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Winter Weather Preparedness Tips

Columbia County EMA, along with the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency’s Ready Georgia campaign, is using December 3 -7 to encourage citizens to prepare for possible inclement weather emergencies this winter. 

Winter Weather Preparedness Week is a great time for Columbia County residents and businesses to prepare for all potential winter hazards. Since winter weather can be unpredictable, we’re providing this information on winter weather preparation to help residents plan properly.

Winter Weather Preparedness Week, from December 3-7, was created to raise awareness of winter weather hazards and reinforce understanding of winter weather terminology. Throughout the week, Columbia County EMA and GEMA/HS will provide information to assist Georgians in preparing for winter weather.

 
Winter Weather in Georgia

 

Now is the time to prep for possible snow, ice or freezing temps in the months ahead. Winter storms often bring dangerously low temperatures, strong winds, snow, ice, sleet and freezing rain. With temperatures currently near freezing, and dipping into single digits at night, it’s important to take steps to protect your property and health.

  • Protect the three p’s: people, pets and plants.
  • Wear layers of clothing.
  • Wear gloves, mittens and hats; cover your mouth with a scarf.
  • Ensure children are properly dressed, especially as they wait for the school bus.
  • Bring pets indoors. Animals are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia.
  • Bring potted plants indoors. Cover outdoor plants with cloth, burlap or plastic at night to prevent roots from freezing.
  • Make sure your home and vehicle are ready.
  • Have a backup for your electrical power as freezing temperatures create a heavy demand for electricity. If you use a generator, be sure to use it outdoors in a well-ventilated area.
  • Allow indoor plumbing fixtures to drip; this prevents freezing by permitting water to trickle through the pipes.
  • Keep your vehicle’s gas tank and antifreeze full to prevent ice from forming in the tank and fuel lines.

Winter Weather Terminology

 

Winter Storm Watch: Typically issued 12 to 48 hours before the possibility of winter weather. A winter storm watch means significant winter weather (snow, sleet, freezing rain, or a combination of these events) is possible but not imminent. Make sure you have emergency supplies at home and in your vehicle. Pay close attention to forecasts and the specific type of winter weather that is likely.

Winter Weather Advisory: Typically issued up to 36 hours before a weather event with 80 percent or greater chance of winter precipitation. A winter weather advisory means winter weather is imminent and may cause inconveniences. Put your winter safety plan into action; monitor local media for expected impacts; and avoid unnecessary travel.

Winter Storm Warning: Typically issued up to 36 hours before a weather event with 80 percent or greater chance of significant winter precipitation. A winter storm warning means a significant winter storm is imminent and is a dangerous threat to life and property. Put your winter safety plan into action; monitor local media for expected impacts; and avoid unnecessary travel.  

 

Preparation Tips: Make a Ready Kit

Whether you are on the roads or at home, we encourage you to be safe and have a Ready kit handy if the power goes out. 

RECOMMENDED ITEMS

  • Water: One gallon per person per day, for at least 3 days, for drinking and hygiene.
  • Food: At least a 3-day supply of non-perishable food.
  • Can opener: For food, if kit contains canned food.
  • Radio: Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert, and extra batteries for both.
  • Emergency charger for mobile devices
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle: To signal for help
  • Face mask: To help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter in place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties. For personal hygiene
  • Wrench or pliers. To turn off utilities
  • Local maps

ADDITIONAL ITEMS

  • Prescription medications and glasses
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Pet food, extra water, pet supplies, toys and vaccination forms.
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container
  • Cash or traveler’s checks and change
  • Emergency reference material such as a first aid book
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider adding bedding in cold weather.
  • Complete change of clothing. Include a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider adding clothing in cold weather.
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, plastic utensils and paper towels
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children.

Driving Safety Tips

Things can get dangerous behind the wheel when driving in a winter storm. Do you know what to do while driving in the snow or ice? Or even what to have in your car’s Ready kit? Be cautious, minimize your travel and postpone non-essential trips. 

Mobile Ready Kit

  • Portable Cell Phone Charger
  • Blankets
  • First Aid Kit
  • Food and Bottled Water
  • Ice Scraper
  • Flashlight and Batteries
  • Jumper Cables
  • Sand or Cat Litter for Traction

You can find more information about Winter Safety by visiting Ready.gov.

