Friday, February 5, 2010

Snow Storm/ Blizzard Travel Tips - Driving in Snow - Residential & Pet Safety

One of the best ways to get through bad snow storms is to stay inside. If you know that a major snow storm is headed in your direction, make sure that you have enough supplies for a few days.

Because we cannot protect successfully against all fire hazards, make sure you mark fire hydrants in your community. If snow plows cover them make sure to prioritize these spots. Make notice on paper where all the hydrants are in your area. Should they be covered you will at least be able to communicate with your fire department and locate them faster. 

During very severe snow storms, it is possible for the power to go out. In order to prepare for this, it is good to have flashlights, replacement batteries, candles, and matches on hand. Candles must however be handled with extreme care to reduce fire hazards.

National Weather Service reminds us of the following:
Winter weather can cause power lines to fall to the ground. Never touch, move or go near any kind of downed or hanging line, even if it looks harmless.

Use extreme caution! Stay away from any downed lines because it may be dangerous. Getting near it could cause serious bodily injury or even death. In fact, anything touching a downed line may be dangerous. Warn others to stay away. Immediately report a downed line to your local utility company emergency center and in addition call your local police. Do not assume that the downed line is merely a telephone or cable television line. Do not put your feet into a puddle where a downed line is laying. In some instances wet or snow-covered ground can conduct electricity. Don not try to move tree limbs that are on or near power line. Remember, only knowledgeable utility company employees or someone under their supervision who is protected by the appropriate safety equipment should touch or move a downed line.

If you see someone who has been shocked and is in direct or indirect contact with a downed power line do not try to touch the person. Efforts to pull an electric shock victim away could make you a second victim. Never attempt to remove a power line. The only safe procedure is to immediately call your local police or emergency services and your local utility company's emergency center.

If a power line falls on a car, you should stay inside the vehicle. This is the safest place to stay under the circumstances. Honk your horn to alert passers-by. Roll down the window and warn people not to touch the car or the line. Ask someone to call the local utility company and emergency services. The only circumstances in which you should consider leaving a car that is in contact with a downed power line is if the vehicle catches on fire; open the door, but do not step out. Make sure that you jump completely free of the vehicle with both feet together to avoid contact with the live car (metal) and the ground at the same time. Hop as far away as possible from the vehicle keeping both feet together.

Remember, winter storms can bring down power lines. When line are down, stay away. Warn others to stay away and call your electric company or emergency services.

Tails and children should not be able to easily access the candles. The candle holder should be completely noncombustible and difficult to knock over. The candle should not have combustible/flammable decorations around it.
Keep matches out of reach of children and pets. They can start a fire in the hands of kids and be poisonous to pets.

It is best to purchase large candles that either come in or can be placed inside of a slightly larger glass jar. Taper candles that fit into candlesticks have open flames that can cause a fire hazard. Large votive candles inside of a fire-proof container are less likely to cause a problem. Be sure, however, to keep all candles away from curtains and any flammable material.
Candles are naked flames, so handle them very carefully:
>> Don't leave them burning in a room with no one in it.
>> Don't put them in or by plants, flowers or foliage, blankets, curtains, etc
>> Make sure they're in holders that won't fall over.
>> Put night lights or tea lights on a heat-resistant surface.
>> Keep them away from curtains and furniture, and not under a surface, like a shelf.
>> Don't put them where they could be knocked over easily or where people could burn their clothes or hair on them.
>> Make sure they're completely out - not smoldering.
>> Keep children and pets away
>> Keep candles at least 4 inches (10 cm) apart 

If you must venture out of your home during a snow storm, be sure to wear warm clothing and sensible shoes. It is best to wear boots with strong rubber treads. If you are going to go a far distance on foot, it is advisable to bring a thermos of some warm liquid such as tea or coffee with you. Drinking warm liquids can help you to stay warm on your journey. It is also advisable to bring a mobile telephone with you so that you can make an emergency call if necessary.

If you have to travel by car during a snow storm, tell someone that you are leaving from POINT A (address) and what route you are planning on taking to POINT B (destination). Do not deviate. Give them an estimated travel time. The chances you will be found are greater if someone knows you are traveling and what routes you are taking. Make sure that your vehicle has the appropriate tires and that they are in good condition (enough tire pressure). You may want to invest in chains that you can wrap around your tires if you get stuck in a snowdrift. Check your state law. Chains are illegal in many states.
Avoid driving in blizzard conditions with non four wheel drive vehicles! 

