Winter arrives

Dec 27, 2012 By Steven R. Peck

It doesn't seem to have its old strength, but don't be caught unprepared

The notion of "winter preparedness" hasn't been on the minds of very many people in Fremont County so far this year -- or in recent years, for that matter. Ask anyone who has been around awhile and you'll hear the same thing: Winter just ain't what it used to be.

So, the arrival of the real patch of old-school winter weather this week bordered on the unexpected in the minds of many, even though this is late December and this still is Wyoming.

Our intermittent 72 hours of snow has not amounted to all that much other than an interruption of the dry, mild weather we've almost become accustomed to, but it can serve as a reminder that snow, severe cold and strong wind usually are very much a part of life for us in the winter.

And it pays to be prepared.

For the most part that means doing some thinking and planning before a problem arises. What would you do if the power failed? You were trapped at home? You couldn't make a phone call? You couldn't get your medicine?

Could you find a flashlight? A candle? An extra blanket? Non-perishable food? A snow shovel?

Similar questions apply to automobiles on the road in bad weather. What would you do in an emergency? What should you do? What shouldn't you do? It's all worth thinking about ahead of time.

The National Weather Service does that kind of thinking, and it offers a very good, very basic guide to winter preparedness.

Your primary concerns are the potential loss of heat, power, phone, and a shortage of supplies if the storm conditions continue for more than a day.

Before a storm arrives (or before winter arrives in general):

- Have an emergency supply of water and non-perishable food. Include foods that require no cooking unless you have a camp stove.

- Keep an adequate supply of fuel in your home if you use an external source of fuel. Regular supplies may be limited by storm conditions, or fuel suppliers may be unable to reach you for several days. Use fuel sparingly.

- Have a flashlight with extra batteries. Have a battery powered radio or television to get important updates and emergency information on the storm.

- Have an emergency heat source such as a fireplace or wood stove. Learn to properly use and ventilate to prevent a fire.

- Have a fire extinguisher and know how to use it. Make sure your smoke detectors are operating by testing them regularly.

- Have a first aid kit plus extras of any needed medicines, prescriptions, or baby items.

Next, if you are caught unexpectedly at home by a major storm, and if there is no heat:

- Close off unneeded rooms.

- Stuff towels, rags or extra clothes in cracks under doors.

- Cover windows at night to reduce heat loss.

- Eat and drink to stay warm. Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat. Keep replenished with fluids to prevent dehydration. Alcohol drinks, however, will lower the body temperature and may increase the likelihood of dehydration. Even if they make you feel warmer, you aren't.

- Wear layers of loose-fitting, light-weight, warm clothing. Remove layers as needed to avoid overheating, perspiration and subsequent chill.

- Exercise to stay warm. Exercising from time to time by vigorously moving arms, legs, fingers and toes will keep the blood circulating and help keep you warm.

Such circumstances arrive only rarely, even in our northern region with strong winters. But that's no reason not to be ready for them. Let this week's storm be a wake-up call, and prepare yourself by following this simple checklist.

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