Winter 2023 is off to an extreme start across the United States. From torrential rain in Southern California and heavy snow in Northern Arizona to tornado threats in the Southeast and pouring sleet in the Midwest, it’s time to brace for a severe forecast over these next few months. As the temperatures plunge and the intense windchill rises, here are three tips for staying as safe and warm as possible when inclement weather strikes.
Dress for the Elements
Exposure to wet or cold weather for a long period of time can increase the risk of hypothermia. More than 1,300 Americans die from this each year, Cleveland Clinic estimates, but it’s entirely preventable. The easiest way to protect your loved ones from hypothermia is to ensure everyone has the right winter clothes. Warm, insulated layers help the body maintain a safe core temperature, even in freezing conditions. So stock up on the clothing items below for each family member—and for yourself—this winter:
- Long sleeve dry-fit shirts
- Waterproof boots
- Thermal socks
- Woolen beanie
- Fleece gloves
- Down jacket
- Face covering
- Woolen or fleece pants
- Long thermal underwear
Heat Your Home Safely
During the winter months, chances are, all you want to do is walk through the door into a warm, cozy home at the end of each day. But although heat is essential, it can also be a serious fire hazard. About one in six house fires are caused by heating equipment, warns the National Fire Protection Association, and almost half of them occur from December to February. So before you crank on the fireplace, thermostat, or space heater, follow these safety measures to warm your home without the looming threat of fire:
- Inspect fireplaces, wood stoves, or furnaces to ensure they are up to code. Use gas or dry wood as fuel—never burn paper inside.
- Make sure electric space heater cords are not short-circuiting or producing sparks. Do not plug in the heater with extension cords.
- Remove all heat sources from flammable items in the home (linens, blankets, curtains, towels, furniture, appliances, water sources).
- Check the ventilation system to ensure that gas, flue, or exhaust won’t leak into the living space and contaminate the indoor air quality.
- Set your thermostat to 68 degrees F, as this temperature will help conserve energy use without causing the internal pipes to freeze.
- Use a generator in the event of a power outage, but keep it outside at least 20 feet away from windows, vents, doors, or precipitation.
- Have extra thermal blankets on hand in case your electric heat sources malfunction or cannot be safely operated for some reason.
Be Careful on the Road
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, nearly 1,235,000 annual car accidents are weather-related. Rain, snow, ice, or sleet can cause slick pavement, limited visibility, and other unsafe driving conditions. Therefore, it’s absolutely crucial to take precautions before traveling and exercise caution behind the wheel. Whether you’re planning a winter family road trip or just commuting across town, here’s how to protect your loved ones, other drivers, and yourself when severe weather impacts the freeway conditions:
- Inspect your vehicle’s tires about once a month to ensure the tread depth and air pressure are safe for driving in snow, ice, and heavy precipitation.
- Check for extreme weather alerts on the route before you start driving. It’s also a smart idea to share your travel plans and location with a family member.
- Scrape any snow or ice off all the car windows and mirrors to clear your sightline. Ensure the defrosters work and there’s plenty of windshield wiper fluid.
- Refuel the gas tank if you plan to drive on a highway or in heavy traffic. In the event of unforeseen issues, you don’t want to be stuck without enough fuel.
- Take it slow on the road—especially on bridges, which are some of the first structures to freeze. Monitor your speed, remain alert, and don’t use cruise control.
- Maintain a careful distance between your vehicle and other cars. It’s particularly crucial to give snow plows and semi-trucks as wide of a berth as possible.
- Travel with an emergency kit, which should consist of the following:
- Thermal blankets
- Bottled water
- Flashlight and batteries
- Extra winter clothes
- Ice scraper and snow brush
- Jumper cables and spare tire
- Road flares or reflective cones
- First aid supplies
- Mobile phone charger
Stay Safe Out There this Winter
You can’t always predict when severe weather will strike, so it’s vital to plan rather than just react at the moment. The proactive strategies above can help minimize safety risks and home damage, but if you incur weather-related losses, contact the SERVPRO Storm Team. This 24–7 hotline will make it as easy and stress-free as possible to reach emergency services, access on-the-ground help, and start the restoration process.