Winter weather survival tips from FEMA

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Special care should be taken in extremely cold weather. Special care should be taken in extremely cold weather. We have already seen a few winter storms this year here in South Jersey, but it’s not too late (or too soon!) to prepare for the next one – or to reassess your preparedness plan and update your emergency kit, if need be. There is still plenty of winter ahead, and judging from the forecasts, more arctic weather is headed our way.

FEMA, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency, offers tips to help citizens become better prepared for emergencies from biological threats to wildfires. Watch FEMA’s Preparing for Winter Weather video below.

The thing about disasters is that they can strike with little or no warning. Often, by the time people realize they are in trouble, it’s too late to do much about it.

General tips for winter storms

Winter storms that bring severe cold are particularly dangerous. If a big storm is coming,
FEMA recommends topping off the car gas tank, filling any prescriptions that might be needed in the next few weeks, and taking some extra cash out of the bank. It is also important to charge all mobile devices and to keep the chargers handy.

Stay inside. Sidewalks can be slippery, and you want to avoid injuring yourself at all costs.

If you must go outside to shovel snow, wear a hat to help prevent the loss of body heat. Wear mittens – they are warmer than gloves – and cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs from the cold air. Put on dry clothes as soon as you come inside.

If you can’t feel your fingers, toes, ears or nose, or they appear pale white, tell seek medical attention. Likewise if you can’t stop shivering or if you have trouble remembering things, feel tired or talk funny. You may have hypothermia, which can be very dangerous. Hypothermia is a sickness that may occur when your body temperature drops below what is needed to be healthy and work properly. It is the opposite of heat stroke.

Frostbite is a medical condition that can occur when skin or body tissue is damaged from freezing. It’s most common in parts of the body farthest from the heart that are exposed, such as fingers, toes, ears and nose.

Have you thought about the supplies you would need the most if you found yourself in the midst of a disaster?

By the time disaster strikes, it’s likely that those supplies will be the hardest to come by, according to FEMA. So it’s best to gather them well in advance and to have them ready to go in the event of any emergency.

Emergency officials advise everyone to prepare an emergency kit for their home. Parents are advised to enlist their children to help plan for an emergency and gather supplies; doing so can help bring them a sense of relief and empowerment, officials said.

When it comes to packing an emergency kit, the magic number is three: Make sure you have enough supplies to last at least three days, considering where you live and any special needs family members might have, such as diets or allergies.

Food and water

Having an ample supply of clean water is a top priority in an emergency. A normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts of water each day.You will also need water for food preparation and hygiene; figure at least one gallon per person, per day. Consider storing at least a two-week supply of water for each member of the family if you have the space.

Try to include foods that are high in calories and nutrition. Foods that require no refrigeration, water, special preparation or cooking are best. Make sure you have a manual can opener, disposable utensils and foods for pets.

Keep food in a spot that is dry, cool and dark if possible. Wrap any perishable foods, such as cookies and crackers, in plastic bags and keep them in sealed containers.

Empty open packages of sugar, dried fruit and nuts into screw-top jars or airtight canisters to protect them from pests.

FEMA suggests keeping a large emergency kit at home and a smaller portable kit in the car or at your workplace.

Once you have an emergency kit, it is important to maintain it. Review the contents periodically, checking for freshness and expiration dates, and discard and replace items as necessary.

In the winter, blankets and warm clothes should be added to disaster emergency kits.  

For an emergency supplies checklist see

Prepare for power outages

If the electricity goes off, first use perishable food from the refrigerator, pantry, garden, etc. Then use the food from the freezer. To limit the number of times you open the freezer, it might help to list the contents on the door and cross them off as they are used.

In a well-filled, well-insulated freezer, food will usually still have ice crystals in the center (meaning foods are safe to eat) for at least two days, according to FEMA.

Only after the refrigerated and frozen food is used should you begin to use the nonperishable foods and staples, officials said.

Have a communication plan

Make a family communications plan and share it with all family members. FEMA offers downloadable forms to make the task easier. See family communication plan for adults at

For more details about water and food storage, a complete list of recommended emergency supplies, and other information about disaster survival see

For the latest weather news see Gusty winds, cold air expected this afternoon and

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