Do you live in an area where cold weather, storms, or power grid outages are common in the winter? If so, staying safe and healthy during this time of year can be even more challenging than usual.
Even if you live in a warmer climate, it’s still important to be prepared for emergencies that can impact your home and health. No matter what stressors you may be facing this winter, you can survive and thrive by preparing for emergencies ahead of time.
There are many precautions you can take right now to protect yourself in case of dangerous storms, power outages, indoor heating issues, or other weather-related concerns. Whether you have or are impacted by PF, read on to learn how you can be ready for anything that comes your way.
Preparing for a Storm
- Sign up for emergency weather alerts at https://www.ready.gov/alerts.
- Create an emergency to-go kit which includes a copy of your health records, a 3-day supply of all medications, clean and drinkable water, and any additional essentials.
- If you rely on medical equipment that requires electricity (such as a CPAP machine, an oxygen concentrator, or a nebulizer), contact your utility company to let them know. They can keep this information in their records and prioritize your household in the event of city-wide power outages.
- Make an emergency action plan so friends, family, and neighbors know how to help you in case of emergency. That way, you’ll also know who to reach out to and how to get help. If you use medical devices that require electricity, the FDA created a template for you to print and fill out from home here. Once you begin filling out the plan, it will guide you through all the steps you can take to set up a communication strategy for storms, power outages, or even natural disasters.
Staying Safe During a Storm
- Water pipes in your home can freeze and rupture if the temperatures get too cold. When it’s literally freezing outside, leave all your water taps slightly on so water is dripping slowly but continually. To help the pipes stay as warm as possible, open cabinet drawers so any heated air from the room can reach the pipes.
- Dress for warmth even if you’re indoors. The CDC suggests wearing fabrics that can help hold in body heat without creating excessive sweating, such as wool, polypropylene, and silk.
- The EPA warns: If you have a generator, make sure it is placed outside and away from windows, doors, and vents. Do not use it inside your house, garage, attic, etc. The exhaust from generators is toxic. Carbon monoxide can build up quickly and stick around for hours. Similarly, if you have a gas-burning heater or appliance, make sure it’s in a well-ventilated room, and away from where you sleep.
Recovering After a Storm
- No matter how messy the storm was, be cautious not to physically overexert yourself. The cold weather is a challenge for your lungs and heart already, so try to stay as calm as possible and wait until help is on the way.
- Check your house or apartment for wet walls and carpet. In the event that pipes burst in your home during the storm or freeze, it will be important to call professionals ASAP to properly clean up. Addressing the issue as soon as possible helps to prevent mold from growing. If there is mold in your space, it can worsen PF symptoms or cause new respiratory concerns.
- Build your resilience skills with meditations for the winter, and don’t hesitate to seek personal and professional support if you’re struggling with mental health. Remember you are not alone and we are here to support you too!