After last year’s horrendous weather, the last thing many of us want to think about is snow. But winter is officially upon us now and think about it we must. Essex County itself, as recorded in Cedar Grove, saw 71” of snowfall during the 2013-2014 season.
Last winter ranked 7th for the highest snowfall totals in New Jersey of the last 120 years with an average 54.3” of snow across the state. Specifically in the northern region (Sussex, Warren, Morris, Passaic, Bergen, Hudson and Essex Counties), we saw 57.3” that landed us at the number 14 spot for the same time period. This accumulation was more than 20” more than the long-term average according to NJ Weather & Climate Network.
Even in a milder winter, preparedness is essential. Before the forecast turns ugly, there are some things you can do to get your home and family ready.
- Now is the time to make sure your snow shovels are accessible and your other removal equipment is in working order.
- Gather provisions. Keep bottled water and non-perishable food items on hand. You’ll want to have items that do not require cooking or refrigeration such as dried fruits, cereals and granola bars. In addition, keep a reasonable supply of baby needs (diapers, wipes, formula) and pet supplies (food, medications) on hand if you have little ones and pets in your home.
- Keep medications up to date and at the ready. Check the first aid kit and replenish any items you may have used throughout the year. Refill prescriptions timely so you don’t risk running out.
- Keep flashlights, a battery-operated radio and extra batteries in easy reach if the power goes out.
- If you have alternative heat sources such as a fireplace, wood stove or space heater, be sure they are used appropriately and safely. Proper ventilation is essential to minimize fire hazard and carbon monoxide poisoning. Test your smoke and CO2 detectors and replace batteries as necessary. Keep fire extinguishers on hand and be sure all family members know how to use them.
- Check your car (or have a professional do it) to be sure it’s functioning properly and fluid levels are adequate. Keep windshield wiper fluid full and replace your wiper blades if they are worn. Tires should have adequate tread. Keep an emergency kit inside your car in case you are stuck out on the road. Include an ice scraper, small shovel, flashlight, radio, extra batteries, food and water, blankets, a first aid kit and emergency flares accessible.
- Create a Family Emergency Kit. Communicate with family members about how to escape the house in an emergency and where to meet in case you are separated. Consider making “go-bags” for each family member which include water, food, essential medications, glasses, cash, car and/or house keys, extra clothes, and copies of essential paperwork (driver’s license, insurance card, birth certificate), toothbrush/toothpaste, and other essential personal care items.
- Learn how to turn off the water supply to your house in case a pipe bursts.
- Keep essential phone numbers (such as to the power company) written down in a handy place. If you lose power and internet access, you won’t be able to go online to find the information you’re looking for.
- Keep phones and other devices charged. Set your refrigerator thermostat lower than normal so that if you do lose power, it will stay colder longer.
- Once a storm does hit, safety is still a priority. Stay indoors and, if you must venture out, use extreme caution. Avoid overexertion when removing snow, keep dry and watch for signs of frostbite. Dress appropriately and in layers and cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs. If you lose power, keep your refrigerator closed to maintain the temperature inside. Do not use a gas oven to warm your house and do not run generators, snow blowers or cars in enclosed areas (such as an attached garage) as these can all lead to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.
Winter can be a dangerous time but preparing ahead can help keep your entire family safe. Knowing what to do and avoiding panic are essential in any emergency situation. For more information on how to prepare for winter weather, visit www.ready.gov/winter-weather.