warm under several layers of dry blankets or clothing.
  • Place areas affected by frostbite in warm water.
  • If the person is conscious, provide them with warm non‐alcoholic beverages.
Sources:
https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/staysafe/hypothermia.html
https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/staysafe/frostbite.html
https://www.nsc.org/home‐safety/tools‐resources/seasonal‐safety/winter/frostbite

Photo by Flow Clark for Unsplash

Author

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Fred William Meade

Rev. Fred Meade got involved in disaster work while serving a UCC Church in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. He is a member and current chair of the SNEUCC Disaster Resource & Response Team.

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