Holiday Safety Tips

Columbia County EMA would like to share with you some helpful tips this holiday season as you decorate, prepare for guests, and travel to see loved ones from Ready.gov.

Holiday Travel

  • Talk with family about who to call, where to meet and what to pack for an emergency this holiday season. 
  • If you’re traveling by plane for the holidays, review TSA's security screening tips.
  • If you’re packing for a flight, consider a small emergency kit: flashlight, batteries, & spare USB power bank. 
  • On the road this winter? Fill out an emergency communications plan card and let your in case of emergency contact know your plan.
  • For Safe Travels with family over the holidays, remember to include emergency items for kids when you pack.
  • Pet travel tip:  Are you taking your pets with you for the holidays? Add a few emergency items for your pets, like water and food.Pack something familiar like a toy or blanket to help alleviate stress.
  • Traveling by car? Remember to pack an emergency supply kit

Holiday Cooking Tips

  • Nearly 60% of home candle fires occurred when some form of combustible material was left or came too close to the candle. 
  • Make sure to have working smoke alarms close to where anyone may be sleeping 
  • Keep candles 12 inches away from things that can burn throughout the holiday season. 
  • Turn your holiday lights off before leaving home or going to bed. Every. Single. Time. 
  • Remember during the holidays, don't overload extension cords. 
  • Check the water and unplug lights on your Christmas tree before you go to bed. A dry tree is more flammable. 
  • Water your Christmas tree every day. A dry tree is dangerous because it can catch on fire easily.
  • Keep your Christmas tree at least 3 feet away from heat sources. 
  • Consider using flameless candles during Kwanzaa or Hanukkah celebrations. 
  • Hanging holiday lights can be a fun family activity. Stay safe by avoiding potential fire dangers. 
  • See what happens to a dry Christmas tree that catches fire vs. a tree that has been regularly watered by watching this video.

Communication

  • While family is together celebrating the holidays decide on an emergency safe meeting place
  • Give the gift of communication this holiday with Family Emergency Communication Plan wallet cards.
  • Today, talk to your family over the dinner table about where to meet during an emergency!
  • Give the gift of emergency preparedness. Teach kids what do before, during, and after a disaster. Download the curriculum to start planning.

Severe Weather Preparedness Week 

Severe Weather Preparedness Week is always the first full week in February. This year (2019), Georgia will recognize the week of February 4 - 8 as Severe Weather Preparedness Week. Severe weather is no stranger to the state. The first half of last year brought a very active severe weather season, with multiple rounds of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. As we approach what is typically the most active part of the year for severe weather, Severe Weather Preparedness Week provides an excellent opportunity to learn more about the dangers of severe weather, as well as knowing how and when to take proper actions when severe weather is expected and hits. Please take the time now to review your home, school, or businesses preparedness plans. Each day is dedicated to a different topic that addresses severe weather preparedness.

You can practice your tornado safety plan during the Statewide Tornado Drill, which will be conducted by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service at 9 AM on Wednesday, February 6, 2019, during the morning hours.

• Monday, February 4th: Family Preparedness/NOAA Alert Radio Day
• Tuesday, February 5th: Thunderstorm Safety
• Wednesday, February 6th: Tornado Safety & Statewide Tornado Drill (**NWR TEST Warning Message - 9 AM**)
• Thursday, February 7th: Lightning Safety
• Friday, February 8th: Flooding Safety

Day 1: Family Preparedness/NOAA Alert Radio Day

Communication plans are an essential part of being prepared for severe weather in Columbia County.

A) Get a Kit: This kit is a group of items you may need during a disaster. By having these items grouped together, you can quickly grab your kit and leave if an evacuation is ordered for your area. Make sure to have food and water for each person and your pets for at least 72 hours. Keep in mind that basic services such as electricity and water may not be available. Make sure that your kit includes items that will help you manage through these loss of services.

B) Make a Plan: Not sure where to start with your plan? Address the unique needs of pets, older loved ones and family members with special needs in your plan.

C) Be Informed: NOAA Weather Alert Radio + Wireless Emergency Alerts - Make sure that you get watches, warnings and advisories when severe weather strikes. These are just a few ways in which to get watches, warnings and advisories - remember it's important to receive alerts and warnings multiple ways. Have a NOAA Weather Radio. Make sure it's plugged in, turned on, and have extra batteries just in case the power goes out. A key benefit of NOAA Weather Radio is it will alert you while you are sleeping so you can take shelter. Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are a nationwide text emergency alert system which will send an automated alert (text) to your mobile device when significant weather threatens (i.e. Tornado Warning, Flash Flood Warning, etc.)

