The kids are back in school and the leaves on the trees are started to change. Folks are starting to think about the holidays which still feel like a million years away but in reality will be here before we know it. The other thing which will be upon us before we know it is winter…and all that comes with it.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Military Sealift Command Safety Specialist John McKinney about the coming winter and what our teammates need to do to be ready for inclement weather.
As Military Sealift Command's team heads into the Fall and Winter, what are some of the hazards we should be preparing for?
McKinney-Winter storms create a higher risk of car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning, and heart attacks from overexertion. Winter storms and blizzards can bring extreme cold, freezing rain, snow, ice, and high winds. A winter storm can:
-Last a few hours or several days;
-Knock out heat, power, and communication services; and
-Place older adults, young children, and sick individuals at greater risk.
Why is it important to begin preparing for fall and winter before the seasons arrive?
McKinney-Before the frigid weather arrives, it is import to get to know your area’s risk for winter storms. Extreme winter weather can leave communities without utilities or other services for long periods of time.
Making sure your home is ready for winter is very important. Prepare your home to keep out the cold with insulation, caulking, and weather stripping. Learn how to keep pipes from freezing. Also, install and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups.
If your area is under threat of winter weather, it is important to pay attention to weather reports and warnings of freezing weather and winter storms. Sign up for your local community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts.
When preparing for winter weather it is important to gather supplies in case you need to stay home for several days without power. Keep in mind, each family member’s specific needs, including medication. Have extra batteries for radios and flashlights. Also, do not forget the needs of your pets.
Build an emergency supply kit for your automobile. Your kit should include jumper cables, sand, a flashlight, warm clothes, blankets, bottled water, and non-perishable snacks. Keep the automobile full of fuel. It would also be wise to learn the signs of, and basic treatments for, frostbite and hypothermia.
Do you have any tips in regards preparing one's home for winter?
McKinney-Your home is going to provide your primary shelter during a winter storm so it is import to have your dwelling ready for inclement weather before winter arrives.
Recommendations for winterizing your home include insulating walls and attics, caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows, insulating water lines and installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic.
A frozen water line can result in major problems for you and your family. To prevent frozen water lines, allow faucets to drip or trickle during unusually cold weather or if the power and heat are out to avoid freezing. When water freezes, it expands, and this can cause water pipes to burst. Know how to shut off water valves if a pipe bursts.
There are things you can do outside of your home to prepare for winter. It is recommended that you should clean out rain gutters to prevent damage to your roof and home’s structure from excessive rain.
Hire a contractor to check out the condition of your home’s roof and repair any leaks. Make sure they check your roof to make sure it can handle the extra weight of the snow and ice.
Remove away tree branches that could fall on a house or neighboring structure during a winter storm. Keep pathways and driveways clear between storms to avoid buildup of snow piles and icing.
Another recommended winter preparation for your home is to install battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors or electric detectors with battery backups in central locations on every level of your home. This will provide an early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide, which is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and potentially deadly gas.
Keep fire extinguishers on hand and make sure everyone in your home knows how to use them.
If your home’s smoke alarms depend on power from your home’s electrical system (hardwired), make sure the backup battery is replaced at least once a year, so your alarms will work during a power outage.
Depending on where you live expect frigid temperatures, so it is important to maintain your homes heating systems and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
If you are renting your home, check with your landlord or property manager to ensure that they have taken care of these necessary building improvements or find out your responsibilities with respect to home maintenance.
Are there supplies one should keep in stock at home in case of inclement weather?
McKinney-It is very important to build an emergency supply kit before inclement weather. These supplies could be critical for weathering frigid winter storms.
Ready.gov recommends the following items be included in an emergency supply kit:
-Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation.
-Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food.
-Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both Flashlight and extra batteries.
-First aid kit Whistle to signal for help.
-Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place.
-Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation.
-Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.
-Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food).
To assemble your kit, store items in airtight plastic bags and put your entire disaster supply kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers such as plastic bins or a duffel bag.
Additional emergency supply kit items to consider include:
-Prescription medications and glasses.
-Infant formula and diapers.
-Pet food and extra water for your pet.
-Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container.
-Cash or traveler’s checks and change.
-Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or information.
-Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
-Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.
-Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted nine parts water to one-part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
-Fire Extinguisher Matches in a waterproof container.
-Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items.
-Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels.
-Paper and pencil Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children
What should one do if their home is impacted by winter weather (i.e. downed power lines, trees, limbs, and ice)?
McKinney-Limit your time outside during extreme cold. If you need to go outside, wear layers of warm clothing and watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Only use generators and grills outdoors and away from windows. Never heat your home with a gas stovetop or oven.
When you are working outside in the cold it is important to reduce the risk of a heart attack. Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow.
Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia and seek medical treatment right away should you or a family member be impacted.
