‘Bomb cyclone’ blizzard: Are you prepared?

The “bomb cyclone” blizzard churning high winds and heavy snow onto the East Coast on Thursday could mean big snowfall totals and deep drifts for the New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia areas.

The cold air will be dangerous for those spending time outdoors not properly dressed. In addition to the dangers from frostbite and hypothermia, the magnitude of the cold air can cause unprotected pipes to burst, water mains to rupture and batteries to die in vehicles.

Prepare Your Home

Here are some tips for getting your home in order to handle a winter storm:

  • If you have a fireplace, keep the flue closed when you’re not using it.
  • During cold spells, keep cabinet doors open to allow warm air to circulate around pipes, particularly those in the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Keep a slow trickle of water flowing through faucets connected to pipes that run through unheated or unprotected spaces.

Prepare Yourself

Here are some tips for helping get through a nasty stretch of cold:

  • Stay indoors during the storm.
  • 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. If you must shovel snow, stretch before going outside.
  • Keep dry. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite: loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities. Get medical help immediately.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia: uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. Get the victim to a warm location, remove wet clothing, warm the center of the body first and give warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the victim is conscious. Get medical help as soon as possible.

Prepare Your Car

Some 70% of winter storm deaths are auto-related − 1 in 4 the result of people caught in severe weather.

So prepare your car for treacherous conditions and super-cold temperatures – and know what to do if you find yourself stranded in your vehicle.  When the temperatures start to drop:

  • 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; stay on main roads and avoid back road shortcuts.
  • Top off antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, gas, oil and other fluids.
  • Make sure your tires have enough tread. Consider snow tires.
  • Keep bagged salt or sand in the trunk for extra traction and to melt ice.
  • Clear snow from the top of the car, headlights and windows.
  • Program your auto club, insurance agent and towing service phone numbers into your cell phone.
  • Keep in your trunk a cold-weather kit containing a blanket or sleeping bag, gloves, hard candy, bottled water, folding shovel, first aid kit, flashlight and car cell phone charger.

If you find yourself trapped in your vehicle:

  • Remain inside. Rescuers are more likely to find you there.
  • Run the engine and heater about 10 minutes every hour. Clear any snow from the exhaust pipe to reduce your chances of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Move around to maintain heat.
  • Use maps, floor mats and seat covers for insulation.
  • Take turns sleeping. Someone should always be awake to alert rescuers.
  • Drink fluids to avoid dehydration.
  • Turn on the inside light at night so rescue crews can find you.
  • If you’re stranded in a remote area, stomp “SOS” or “HELP” in the snow.

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