Preparing Your Vehicle for Winter

By Krista Farley Raines, Regional Communications & Marketing Director, American Red Cross – West Virginia Region

Winter weather has finally arrived in the Mountain State, blanketing the region in beautiful – but potentially hazardous – snow. To help you better prepare yourself for winter emergencies, our friends from the American Red Cross West Virginia Region are guest blogging a two-part series about winter weather safety procedures for your home and your car.

Winter storms and cold temperatures can be hazardous, but if you plan ahead, you can keep your family safe. Minimize travel outdoors, but if you have to go out dress in several layers of lightweight clothing, wear mittens and a hat that covers your ears. Don’t forget to leave water running to help prevent pipes from freezing when you leave your house.

If you have to travel, having a preparedness kit in your vehicle at all times is essential. A Vehicle Winter Preparedness Kit should include:

  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Cell phone car charger
  • Blanket and/or emergency mylar blanket
  • Fleece hat, gloves, scarf
  • Flares
  • Folding shovel
  • Sand or cat Litter
  • Ice scraper and snow brush
  • First-aid kit
  • Small battery-operated radio
  • Emergency contact card with names and phone numbers
  • Extra prescription medications
  • Bottled water
  • High protein snacks
  • Maps
  • Whistle

If driving is unavoidable, safety should be your number one priority. Make sure your vehicle has plenty of gas, and pay attention to the weather forecast for your travel route and destination. Buckle up, be alert and drive slowly with caution. In the event your vehicle becomes disabled, keep the car running, make sure the exhaust pipe is clear and leave the window open a crack until help arrives. Additionally, know the differences between winter storm outlooks, advisories, watches and warnings.

To learn more about to prepare for, respond to and recover from a disaster, visit redcross.orgAnd don’t miss our first post on winter safety for your home.

Snow Shoveling Safety

By Derrien Williams, Extension Agent

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

Okay, some of you may be singing that tune, but I’ll confess: I’m not! Fortunately, it’s been a mild December so far in West Virginia, with temperatures on some days rising into the 70s. But, as it always does, winter – and snow – will come. And with snow comes one of those dreaded winter requirements: snow shoveling.

For many of us, the sight of snow falling is often a calming experience. It can be exciting if you are a student, because it increases the chances of a snow day. But, if you had parents like mine, then you didn’t get to sleep all day. You had the job of shoveling the snow off the driveway, sidewalks and sometimes for neighbors who weren’t able to shovel it themselves.

The good news is, shoveling snow is a great way to burn calories! Shoveling snow for an hour can burn anywhere from 300-500 calories. But, you should proceed with caution before you pick up that shovel. Snow shoveling is responsible for thousands of injuries and as many as 100 deaths each year nationwide. And, there’s the cold factor. Cold weather can increase heart rate and blood pressure. It can make blood clot more easily and constrict arteries, which decreases blood supply.

No matter what type of shape you are in, you may want to work up to it. Some tips include warming up inside, incorporating some hamstring stretches and core-strengthening exercises. In addition, shovel small amounts of snow at a time, especially if the snow is heavy and water-laden. Shovel for 5 or 10 minutes, and then go back inside for 10 minutes to do more stretching.

Additional recommendations include:

  • Do not shovel after eating or while smoking.
  • Shovel only fresh, powdery snow; it’s lighter.
  • Push the snow rather than lifting it.
  • If you do lift it, use a small shovel or only partially fill the shovel.
  • Lift with your legs, not your back.
  • Do not work to the point of exhaustion.

So, before you pick up the shovel, please remember these tips to ensure safe removal of snow and to prevent injury this winter season.