Officials urge residents to prepare for storms

With winter weather on the horizon, local emergency response agencies are warning residents that being prepared is the best defense against the snow, ice and cold. Making sure you have enough of the essentials to get by for several days, said Emergency Management Agency director Beth Nevel, can be what it takes to keep a severe winter storm from moving from annoying to life threatening.

“Number one, we’re saying that they need to have enough food, water, medicine, and blankets,” said Nevel. “Winter storms tend to make it so you either can’t get out of the house, or there is a power outage. You need to be able to take care of yourself for at least a week.”

While typical winter storms usually mean a day or two of slick roads or maybe even a brief power outage, some storms can be devastating, stopping all road traffic for days and cutting power to large sections of the region for days. By planning ahead, said Nevel, you can eliminate some of the most serious parts of dealing with such storms when they occur.

“Any canned good that that doesn’t need heated is good to have,” said Nevel. “They make all sorts of stuff now. Non-perishable is the key. Medications and other needs for young children or the elderly is also important, especially if they have any special diet needs. It’s kind of like a squirrel putting away the nuts. They know it’s going to be bad, they’re going to be hit, so they store it away. When you go to the grocery store, buy a few extra batteries for the flashlight, and you won’t have to spend lots of money at once. Make sure you have the extras you need. Make sure you have an alert radio so you can follow the weather if the power is out.”

However, once your food worries are taken care of, prolonged power outages can lead to dealing with the cold, which could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, if proper steps aren’t followed.

“The most common mistakes are trying to heat with an alternative heat if the power goes out in the winter,” said Nevel. “If it’s not properly installed, it’s a danger. Kerosene floor heaters or even fireplaces are examples. They may try to use the wood fireplace but the flue might not work properly. Maybe they normally heat by propane and it needs a fan to blow it, that goes out with the electricity, so they’re in trouble. Maybe they’ll try using a fireplace they haven’t used in a while and the chimney is blocked, then the carbon monoxide backs up into the house. Make sure you’re alternative heat is inspected and working properly.”

Battery operated carbon monoxide detectors are available, said Nevel, and can help make sure that power outages don’t turn into sicknesses or death from the deadly gas, which is created by burning fuels such as wood, gas or oil. Some smoke detectors also include the carbon monoxide detection, making effective use of already allotted space. Children and senior citizens often feel the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning first, and should such an event take place, Nevel said that getting to fresh air as soon as possible is a top priority.

“Young children and older citizens are more susceptible to the carbon monoxide buildup,” said Nevel. “If there is an emergency, call 911. If the carbon monoxide detector goes off, don’t bother with opening the windows. Get out of the house and call 911. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are like the flu. Even if it’s cold outside, get the family to fresh air.”

Recently, Clermont County also became one of only eight counties in the state to offer a cell phone location service for 911 calls. The system, when a call from a properly equipped cell phone comes in, can pinpoint the exact location of the phone, thereby helping rescue units to get to the scene of an emergency faster. During winter weather, stranded motorists will find that this service, plus a little preparation, will help maintain comfort and safety until help arrives.

“In our car, we keep a little lunchbox with a flashlight,” said Nevel. “We keep the batteries separate. We also keep blankets in the car. Also, individually wrapped snacks, like nuts or candy – something non-perishable. A strobe light so someone can see you at nighttime is good. As always, drive cautiously when the streets are hazardous. If the roads are slick, do you really need to go somewhere right then?”

Nevel added that working together is also beneficial. In the event of a prolonged storm and power outage, be sure and check on your neighbors to see if they are in good health.

“My biggest thing is, realize, when the weather changes, we need to change how we think,” said Nevel. “Think about what you’re doing, and check on your neighbors.”