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Dr. Wood: Being ready for South Sound winters means being ready for most anything

How to prepare for winter storms

With forecasts calling for wintry weather for the East Coast & parts of the South, take some time now to put blankets, a shovel, & road salt/sand in your car. It’s best to stay off the roads but if you must drive, let someone know your route & whe
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With forecasts calling for wintry weather for the East Coast & parts of the South, take some time now to put blankets, a shovel, & road salt/sand in your car. It’s best to stay off the roads but if you must drive, let someone know your route & whe

With winter here, all of us need to think ahead and prepare ourselves, and our families, for the possibility of an emergency. Make time to think through your plan, and work toward emergency resilience.

It’s important to know what to do before, during, and after a winter storm, including who you will communicate with, and how you will reach them. Visit http://www.ready.gov/make-a-plan to learn more about how to prepare for this year’s winter storms and other emergencies. Here are just a few ways to get started:

Shelter in place

  • Prepare your home to keep out the cold with insulation, caulking, and weather stripping. Learn how to keep pipes from freezing. Install and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups.

  • Have emergency supplies in place at home, at work, and in the car. You should have supplies to last at least 72 hours. Keep in mind each person’s special needs, including medication. Don’t forget your pets!

  • Stay off the road during and after a winter storm.

  • Have a carbon monoxide alarm in place, especially if you will be using alternative heating devices.

  • Use safe heating devices. Remember that if you purchase a generator, consult a professional to help install it, and never run a generator inside your home or garage.

Be familiar with local resources

  • Listen to local officials. You can register for Thurston County Emergency Management alerts through https://www.co.thurston.wa.us/em/Alerts/ . It’s also a good idea to keep a NOAA weather radio turned to a local emergency station. FEMA also provides a weather alert app through which you can receive weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five different locations.

  • Have access to extra batteries for radios and flashlights, and extra charging devices for phones.

  • Keep a contact list in a watertight container in your emergency kits.

Allow for any special medical needs

  • For those in the community who have additional needs, disabilities, or reliance on electricity, there are special steps you should take.

  • Take steps to protect yourself during a power outage.

  • If you have diabetes, there are additional steps you should take to be prepared.

  • If you’re dependent on dialysis or other life-sustaining treatment, know the location and availability of more than one facility. Call and ask about their emergency preparedness plan.

  • Include extra medications, and a list of the medications you take, in your emergency supplies.

Consider your community

  • Check in with neighbors to offer, or ask for, support.

  • Harsh weather can have major impacts on vulnerable unsheltered people. The Thurston County Hazardous Weather Task Force has developed the “code blue” model for extremely cold or hazardous weather conditions. During a “code blue”, shelter services are expanded to keep people who are without homes safe. To learn more about “code blue”, you can visit: https://www.iwshelter.org/code-blue.html

Whatever your plan is, remember to practice it. Going through the steps of a plan will help people visualize what to do, reduce anxiety, and help identify unanticipated problems. This is the time to prepare for winter weather. A little time and energy now can help you feel confident that you can stay healthy and safe when you need to weather a storm.

Reach Dr. Rachel C. Wood, health officer for Thurston and Lewis counties, at 360-867-2501, woodr@co.thurston.wa.us, or @ThurstonHealth on Twitter.
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