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Winter Storm Survival Tips

By Valarie Basheda
WebMD Health News

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Winter is here, and with it often come storms that can keep you trapped inside. Or even worse, you may lose power. Here are some tips to help you prepare ahead of time and keep you safe after, both indoors and out.

Before the Storm

Get together needed supplies ahead of time as much as possible, including:

  • Extra food, including foods that don’t need to be refrigerated.
  • Bottled water.
  • Flashlights and batteries and other battery powered items in case the power fails.
  • An ice melting product for slippery sidewalks.
  • A non-electric can opener.
  • Extra blankets and sleeping bags.

Get other tips from the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.

If the Power Goes Out

Foods

  • Refrigerated foods will stay cold for about 4 to 6 hours; keep doors closed to increase that time.
  • A full freezer stays at that temp for about 48 hours, a half full freezer about 24 hours.
  • Eat leftovers, meat, poultry and any foods with milk, cream, soft cheese or sour cream first. Discard them and other perishable foods after 4 hours without power.
  • Frozen foods that contain ice crystals may be cooked and eaten if power comes back.
  • These foods are generally keep safe at room temperature for a few days: butter, margarine, hard cheese, fresh fruit and most vegetables, fruit juice, dried fruit, opened jars of vinegar-based salad dressing, jelly, relishes, taco sauce, barbecue sauce, mustard, ketchup and olives. The USDA has an extensive list of what foods are safe to keep.
  • If it doubt, throw it out.

Medicines

If your medicine needs to be refrigerated, throw it out if the power has been out for a long period of time. The exception: if you can’t get new medication and you need it, continue to take it.

Heat

  • Close off unneeded rooms; stuff rags or towels under cracks in doors.
  • Ventilate a fireplace or wood stove properly if you use one.
  • Dress in loose layers that you can add to or take off as needed.
  • Only use a portable generator outdoors.

Preventing Frostbite

Try to avoid being outside. If you have to go out, follow these tips from the National Weather Service:

  • Dress as warmly as possible in lightweight layers. Wear a hat, cover your mouth, use mittens instead of gloves.
  • Recognize frostbite symptoms: a loss of feeling or a white or pale looking toes, fingers, ear lobes, or the tip of the nose.
  • Get medical help right away if you think you have frostbite.
  • Get to a warm area and remove wet clothing. If you can’t do that, use your body heat to warm the frostbitten area.
  • If you are shivering uncontrollably, slurring speech or having memory loss, you could have hypothermia. Get medical help ASAP.

 Shoveling Snow

The Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center offers these tips:

  • Don’t shovel if you have a history of heart disease or heart attack or stroke, or are not in good physical condition.
  • Take frequent breaks.
  • Don’t drink alcohol before or after.
  • Don’t eat a heavy meal before or after.

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