Montgomery County’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Offers Tips to Prepare for the Winter Storm Season

With winter weather, there are several factors that residents should be aware of and prepare for, such as: slippery road/sidewalks, cold temperatures, heavy snow and ice, frostbite, hypothermia, wind chill and power loss.

“During the winter months, it is important to be prepared and understand when you need to take action,” said County Executive Elrich. “I encourage everyone to sign up for Alert Montgomery to receive emergency updates and get the latest information.”

Know the terms:

  • Winter Weather Advisory: Cold, ice and snow are expected.
  • Winter Storm Watch: Severe winter weather is possible in the next 24-48 hours.
  • Winter Storm Warning: Severe winter weather conditions have begun or will begin soon.
  • Blizzard Warning: Sustained winds or frequent gusts to 35 miles per hour or greater and considerable amounts of falling or blowing snow (reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile) are expected for a period of three hours or longer.
  • Freezing Rain: Rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees and power lines.
  • Sleet: Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes moisture on roads to freeze and become slippery.
  • Wind Chill: The temperature it “feels like” when you are outside.

Make sure to stay in the know. Alert Montgomery is the County’s emergency notification system. Subscribers can register to receive real-time information on their mobile devices, landlines or Everbridge app. The upgraded app offers immediate and anonymous opt-in and the opportunity to see what is happening in other areas, among other features. In addition to weather emergencies, subscribers can opt to receive alerts about school closures, government closures, gas leaks, severe weather, traffic, park closures, public health and other public emergencies. Regardless of the alerts chosen, all account holders will receive tornado warnings and other critical emergency notifications. The free service is available to anyone who signs up on the Alert Montgomery website.

Before snowstorms and extreme cold:

  • Make sure your emergency kit is stocked.
  • Make sure you have an emergency kit in your car.
  • Fully winterize your vehicle: Have a mechanic check antifreeze, brakes, heater and defroster, tires and windshield wipers to ensure they are in good shape. Keep gas tank at least half full.
  • Make sure to have a cell phone with an emergency charging option (car, solar, hand crank, etc.) in case of a power failure.
  • People who depend on electricity to operate medical equipment should have alternate arrangements in place in case power is out for an extended period of time.
  • Plan to bring pets inside.
  • Have a working carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors.
  • Keep space heater safety in mind: Use electric space heaters with automatic shut-off switches and non-glowing elements. Keep all heat sources at least three feet away from furniture and drapes.
  • Keep fire extinguishers on hand and make sure everyone in the 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.

During snowstorms and extreme cold:

  • Stay indoors and only travel if necessary. If you must drive, travel during the day. Do not travel alone. Keep others informed of your schedule and route. Stay on main roads and avoid back road shortcuts.
  • Walk carefully on snowy or icy walkways.
  • Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow. Overexertion can bring on a heart attack—a major cause of death in the winter. Use caution, take breaks, push the snow instead of lifting it when possible and lift lighter loads.
  • Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat.
  • If you must go outside, wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
  • Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves.
  • Wear a hat and cover your mouth with a scarf to reduce heat loss.
  • Maintain ventilation if using kerosene heaters or a generator. Refill heaters outside and keep them at least three feet from flammable objects.

Visit the OEMHS website for more information.

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