Winter is coming: practical tips to prepare for storms

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(WFRV) – Are you prepared if your house or apartment loses power during the winter? What if your car breaks down?

Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach created useful tips with Brown County Emergency Management (EM) Coordinator Sam Martin to educate the community on safety this winter.

In emergency situations, Streckenbach says seconds count. The longer you are safe, the easier it is for first responders to react quickly, giving you a better chance of surviving.

Bigger, bulkier jackets and warm knit hats can help ward off frostbite in cold winter weather. “Pay attention to the weather coming up,” explained Martin. “Pay close attention to the weather to know in advance what is coming. When you see those weather warnings coming, it’s time to hit the store and start stocking up. Martin adds that community members should also check in on their neighbors and how they are doing, especially older people.

It is not uncommon for residents to lose power for a few hours in Brown County. In extreme situations, Martin explains, the power can go out for days or even weeks due to ice storms, technical difficulties or other natural causes.

One of the first and foremost things that people lack in these situations is their heating system. “Some things we want to make sure people do is make sure you have enough things to keep warm in your home. Blankets, sleeping bags, things like that, as well as heavy-duty clothes that you have inside your house so you don’t have to go outside to get them,” Martin said.

What NOT to use

Martin points out that people should not use electric charcoal, pellet or propane grills inside the house or garage. These grills are not designed to burn inside an enclosed building and carbon monoxide can build up quite quickly. Martin says a lot of people in the country are dying because they think everything will be fine.

Ovens and stoves are also not suitable places to find warmth. “These items are not designed for long-term use to heat large areas and may overheat and cause a fire,” Martin explained.

Generators are useful, but Martin says, again, don’t have them inside your house or garage when they’re running. “If you’re going to use them to, for example, charge a freezer or cell phones, that’s great. We recommend that you do not plug it into your home system without a qualified electrician making this connection due to the possibility of feeding this current back into the system.

Items for long-lasting power outages in the house or apartment

The following items can help people prepare for long power outages:

  • Bottled water and non-perishable foods that do not require cooking. Martin recommends one gallon of water per person per day. Plus extra water for pets.
  • Flashlights and extra batteries.
  • Battery operated NOAA Water Radio and a commercial radio.
  • First aid supplies.
  • Additional medications and baby items.
  • Food/shelter for animals.
  • Blankets and sleeping bags.
  • Power banks for charging mobile phones.
  • If you have an emergency heating source such as a fireplace or heater, make sure you have adequate ventilation.

Emergency kit for your car

Wisconsin Emergency Management has identified a number of things to have in the trunk of your car in case of failure :

  • Mobile phone car charger.
  • Drinking water and snacks.
  • Scotch tape.
  • First aid kit with penknife.
  • Windshield shovel and scraper.
  • Matches.
  • Blankets, extra hats, socks and mittens.
  • Jumper cables and tow chain/rope.
  • Sand or kitty litter.
  • Emergency flares.
  • Flash light.
  • Fluorescent distress flag.

Item number one to have in your trunk?

Martin says he thinks the most important item to have in your car in the event of a breakdown is a blanket or sleeping bag. “If you can stay warm, almost everything else will sort itself out eventually. You may be in [your car] for a bit longer – if your cell phone breaks down and you can’t call for help – obviously it’s important to have a way to charge it, but if you can’t stay hot, this cell phone is worthless. The thicker the blanket, the better.

CODE RED

Community members can also register with CODERED, where they will receive official information from the Office of Emergency Management about ongoing emergency events, as well as information from the weather service. People can register via this link or text “BrownCountyWI” to 99411.

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