North Texans learned in 2021 that wicked winter weather can be dangerous and deadly. But there are ways to be prepared for whatever might happen. FOX 4 has assembled these winter weather tips 4 Your Safety, so you are ready.
PREPARE YOUR HOME
Weatherproof your home:
Insulate any water lines that run along exterior walls so your water supply will be less likely to freeze.
Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows.
Insulate walls and attic.
Install storm or thermal-pane windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside.
Repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on your home or other structure during a storm.
Have your chimney or flue inspected each year:
If you plan to use a fireplace or wood stove for emergency heating, have your chimney or flue inspected each year. Ask your local fire department to recommend an inspector or find one online.
Install a smoke detector and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector:
If you’ll be using a fireplace, wood stove, or kerosene heater, install a smoke detector and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector near the area to be heated. Test them monthly and replace batteries twice a year.
Keep a multipurpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher nearby.
All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside.
Each winter season have your furnace system and vent checked by a qualified technician to ensure they are functioning properly.
For older adults, keep an easy-to-read thermometer inside your home:
If you or a loved one are over 65 years old, place an easy-to-read thermometer in an indoor location where you will see it frequently. Our ability to feel a change in temperature decreases with age. Older adults are more susceptible to health problems caused by cold. Check the temperature of your home often during the winter months.
PREPARE YOUR CAR
Create an emergency car kit:
It is best to avoid traveling, but if travel is necessary, have the following:
- Cell phone, portable charger, and extra batteries
- Items to stay warm such as extra hats, coats, mittens, and blankets
- Windshield scraper
- Battery-powered radio with extra batteries
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Water and snack food
- First aid kit with any necessary medications and a pocket knife
- Tow chains or rope
- Tire chains
- Canned compressed air with sealant for emergency tire repair
- Cat litter or sand to help tires get traction, or road salt to melt ice
- Booster cables with fully charged battery or jumper cables
- Hazard or other reflectors
- Bright colored flag or help signs, emergency distress flag, and/or emergency flares
- Road maps
- Waterproof matches and a can to melt snow for water
PORTABLE GENERATOR SAFETY
- Be sure to use your generator correctly. Using a generator incorrectly can lead to dangerous situations: Carbon monoxide poisoning from engine exhaust. Even if you can’t smell exhaust fumes, you may still have been exposed to carbon monoxide. If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get fresh air right away. If you experience serious symptoms, get medical attention immediately. Consider installing battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions and take proper precautions. Electric shock or electrocution. Fire.
- Carbon monoxide poisoning from engine exhaust. Even if you can’t smell exhaust fumes, you may still have been exposed to carbon monoxide. If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get fresh air right away. If you experience serious symptoms, get medical attention immediately. Consider installing battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions and take proper precautions.
- Electric shock or electrocution.
Use a portable generator only when necessary, and only to power essential equipment.
- Position generators outdoors and well away from any structure. Running a generator inside any enclosed or partially enclosed structure can lead to dangerous and often fatal levels of carbon monoxide. Keep generators positioned outside and at least 15 feet away from open windows so exhaust does not enter your home/business or a neighboring home/business.
- Keep the generator dry. Operate your generator on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure and make sure your hands are dry before touching the generator. Do not use the generator in rainy or wet conditions.
- Disconnect the power coming into your home/business. Before you operate your generator, disconnect your normal source of power. Otherwise, power from your generator could be sent back into the utility company lines, creating a hazardous situation for utility workers.
- Make sure your generator is properly grounded. Grounding generators can help prevent shocks and electrocutions. Refer to OSHA guidelines for grounding requirements for portable generators.
- Plug equipment directly into the generator. Use heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cords that are in good working condition and have a wire gauge that can handle the electric load of any connected appliances.
- DO NOT plug the generator into a wall outlet. NEVER try to power your house/business by plugging the generator into a wall outlet or the main electrical panel. Only a licensed electrician should connect a generator to a main electrical panel by installing the proper equipment according to local electrical codes. Make sure the electrician installs an approved automatic transfer switch so you can disconnect your home’s wiring from the utility system before you use the generator.
- Maintain an adequate supply of fuel. Know your generator’s rate of fuel consumption at various power output levels. Carefully consider how much fuel you can safely store and for how long. Gasoline and diesel fuel stored for long periods may need added chemicals to keep them safe to use. Check with your supplier for recommendations. Store all fuels in specifically designed containers in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place, away from all potential heat sources.
- Turn the generator off and let it cool before refueling. Use the type of fuel recommended in the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Inspect and maintain your generator regularly. Check aboveground storage tanks, pipes, and valves regularly for cracks and leaks, and replace damaged materials immediately. Tanks may require a permit or have to meet other regulatory requirements. Purchase a maintenance contract and schedule at least one maintenance service per year, such as at the beginning of every hurricane season. Keep fresh fuel in the tank, and run the generator periodically to ensure it will be ready when you need it.
PREPARE YOUR POOL:
- Properly winterize your pool equipment and piping, then cover the pool.
- Keep your pump running as you normally would to keep the pool water from freezing.
- Use a winter cover or safety cover for your pool
- Above ground pools are can be more susceptible to winter damage and require extra care and attention: Lower the water level to below the skimmer opening and plug returns in the pool. Install the skimmer faceplate cover. Clear pipes and equipment of water and insulate them. Remove and store your pump. Install the air pillow and then the pool cover Store your pump, hoses, and other in-line equipment that can be removed.
