Be ready: Winter is on its way

  • Published
  • By WPAFB Office of Emergency Management Office


WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Did you know that November is Winter Weather Awareness Month?

While the danger from winter weather varies across the country, nearly all Americans, regardless of where they live, are likely to face some type of severe winter weather at some point in their lives. This is no exception to the Miami Valley region. Winter storms can range from a moderate snow over a few hours to a blizzard with blinding, wind-driven snow that lasts for several days.

Many winter storms are accompanied by dangerously low temperatures and sometimes by strong winds, ice, sleet and freezing rain. Inclement winter weather also could knock out heat, power and communication services to homes and offices, sometimes for days at a time. Heavy snowfall and extreme cold temperatures can immobilize an entire region.

The National Weather Service refers to winter storms as the “deceptive killers” because most deaths are indirectly related to the storm. Instead, people die in traffic accidents on icy roads and of hypothermia from prolonged exposure to cold. It is important to be prepared for winter weather before it strikes.

So how does one become prepared for winter weather? While one may get preparedness tips online, the WPAFB Office of Emergency Management offers the following tips to consider:

  • Before winter approaches, add the following supplies to your emergency kit:
    • Rock salt or more environmentally safe products to melt ice on walkways
    • Sand to improve traction
    • Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment
    • Sufficient heating fuel
    • Adequate clothing and blankets to keep you warm
  • Create/update your family communications plan.
  • Winterize your vehicle: check the following items on your car:
    • Antifreeze levels - ensure they are sufficient to avoid freezing.
    • Battery and ignition system - should be in top condition and battery terminals should be clean.
    • Brakes - check for wear and fluid levels.
    • Exhaust system - check for leaks and crimped pipes and repair or replace as necessary. Carbon monoxide is deadly and usually gives no warning.
    • Fuel and air filters - replace and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.
    • Heater and defroster - ensure they work properly.
    • Lights and flashing hazard lights - check for serviceability.
    • Oil - check for level and weight. Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.
    • Thermostat - ensure it works properly.
    • Windshield wiper equipment - repair any problems and maintain proper washer fluid level.
    • Install good winter tires - Make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some jurisdictions require that to drive on their roads, vehicles must be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.
  • Build/update your vehicle emergency kit with the following items:
    • A shovel
    • Windshield scraper and small broom
    • Flashlight
    • Battery powered radio
    • Extra batteries
    • Water
    • Snack food
    • Matches
    • Extra hats, socks, and mittens
    • First aid kit with pocketknife
    • Necessary medications
    • Blankets
    • Tow chain or rope
    • Road salt and sand
    • Booster cables
    • Emergency flares
    • Fluorescent distress flag
  • Winterize your home by performing the following steps:
    • Insulate walls and attics, caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows, and installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic.
    • Clear rain gutters: repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on a house or other structure during a storm.
    • Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected every year.
    • Insulate pipes with insulation and allow faucets to drip a during cold weather to avoid freezing.
    • All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside and kept clear.
    • Keep fire extinguishers on hand and ensure everyone in your house knows how to use them.
    • Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts) and check operability prior to an emergency.
    • Hire a contractor to check the structural ability of the roof to sustain unusually heavy weight from the accumulation of snow - or water if drains on flat roofs do not work.
  • Familiarize yourself with the following winter storm hazard terms:
    • Freezing Rain - Rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees, and power lines.
    • Sleet - Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes moisture on roads to freeze and become slippery.
    • Winter Weather Advisory - Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. When caution is used, these situations should not be life threatening.
    • Winter Storm Watch - A winter storm is possible in your area. Tune in to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for more information.
    • Winter Storm Warning - A winter storm is occurring or will soon occur in your area.
    • Blizzard Warning - Sustained winds or frequent gusts to 35 miles per hour or greater and considerable amounts of falling or blowing snow (reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile) are expected to prevail for a period of three hours or longer.
    • Frost/Freeze Warning - Below freezing temperatures are expected.

For any questions or concerns, please contact the WPAFB Office of Emergency Management at 257-3634 or contact your unit emergency planning coordinator.