Don’t forget to check on your neighbors. Older adults and young children are more at risk in instances of extreme cold.
Make a phone list of local city numbers to call should you require of emergency services.
What should MSC teammates do to prepare their vehicles for fall and winter?
McKinney-During the fall, before winter weather sets in, make sure you or a mechanic completes a winter weather check on your vehicle by ensuring that the following car components are working safely and properly:
-Battery and ignition system
-Exhaust system (carbon monoxide is odorless and can be fatal)
-Fuel and air filters
-Heater and defroster
-Lights and flashing hazard lights
-Windshield wiper equipment
-Good winter tires
Do you have any advice for people who will be driving in winter weather?
McKinney-If you need to drive in snow or icy conditions, it is important to accelerate and decelerate your vehicle slowly. Applying the accelerator slowly to move forward is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry. And take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember, it takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning, nothing happens as quickly driving on snow and ice as on dry pavement. Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly. The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
Know how your car’s brakes will respond when used. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
Don’t stop when driving in winter weather if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
Don’t accelerate unduly up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads causes you to lose traction and leaves your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed down the other side of the hill as slowly as possible.
Don’t stop going up a snow covered hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to regain movement up a hill on an icy road. Try and gain some inertia on flat road before you take on the hill.
The best advice driving in snow and ice is not to. Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can. Don’t tempt fate: If you don’t have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.
Are there any precautions MSC teammates should take when coming to work after winter weather (i.e. icy sidewalks and stairs)?
McKinney-Walking to and from parking lots or between buildings at work during the winter requires special attention to avoid slipping and falling. Slips and falls are some of the most frequent types of injuries that occur during the winter months. The base clears the parking lots and our Facility team clears the walkways and the stairs.
Please remember, the path you normally take on a sunny day might not be the same one that has been cleared for your safety. Take your time walking up to your office.
It is important to choose proper clothing during bad weather. Avoid boots or shoes with smooth soles and heels, such as plastic and leather soles. Instead, wear shoes or boots that provide traction on snow and ice; boots made of non-slip rubber or neoprene with grooved soles are best. Wear a heavy, bulky coat which will keep you warm and will help to cushion you if you should fall.
Wear a bright scarf or hat or reflective gear so drivers can see you. Keep warm, but make sure your winter clothes don’t obstruct your hearing or sight. It is important to be able to hear and see what is going on around you during a winter storm. During the day, wear sunglasses to help you see better and avoid hazards.
Walking over snow or ice can be very hazardous. During snow and icy conditions, walk with caution and assume that all wet, dark areas on pavements are slippery and icy. Dew or water vapor can freeze on cold surfaces, forming an extra-thin, nearly invisible layer of ice that can look like a wet spot on the pavement.
Walk in designated walkways as much as possible. Taking shortcuts over snow piles and other frozen areas can be hazardous. Look ahead when you walk; a snow, or ice-covered sidewalk or driveway, especially if on a hill, may require travel along its grassy edge for traction.
Taking shortcuts through areas where snow and ice removal is not feasible can be hazardous and should be avoided.
When you have to walk over snow or ice, bend your body slightly. Walk flat-footed with your center of gravity directly over the feet as much as possible. Extend your arms out to your sides to maintain balance. Beware if you are carrying a heavy backpack or other load as your sense of balance will be hindered. If you must carry items, try not to carry too much. Leave your hands and arms free to balance yourself.
Also, keep your hands out of your pockets. Hands out of your pockets while walking lowers your center of gravity and increases the chance of losing your balance. You can help break your fall with your hands free if you do start to slip.
Watch where you are stepping and GO S-L-O-W-L-Y!!! This will help your reaction time to changes in traction. When walking on steps always use the hand railings and plant your feet firmly on each step.
Use special care when entering and exiting vehicles; use the vehicle for support.
Take short steps or shuffle for stability. It also helps to stop occasionally to break momentum.
Finally, it is important to remember, no matter how well the snow and ice has been removed from parking lots and sidewalks, pedestrians will still encounter some slippery surfaces when walking outdoors in the winter.
Where should MSC teammates turn to gather information about a pending or occurring winter weather incident?
McKinney-Your base will begin disseminating important information prior to inclement weather. Pay attention to AtHoc IWSAlerts notices.
The Navy Family Accountability and Assessment System (NFAAS) standardizes a method for the Navy to account, assess, manage, and monitor the recovery process for personnel and their families affected and/or scattered by a wide-spread catastrophic event. Make sure your family’s information is verified and be ready to muster via NFAAS remotely if required.
Pay attention to local news and authorities for information about regional hazards, school and work closures and travel delays.
For more information about preparing for winter weather go to https://www.ready.gov/winter-weather or https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1529447351958-f0c1c070e38b5d1d65e6271b9fbed189/WinterStorm_InfoSheet_061418.pdf
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17 October 2018
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