- Lower the water level to below the skimmer opening and plug returns in the pool. Install the skimmer faceplate cover.
- Clear pipes and equipment of water and insulate them. Remove and store your pump.
- Install the air pillow and then the pool cover
- Store your pump, hoses, and other in-line equipment that can be removed.
MORE WINTER WEATHER STORIES:
Severe weather tips
The spring months are the most common months for tornadoes in DFW, but tornadoes have been observed year-round in the Metroplex. When severe weather approaches, never let your guard down just because it’s not ‘that time of the year.’ The FOX 4 Meteorologists have assembled these severe weather tips 4 Your Safety so you can always be prepared.
TORNADOES: WHAT TO DO...
In a house with a basement: Avoid windows. Get in the basement and under some kind of sturdy protection (heavy table or work bench), or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag. Know where very heavy objects rest on the floor above (pianos, refrigerators, waterbeds, etc.) and do not go under them. They may fall down through a weakened floor and crush you. Head protection, such as a helmet, can offer some protection also.
In a house with no basement, a dorm, or an apartment: Avoid windows. Go to the lowest floor, small center room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down; and cover your head with your hands. A bath tub may offer a shell of partial protection. Even in an interior room, you should cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (mattress, blankets, etc.), to protect against falling debris in case the roof and ceiling fail. A helmet can offer some protection against head injury.
In an office building, hospital, nursing home or skyscraper: Go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building -- away from glass and on the lowest floor possible. Then, crouch down and cover your head. Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter, and if not crowded, allow you to get to a lower level quickly. Stay off the elevators; you could be trapped in them if the power is lost.
In a mobile home: Get out! Even if your home is tied down, it is not as safe as an underground shelter or permanent, sturdy building. Go to one of those shelters, or to a nearby permanent structure, using your tornado evacuation plan. Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes; and it is best not to play the low odds that yours will make it. This mobile-home safety video from the State of Missouri may be useful in developing your plan.
At school: Follow the drill! Go to the interior hall or room in an orderly way as you are told. Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.
In a car or truck: Vehicles are extremely risky in a tornado. There is no safe option when caught in a tornado in a car, just slightly less-dangerous ones. If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive out of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. Seek shelter in a sturdy building, or underground if possible. If you are caught by extreme winds or flying debris, park the car as quickly and safely as possible -- out of the traffic lanes. Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows; cover your head with your hands and a blanket, coat, or other cushion if possible. If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, leave your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges, which can create deadly traffic hazards while offering little protection against flying debris.
In the open outdoors: If possible, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If not, lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can; they may be blown onto you in a tornado.
In a shopping mall or large store: Do not panic. Watch for others. Move as quickly as possible to an interior bathroom, storage room or other small enclosed area, away from windows.
In a church or theater: Do not panic. If possible, move quickly but orderly to an interior bathroom or hallway, away from windows. Crouch face-down and protect your head with your arms. If there is no time to do that, get under the seats or pews, protecting your head with your arms or hands.
Your smartphone is one of your best weapons in your safety arsenal. The Federal Government now sends weather warning text alerts to your phone based on your location. While these will alert you to immediate weather dangers, using our free WAPP to track to storms one you’ve been alerted to danger is key. The National Weather Service also makes a great APP for weather-tracking, and another great app for radar buffs is made by RadarScope, though it’s not free.
One of the most common complaints from tornado victims is that they didn’t hear the tornado sirens go off. Siren warning systems are ONLY meant to warn folks in the outdoors and can be prone to power failure, coverage, and technical issues.
Before any severe weather happens, you need to be prepared. The time to act isn’t when severe weather is occurring. Here are the TEN most important things you need to have ready to go:
- Three days water/non-perishable food per person/pets (can opener/utensils/plates)
- NOAA weather radio …preferably with a hand crank option
- Extra batteries ….and USB chargers especially for cell phones
- First aid kit and extra prescription medications
- Clothing …including diapers for infants
- Cash or travelers checks
- Copies of IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS in a waterproof bag
- Sleeping bags
- Moist towelettes & garbage bags for personal hygiene
KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A WATCH & WARNING...
Watch: Conditions may favor severe weather developing in your area anywhere during a specified time, usually within an hour or several hours. That may include hail, wind, tornadoes, or flooding. It means that you should become aware that action may be needed and to review severe weather safety. It does NOT mean that any emergency is imminent.
Warning: Severe weather is occurring/or likely to occur in YOUR county. Lead time may be up to an hour, but very often is only a few minutes. You need to take immediate action to protect yourself and others around you.
If severe weather is imminent:
Severe Thunderstorm Warning means a storm with greater than 58 MPH winds or 1" HAIL is likely. Try to secure all possible flying objects, and if possible move your car to a covered location to avoid damage. Stay away from trees and windows. Turn off all electrical items that could be damaged.
Flood Warning means that flooding is occurring. Unplug electrical items if possible and move to higher ground (top floor of homes). Evacuate low lying areas.
Tornado Warning means a tornado has either been indicated by radar or has actually been sighted. Lead time is often only a few minutes. Follow tornado safety guidelines.