First of all, don't break on ice! Your reflexes need to be kept in check. Treat your breaks gently.
Decelerate rather than brake. That means get your foot OFF the accelerator rather than brake. Then Shift to Lower Gear.
A majority of cars have gears lower than Drive. Gear under the "D" is generally 3rd or 2nd. The one below that is 1st. You get better performance in snow the lower you place your gears. Third and/or Second are preferred. First Gear should only be use at very slow speeds or to achieve braking faster.
Drive slowly. Your Jeep can make it to 60mph but when you that icy spot you'll be sliding out of control at 60mph. So keep it near 30-40mph if must travel faster on snow covered roads.

Do NOT counter steer if the car starts sliding on ice. Here is why. If you are traveling in a straight line and the car starts sliding, your tires are still straight. When the slide ends the car will keep going straight (were you left it). If you counter steer your tires will now be dramatically pointing left or right and when you regain control those tires will now take you to an extreme left or right. That's how you end up in the ditch, tree or traffic.
Be sure that your windshield wipers are in good condition as well. It is important for you to drive with the best possible visibility during a snow storm.Windshield wiper fluids should be replaced or mixed with winterized fluids to sustain sub-freezing temperatures.

Never leave without a full tank of gas. Refuel along the way to ensure you remain above 1/2 a tank.

Run your car for about 10 minutes each hour. Turn off the lights and radio when the car is not running to avoid running the battery down. Keep flares in the car. If you find yourself stranded in a remote area, don't go venture out. You will be much safer inside the car.
** If you are stuck once the snowstorm has passed, raise the hood of your car to signal an emergency. You can also post a flag or tie the handkerchief to the antenna to signal you need help.
** Ration your supplies. Eat small snacks every hour or so to give your body an energy source with which to generate heat. Drink about 4 ounces (half cup) of water every hour or so to prevent dehydration.

Important car emergency kit components include:
>> Blankets
>> Flashlight
>> Extra batteries
>> Towels
>> Shovel
>> Windshield scraper and small broom
>> Keep hand warmers
>> Thermal heat blankets
>> Battery powered radio
>> Water (at least 1 Gallon per person)
>> The food you keep must be non-perishable & eatable without cooking or heating necessary and with high protein content
>> Matches
>> Extra snow hats, socks and mittens
>> Snowboard or ski pants (if possible to keep your lower body dry if you try to dig yourself out. Body temperature is lost in head, neck, under arm, groin area and feet)
>> First aid kit with pocket knife
>> Duct Tape
>> Necessary medications
>> Tow chain or rope
>> Road salt and sand
>> Booster cables
>> Emergency flares
>> Fluorescent distress flag
>> Seat Belt Cutters (keep them in center console)
>> Snow Boots
>> Sleeping bag
>> Toilet Paper
>> Keep an empty plastic container for inside the car bathroom breaks
>> Newspaper (to place inside clothes to maintain body warmth)
Consider carrying your emergency kit in a small duffel bag and storing it in the passenger's footwell, where it can be easily accessed by the driver (and where it won't become a projectile in a collision). 

Winter storms don't just affect you - they also affect your pets. And your pets depend on you for their safety. There are many ways to be "Pet Prepared," but you must think ahead and start planning NOW. Also, consult our All-Hazards Preparedness Checklist for Cats & Dogs, and for small animals so that you can be prepared for any weather emergency. During a winter storm, if you see an injured or stranded animal that needs help, contact your local animal control officer or animal shelter. Get that number pre-programmed in your phone NOW while you have power. 

Some pets are better suited than others for living outdoors. There is a common misconception that dogs will be "fine" if left outside. This is not true! Pets are not wolves. All pets need adequate shelter from the elements and insulation against cold weather. Pets should not be left outside for long periods in freezing weather - like humans, they can suffer from hypothermia and frostbite.

