Weather

Staying prepared for disasters can save your life

By Rick Romancito
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 12/28/18

Taos has certainly had its share of dangerous winter weather. In February 2011, 30,000 homes across the state were suddenly without natural gas after a West Texas utility shut it down fearing …

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Weather

Staying prepared for disasters can save your life

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Taos has certainly had its share of dangerous winter weather. In February 2011, about 30,000 homes across the state were suddenly without natural gas after a West Texas utility shut down distribution pipes fearing electrical blackouts due to record low temperatures. As a result, Taos was plunged into a serious state of emergency. 

The snowstorm affecting us this weekend is perhaps not as serious, but some of the lessons learned back in 2011 might be good to remember today.

According to news reports, weather-related auto accidents are already on the rise. But, additional hazards increase as the length of time wears on. Winter storms can create a higher risk of 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. 

According to ready.gov, “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.” 

If a winter storm warning is issued, find shelter as soon as possible, stay off roads, get indoors and dress warmly, prepare for power outages, use generators outside only and away from windows, listen for emergency information and alerts, look for signs of hypothermia and frostbite, and check on your neighbors. 

The best way to survive a serious winter storm is to prepare ahead of time, especially if your community has a history of utility outages. 

“Prepare your home to keep out the cold with insulation, caulking, and weather stripping,” ready.gov states. “Learn how to keep pipes from freezing. Install and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups. Pay attention to weather reports and warnings of freezing weather and winter storms." The Emergency Alert System and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts. 

Prepare a waterproof bag with necessary supplies, such as flashlights, batteries, gloves, a transistor radio, containers for water, warm clothes, blankets and non-perishable foods. Keep the car’s gas tank full. Keep your phone charged. Keep a phone charger in your vehicle. If you feel you need to have a firearm, make sure it is safe, secure and accessible only to trained adults. 

Limit your time outside. If you need to go outside, then wear layers of warm clothing. 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. 

Reduce the risk of a heart attack. Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow. Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia and begin treatment right away. Older adults and young children are more at risk in extreme cold. Frostbite causes loss of feeling and color around the face, fingers, and toes. Watch for numbness, white or grayish-yellow skin, firm or waxy skin. If recognized, go to a warm room, soak in warm water, use body heat to warm, do not massage or use a heating pad. Hypothermia is an unusually low body temperature. A temperature below 95 degrees is an emergency. 

When you hear there is an emergency, be careful to check where the information is coming from. Today, many people resort to social media to maintain connections and for updates on emergency situations.

This can be beneficial, but it also has its drawbacks especially when individuals begin using it to spread false information or rumors. Pay attention to the source and do your own research.Don’t automatically believe everything to see or hear.

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