| Dec 18, 2008

Dec 18/08 - Storm Preparedness

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Feature Article - December 11, 2008 Winter Storms – are you prepared?The Canadian Red Cross advises Winter has finally arrived in many parts of Ontario and the Red Cross is encouraging people to give some thought to their level of preparedness. When winter storms strike, covering communities in snow or ice, they can virtually paralyze a city. Being prepared for unexpected or extreme winter weather can reduce the risk of serious problems and discomfort.

“The Red Cross encourages Canadians to take some important steps to ensure the safety and comfort of their family when emergency strikes,” said Deborah Spaar-Mueller, Co-ordinator, Disaster Management. “As the leading humanitarian response agency in times of disaster in Canada, the Red Cross knows that the best approach is to plan for the worst and hope you never need to use that plan.”

Have a plan: Whether it's an ice storm or blizzard, your family should have a planned meeting location in the event you cannot reach home. Discuss your plans as a family and identify friends or family you could connect with in case of trouble. Make sure everyone knows the plan and telephone numbers to use. If you must evacuate, leave a note showing your route and destination in your home. Take along a copy of any important documents (e.g., insurance policy) with you. Post emergency numbers in your home. Learn where the main switches for the water, gas and electricity are and how to turn them on/off.

Get supplies ready: Severe storms may leave people shivering in the cold without proper heat or lighting. An emergency kit should include the following: flashlight and batteries, radio and batteries, first aid kit, extra car keys and cash, canned food and bottled water, a manual can opener, change of clothing and shoes, blankets or sleeping bags, toilet paper and personal supplies. Also remember medication, and to replace canned food once a year.

Prepare your car in case you get stuck in bad weather: You might get stranded in your car for a while so make sure you have these items on hand: ice scraper and brush, shovel, sand, blankets, a candle in a deep can, waterproof matches, tow chain, warning light or flares, flashlight, hat and warm clothes, food bars, booster cables, first aid kit, road maps, methyl hydrate to de-ice the fuel line and a fire extinguisher.

When trouble hits, think before you act: If the heat goes out, think about your alternative heat sources and their risks. Using the fireplace and camp heater may work, but using a barbecue can put you at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and fire. “During severe winter storms, serious harm can be caused by improper use of alternative heat sources…Homes can be destroyed or damaged by fire resulting from overheated fireplaces while the improper use of generators can cause electrocution and they must never be run in a garage or porch -- carbon monoxide poisoning will be the result.” Have safe alternative heating and lighting arrangements. Be aware of your hygiene and sanitary needs and plan ahead in case a power blackout lasts more than a few hours. Know the signs of hypothermia; it is a potential killer.

For more information about disaster preparedness, visit www.redcross.ca or call the Kingston and District branch, Deborah Spaar-Mueller, Coordinator, Disaster Management at 613-548-4929, Ext. 22.

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