PERSONAL - Winter storm preparedness includes measures that people should take at home, outside clearing snow and/or during recreational activities. Survival outside during the winter begins with dressing adequately for the conditions and anticipating changes. Appropriate clothing involves wearing loose, lightweight, layers plus boots, hats, and mittens. Mittens are a better alternative to gloves because by allowing fingers to be together, they will stay warmer. Jackets or outer garments should be tightly knit, hooded and water repellant. Much of the body's heat escapes through a person's head, therefore it is important to wear a hat. Covering the mouth and nose with a scarf to warm the air entering the lungs is recommended for people who need to be outdoors in extreme cold or wind chill conditions.
When working outside or shoveling during a winter storm, avoid overexertion. Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Performing activities that the body is not used to will add to the possibility of heart attack or aggravating other chronic health conditions. Take frequent breaks and drink water to stay hydrated.
Hypothermia and cold injuries are two winter health hazards to be concerned about. Hypothermia occurs when the core body temperature drops to a level at which normal muscle and brain functions are impaired. Symptoms of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, slow/slurred speech, disorientation, and exhaustion. While actual body temperatures may differ in individuals, a core temperature lower than 95 degrees F. is a common indicator of hypothermia. Cold injuries occur when the body has a reaction to the cold by reducing blood flow to extremities such as the hands or feet. The most serious condition, frostbite, has the following symptoms: loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately as frostbite can cause permanent damage.
HOMES - Occasionally, there may be a power outage in homes for a period of time during an ice or snow storm. It is important to be prepared for this by knowing how to safely deal with food, drinking water and alternate heating sources. When choosing to use a portable generator during a power outage, safety is an important concern. A portable generator safety alert has also been created by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. If using alternate heat sources, carbon monoxide poisoning is a dangerous health risk as well as fires from unattended units. There are additional home issues that may need to be addressed such as roof ice dams and attic condensation.
PETS - It is also important to provide extra care for pets' safety during a winter storm. Pets that live outside need extra calories to stay warm, so provide them with more feed than during warmer temperatures. Also, make sure their water does not freeze. If indoor pets do go outside, check the temperature prior to letting them outdoors and do not leave them out for long periods. Pets can get frostbite on their ears, tails and paws.
FARMS - Planning for winter includes preparing for the care and safety of livestock. During a winter storm proper preparedness may mean the difference between life or death for farm animals. In addition to issues involving dairy cattle and livestock, the North Dakota State University site which is referenced above provides fact sheets on preparedness for farm facilities and dealing with potential crop damage. After a heavy snowfall or prolonged snow accumulation, snow loads on barn roofs may become an issue.