Certain breeds, such as Huskies and Samoyeds are better suited to very cold weather, but the majority of dogs and need your help and intervention. That does not mean you can leave them outside if they are not used to the elements.
Indoor accommodations are best during extreme temperature drops, but if that is not possible, set up a suitable house in an area protected from wind, rain, and snow. Insulation, such as straw or blankets will help keep in body heat. If your animal is prone to chewing, do not use blankets or material that can be ingested. Cedar shavings can be irritating to the skin, so use with caution depending on your pet's hair coat.

DO NOT use a heat lamp, space heater, or other device not approved for use with animals. This is a a burn hazard for your pet and a fire hazard. Pet supply vendors sell heated mats for pets to sleep on or to be placed under a dog house, but read and follow directions carefully before use.
Fresh water is a must at all times! Pets are not able to get enough water from licking ice or eating snow. A heated dish is a wonderful tool for cold climates. The water stays cold, but doesn't freeze. Caution needed for animals that may chew.
If you have "NO PETS INSIDE THE RESIDENCE" policy please consider the barn and a garage or laundry room as an emergency exception.

Dogs walking in snowy areas may get large ice balls between their pads, causing the dog to limp. Be sure to keep ice clear from this area. For dogs that have a lot of hair between the pads, keeping it clipped shorter will help with ice ball formation. Dog boots offer protection to those dogs that will tolerate wearing them.

Pets who walk on sidewalks that have been "de-iced" are prone to dry, chapped, and potentially painful paws. This will encourage the pet to lick their paws, and ingestion may cause gastrointestinal irritation and upset. Wash off your pet's feet after an outing with a warm wet cloth or foot bath.

Animals don't realize what "thin ice" is. Once they fall in, it is very difficult for them to climb out and hypothermia is a very real and life-threatening danger. "Ice skating" dogs are prone to injuries such as cruciate tears if allowed to "skate" with their humans. This is also true of icy walks.

Thirsty and curious pets will lap up antifreeze. Just a few licks can be fatal. All antifreeze containers have warnings. The best way to mitigate a pet emergency is to ensure that your pets are not placed in direct contact with any container that has safety warnings. So lock up antifreeze containers and clean up spills immediately.
Place ALL chemical containers out of your kids and pets reach. Especially if you decide to leave the pet in the garage as your pets may get bored and decide to chew up what's left available. Same applies to electrical cords. Also, do NOT start the car in a closed garage - for your safety and your pet's safety - carbon monoxide poisoning is a silent killer.

Cats and little critters will seek warmth where they can get it, and that may be the warm engine of a car just parked. Before staring your car, knock on the hood or honk the horn to scare off any cats - and prevent tragedy.

Arthritis is worse during cold and damp weather. Take special care to handle your pet gently, watch out for icy walks, provide soft (and possibly heated) bedding, and administer any necessary medications.Do not leave these pets out in the cold for longer periods of time.


1. Keep your cat inside. Outdoors, felines can freeze, become lost or be stolen, injured or killed. Cats who are allowed to stray are exposed to infectious diseases, including rabies, from other cats, dogs and wildlife.

2. During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give the cat a chance to escape.

3. Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm-dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours always wears ID tags.

4. Thoroughly wipe off your dog's legs and stomach when he comes in out of the sleet, snow or ice. He can ingest salt, antifreeze or other potentially dangerous chemicals while licking his paws, and his paw pads may also bleed from snow or encrusted ice.

5. Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. When you bathe your dog in the colder months, be sure to completely dry him before taking him out for a walk. Own a short-haired breed? Consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly. For many dogs, this is regulation winter wear. If you did shave your dog recently make sure to take them out for walks with a coat!

6. Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.

7. Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs, and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter. If your puppy appears to be sensitive to the weather, you may opt to paper-train him inside. If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only to relieve himself.

8. Does your dog spend a lot of time engaged in outdoor activities? Increase his supply of food, particularly protein, to keep him-and his fur-in tip-top shape.

9. Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.

10. Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.

11. Keep the Regular Poison COntrol Center # and the ASPCA Phone # in your phone.
ASPCA Poison Control # is (888) 426-4435. A $65 consultation fee is be applied to your credit card.
Regular poison control # is 1-800-222-1222 and is free. In most cases they can also help your pets.

You can download the Wag'N Winter Pet Safety Hazards here

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