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Tips for Preparing Your Home and Vehicles for Brutally Cold Weather

Cold Bundled Man
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The Evansville area is bracing for its second winter storm within a month this weekend. With heavy snow entering the Tri-State Saturday night, followed by bitterly cold temperatures we haven’t seen in nearly 20 years, it’s important to make sure you and your family are prepared to handle whatever Mother Nature dishes out.

Long periods of sub-freezing temperatures like what is forecast for our area can cause damage to your home including busted water and gas line pipes, as well as loss of electricity. Cold weather can also cause problems with your vehicles including frozen gasoline and battery trouble.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers the following tips for making sure your home is prepared to handle the elements. While at this time it’s too late to complete such suggestions as installing insulation in your attic and walls, there are other steps you can take to prepare before storm hits.

  • Have an emergency kit ready which includes non-perishable food, commercially bottled water, and other supplies such as Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert, along with extra batteries for both, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first aid kit, a whistle to signal for help, a dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place, moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation, a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities, a manual can opener for food, local maps, and a cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger.
  • Rock salt or more environmentally safe products to melt ice on walkways.
  • Sand to improve traction.
  • Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment.
  • Sufficient heating fuel. You may become isolated in your home and regular fuel sources may be cut off. Store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove (if applicable).
  • Adequate clothing and blankets to keep you warm.
  • Winterize your home to extend the life of your fuel supply by insulating walls and attics, caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows, and installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic.
  • Winterize your house, barn, shed or any other structure that may provide shelter for your family, neighbors, livestock or equipment. Clear rain gutters; repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on a house or other structure during a storm.
  • Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected every year.
  • Insulate pipes with insulation or newspapers and plastic and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing. Running water, even at a trickle, helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside and kept clear.
  • Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. House fires pose an additional risk, as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions.
  • Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts).
  • Insulate your home by installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic from the inside to keep cold air out.
  • Hire a contractor to check the structural ability of the roof to sustain unusually heavy weight from the accumulation of snow – or water, if drains on flat roofs do not work.

FEMA, as well as other agency’s strongly suggest you NOT use your stove top or oven as an additional heat source for your home as it is a fire hazard and can cause carbon monoxide buildup which can be deadly.

As for vehicles, the agency recommends the following:

  • Check Antifreeze levels
  • Battery and ignition system should be in top condition and battery terminals should be clean.
  • Check brakes for wear and fluid levels.
  • Check the exhaust system for leaks and crimped pipes. Repair or replace as necessary. Carbon monoxide is deadly and usually gives no warning.
  • Replace fuel and air filters, and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas.
  • Ensure the heater and defrost work properly.
  • Check for headlights and hazard lights for proper operation.
  • Check oil for level and weight. Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.
  • Make sure the thermostat works properly.
  • Replace worn windshield wipers and fill washer fluid to proper level.
  • Make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions.
For more tips and suggestions on how to be as prepared as possible for the incoming freeze, visit FEMA’s official website.

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