Day 2: Thunderstorm Safety

Georgia’s greatest threats from severe thunderstorms are damaging straight-line winds and large hail. Straight-line winds can reach speeds in excess of 58 mph and produce damage similar to a tornado. These winds occur about 75 days per year in Georgia and are most common in the spring and summer months, peaking in July.

Before a Thunderstorm:

  • Familiarize yourself with the terms that are used to identify a thunderstorm hazard, including understanding the difference between a severe thunderstorm watch and a severe thunderstorm warning. A Severe Thunderstorm Watch means conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms to develop, but there is not an imminent threat. A Severe Thunderstorm Warning means a severe thunderstorm has been detected and an imminent threat to life and property has developed. 
  • Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage during a thunderstorm.
  • Know your lightning safety rules. For example, if you hear thunder or see lightning, go indoors. Stay indoors for at least 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.
    Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.

During a Thunderstorm:

  • If there is a thunderstorm in the area, go quickly inside a home, building, or hard top automobile, if possible.
  • If shelter is not available, go to the lowest area nearby.
  • If on open water, get to land and shelter immediately.
  • Listen to a battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio or radio for the latest updates.
  • Avoid taking a shower or a bath during a thunderstorm. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
  • Do not use electrical items such as computers or television sets as power surges from lightning can cause serious damage.
  • A corded telephone should only be used in an emergency, but cordless phones and cell phones are safe to use.

After a Thunderstorm:

  • Never drive through a flooded roadway. Turn around, don’t drown!
  • Stay away from storm-damaged areas to keep from putting yourself at risk from the effects of thunderstorms.
  • Stay away from downed power lines and report them immediately to your local power company.

Day 3: Tornado Safety

Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms, and they are Georgia’s No. 1 weather-related killer. They can develop without warning and oftentimes can be hidden by trees or rain. Be prepared to act quickly. Planning and practicing specifically how and where you take shelter is a matter of survival. Tornadoes can occur at any time of the year, making advance preparation vitally important.

A Tornado Watch means conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop, but there is not an imminent threat. A Tornado Warning means a tornado has been detected and an imminent threat to life and property has developed.

How do you receive tornado warnings? Columbia County uses the CodeRed emergency mass notification system to automatically alert residents in the path of severe weather. During Severe Weather Preparedness Week, make sure you have multiple ways to receive warnings.

Know where to seek shelter if a tornado warning is issued, because you won’t have much time to act. Shelter on the lowest level of a sturdy building or a basement if available.

Day 4: Lightning Safety

Lightning is the #2 weather-related killer in Georgia, behind tornadoes. 
Know your lightning safety rules!

  • If you hear thunder or see lightning, go indoors. Stay indoors for at least 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder. If you cannot find shelter, do not stand under a tree or remain in an open place when lightning is near. Avoid open water, as well as tractors, bicycles, motorcycles, or golf carts. These will not provide protection, and may actually attract lightning.
  • Enclosed vehicles are generally safe, if you avoid contact with metal surfaces.
  • If you are in a forest, seek shelter in a low area under a thick growth of small trees.
  • If you are boating or swimming, get to land as quickly as possible.
  • If you are inside, don't use a telephone or other electrical equipment unless in an emergency.
  • Do not take a bath or shower during a thunderstorm.

Day 5: Flood Safety

Floods can be slow or fast rising, but generally develop over a period of days. Many communities experience some kind of flooding after spring rains or heavy thunderstorms.

Flash floods usually result from intense storms dropping large amounts of rain within a brief period. They occur with little or no warning and can reach full peak in only a few minutes. Communities particularly at risk are those located in low-lying areas, near water, or downstream from a dam.

A Flood Watch or a Flash Flood Watch means that conditions have been detected that could lead to flooding of a certain area. A River Flood Warning or a Flash Flood Warning means that flooding is imminent and you should take action immediately. You can monitor NOAA Weather Radio or any local radio or TV station to get the latest information.

NEVER drive around barricades or through standing water. It only takes one foot to float a full-sized automobile and two feet can sweep it away. To learn more about preparing for floods, review Ready Georgia’s flood safety tips.