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Virginians urged to prepare for winter

With mostly mild winter throughout November, it’s easy to forget winter, and perhaps severe weather, could be around the corner.

And while snow storms and blizzards can usually be kept to the more mountainous regions of the Commonwealth, ice storms are well-known in the Tidewater region, and such storms can do just as much damage to power lines, water pipes and the roadways as do snow storms.

December 4-10 is Winter Preparedness Week in Virginia and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management urges Virginians to get ready before winter completely arrives.

&uot;If a major winter storm were to hit your area, you might need to stay in your home without utilities for several days,&uot; said Michael Cline, state coordinator for VDEM.

&uot;It’s vital that you have the food, water, medicine and emergency supplies that everyone in your home would need during that time.

It’s also important that everyone knows how to be safe outside and drive safely on the roads during winter weather.&uot;

The following are important things to know, according to VDEM.

More information can be found at www.vaemergency.com.

At Home

Have at least a three-day supply of food that won’t spoil and three gallons of water per person, a battery-powered radio, a flashlight, extra batteries and a first aid kit.

If anyone needs prescription or over-the-counter medicines, have an extra supply.

Plan for those with special needs that might need to stay without utilities after a storm.

Those with special needs include the elderly, the disabled and the medically frail

Cold Temperatures

Pay attention to the wind chill temperature. For example, if the temperature is zero and the wind is blowing at 15 mph, the wind chill is 19 below zero. At this wind chill temperature, exposed skin can freeze in 30 minutes.

Wear loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing in several layers. Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellent and hooded.

Wear a hat, as half of your body heat is lost through the top of your head. And, mittens that are snug at the wrists are better than gloves.

Don’t stay outside for extended periods in the cold.

Shoveling snow

Shoveling snow is surprisingly hard on your body. Research has shown the energy used to shovel snow is similar to playing singles tennis or speed walking at 5 mph.

If there is any reason that shoveling snow might be dangerous, such as a heart condition, consult a doctor before picking up a shovel.

Road safety

Tell someone at home before taking a trip.

Before leaving town, fill the gas tank. While traveling, frequently refill the gas tank.

Have a winter survival kit including items such as a cell phone, blankets or sleeping bags, water, high-calorie foods that don’t require refrigeration or cooking, a flashlight with extra batteries, and a first aid kit.

During a breakdown, pull as far off the road as possible. The greatest personal danger at this point is being hit by passing cars.

Stay in the car if visibility is poor. It’s possible to become disoriented and lost while wandering in a snowstorm, making it more difficult for rescuers.

Keeping warm

Make sure walls and attics are properly insulated. Caulk and weather-strip doors and windowsills to keep cold air out. Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside. Protect pipes from freezing by wrapping them in insulation and letting faucets drip a little.

Fireplace and wood stove chimneys should be inspected annually.

Burning wood leaves a flammable residue inside the chimney, which needs to be cleaned by a professional.

Consider buying emergency heating equipment, such as a wood- or coal-burning stove or a kerosene heater.

Having a backup heating source is important during a power outage.

Kerosene and propane heaters should be kept at least three feet away from any combustible substance.

like furniture, blankets and rugs.

They should be set on an uncarpeted floor and supervised at all times. Never substitute one type of fuel for another.

Wait for a heater to cool before refueling it.

Kerosene can cause a fire if it comes into contact with a hot surface.

Generators should always be operated outdoors.

Do not operate generators in any space that is even partially enclosed like a garage, crawl space or basement.

Open windows and fans do not provide enough ventilation to prevent the build-up of carbon monoxide gas.

Crisis Heating Assistance

The Virginia Department of Social Services is also providing help for those with heating emergencies through its Energy Assistance Program. The Energy Assistance Program is available to help households in heating emergency situations with primary heat security deposits, utility heating bills, repair/replacement of heating equipment, primary heating fuel or emergency shelter.

Those wishing to request assistance can see if they qualify for the program by visiting www.dss.virginia.gov/benefit/ea/index.html or calling the DSS Information and Referral Line at 800-230-6977.

andrew.giermak@suffolknewsherald.com