Winter Storm Safety Tips
Every year, my office hosts a number of Emergency Preparedness meetings throughout our area to help residents prepare for and recover from natural disasters. The information provided to those who attended these events has been extremely beneficial during severe weather such as hurricanes and tropical storms.
But this same advice can in many cases prove just as beneficial during the winter storm season. That is why my office has incorporated the information provided at these meetings into this Winter Storm Safety Tips section with some specific winter safety tips to help you and your family be as prepared as possible this winter season. These tips and advice are designed to provide you with the information you need in case you have to travel, shovel or if you are simply staying indoors during the winter weather.
If you know of any additional information or web sites that you think would be beneficial to others, please e-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org at your earliest convenience. My office will be sure to add them to the list to make sure that everyone is as well-prepared for winter storms as possible.
I hope you find this information useful and please be safe this winter season.
For a power emergency or downed line, please call PSEG Long Island's Emergency Hotline Number is 800-490-0075 or 631-755-6900
511NY is New York State's official traffic and travel info source. Whether you drive or take public transit, click below or simply dial 511 on your phone for up to date information on traffic and transit conditions in New York State.
Motorists who need to check conditions can access winter weather travel updates at https://www.nysdot.gov/wta. Real-time travel reports can also be accessed by phone by dialing 511 or online at www.511ny.org.
Brookhaven Highway Department - 631-451-9200
Huntington Highway Department - 631-351-3076
Smithtown Highway Department - 631-360-7500
Centereach Fire Department - 631-981-0177
Commack Fire Department - 631-499-6690
Dix Hills Fire Department - 631-499-8836
East Northport Fire Department - 631-261-1110
Farmingville Fire Department - 631-732-6611
Hauppauge Fire Department - 631-265-2499
Kings Park Fire Department - 631-265-1500
Melville Fire Department - 631-547-4121
Nesconset Fire Department - 631-265-1430
Northport Fire Department - 631-261-7504
Ronkonkoma Fire Department - 631-588-8410
Selden Fire Department - 631-732-1234
Setauket Fire Department - 631-941-4441
Smithtown Fire Department - 631-265-1503
St. James Fire Department - 631-584-5799
Stony Brook Fire Department - 631-751-0460
1st Precinct 555 Route 109, West Babylon - 854-8100
2nd Precinct 1071 Park Ave, Huntington - 854-8200
3rd Precinct 1630 5th Ave, Bay Shore - 854-8300
4th Precinct 345 Old Willets Path, Hauppauge - 854-8400
5th Precinct 125 Waverly Ave, Patchogue - 854-8500
6th Precinct Route 25 / Middle Country Rd, Coram - 854-8600
7th Precinct 1419 William Floyd Parkway, Shirley - 852-8700
Town of Smithtown Department of Public Safety - 631-360-7553
Town of Brookhaven Department of Public Safety - 631-451-6291
Town of Huntington Public Safety - 631-351-3266
Family Disaster Plan
Families should be prepared for all hazards that affect their area and themselves. Follow these basic steps to develop a family disaster plan:
- Learn your community’s warning signals.
- Meet with your family to create a plan. Pick two places to meet: a spot outside your home for an emergency such as fire, and a place away from your neighborhood in case you cannot return home (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school). Choose an out-of-area friend as your family check-in contact for everyone to call if the family becomes separated.
- Implement your plan. Post emergency telephone numbers by the phones. Install safety features in your house such as smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. Inspect your home for potential hazards and correct them. Have your family learn basic safety and first aid measures. Make sure everyone knows how and when to call 9-1-1 or your local emergency medical services phone number. Have disaster supplies on hand.
Home Emergency Supplies
Winter has arrived and you should stockpile the following supplies in the event a winter storm or power outage prevents you from leaving your home.
- Flashlights and extra batteries
- Battery-operated radio and extra batteries
- Emergency non-perishable foods that do not require refrigeration
- Non-electric can opener
- Bottled water
- One week supply of essential medicines
- Extra blankets and sleeping bags
- First aid kit and manual
- Fire extinguisher
- Emergency heating equipment, used properly
Winterize Your Home
Take the time now to get your home ready for the winter season by following these tips:
- Have your heating system checked by a professional annually. This will ensure that your system is working safely and efficiently which, in turn, will save you money. If you heat by wood, clean your fireplace or stove. Have your chimney flue checked for any buildup of creosote and then cleaned to lessen the risk of fire.
- Make sure your home is properly insulated. If necessary, insulate walls and attic. This will help you to conserve energy and reduce your homes power demands for heat.
- Caulk and weather-strip doors and windowsills to keep cold air out.
- Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside. This will provide an extra layer of insulation, keeping more cold air out.
- Inspect and flush your water heater.
- Clean gutters. Leaves and other debris will hamper drainage.
- Replace batteries of smoke, heat and carbon monoxide detectors. If you did not do it when you set the clocks back, do it now.
To keep pipes from freezing:
- Wrap pipes in insulation or layers of old newspapers
- Cover the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture
- Let faucets drip a little to avoid freezing
- Know how to shut off water valves
Staying Warm Indoors
If your heat goes out during a winter storm, you can keep warm by closing off rooms you do not need.
- Use only safe sources of alternative heat such as a fireplace, small well-vented wood or coal stove or portable space heaters. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions.
- Dress in layers of lightweight clothing and wear a cap.
- Eat well-balanced meals.
Losing your heat when winters winds are howling is not pleasant. However, by following these simple tips, you will weather the storm more comfortably.
Protecting Water Pipes
To prevent the mess and aggravation of frozen water pipes, protect your home, apartment or business by following the simple steps below.
Before Cold Weather
- Locate and insulate pipes most susceptible to freezing, typically those near outer walls, in crawl spaces or in the attic.
- Wrap pipes with heat tape (UL approved).
- Seal any leaks that allow cold air inside where pipes are located.
- Disconnect garden hoses and shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the short span of pipe just inside the house.
When It's Cold
- Let hot and cold water trickle at night from a faucet on an outside wall.
- Open cabinet doors to allow more heat to get to un-insulated pipes under a sink or appliance near an outer wall.
- Make sure heat is left on and set no lower than 55 degrees.
- If you plan to be away: (1) Have someone check your house daily to make sure the heat is still on to prevent freezing, or (2) drain and shut off the water system (except indoor sprinkler systems).
If Pipes Freeze
- Make sure you and your family knows how to shut off the water, in case pipes burst. Stopping the water flow minimize the damage to your home. Call a plumber and contact your insurance agent.
- Never try to thaw a pipe with an open flame or torch.
- Always be careful of the potential for electric shock in and around standing water.
If The Lights Go Out
If you lose electrical service during the winter, follow these tips:
- Call your utility first to determine area repair schedules. Turn off or unplug lights and appliances to prevent a circuit overload when service is restored. Leave one light on to indicate power has been restored.
- To help prevent freezing pipes, turn on faucets slightly. Running water will not freeze as quickly.
- Protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning:
- DO NOT operate generators indoors; the motor emits deadly carbon monoxide gas.
- DO NOT use charcoal to cook indoors. It, too, can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide gas.
- DO NOT use your gas oven to heat your home -- prolonged use of an open oven in a closed house can create carbon monoxide gas.
- Make sure fuel space heaters are used with proper ventilation.
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to help reduce food spoilage.
Electric generators can provide you with piece of mind and convenience when you are faced with a temporary loss of electric service.
Follow these safety guidelines when operating a generator:
- Before installing a generator, be sure to properly disconnect from your utility electrical service. If possible, have your generator installed by a qualified electrician.
- Run generators outside, downwind of structures. NEVER run a generator indoors. Deadly carbon monoxide gas from the generators exhaust can spread throughout enclosed spaces. Install a carbon monoxide detector.
- Fuel spilled on a hot generator can cause an explosion. If your generator has a detachable fuel tank remove it before refilling. If this is not possible, shut off the generator and let it cool before refilling.
- Do not exceed the rated capacity of your generator. Most of the small, home-use portable generators produce from 350 to 12,000 watts of power. Overloading your generator can damage it, the appliances connected to it, and may cause a fire. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Keep children away from generators at all times.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a silent, deadly killer claiming about 1,000 lives each year in the United States. Such common items as automotive exhaust, home heating systems and obstructed chimneys can produce the colorless, odorless gas. The gas can also be produced by poorly vented generators, kerosene heaters, gas grills and other items used for cooking and heating when used improperly during the winter months.
- NEVER run generators indoors. Open a window slightly when using a kerosene heater.
- NEVER use charcoal to cook indoors.
- NEVER use a gas oven to heat your home.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include sleepiness, headaches and dizziness. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, ventilate the area and get to a hospital.
Wood-burning stoves, fireplaces and heaters can add a cozy glow, but make sure you are using them safely.
- Always keep a screen around an open flame.
- Never use gasoline to start your fireplace.
- Never burn charcoal indoors.
- Do not close the damper when ashes are hot.
- When using alternative heat sources such as a fireplace, woodstove, etc. always make sure you have proper ventilation. Keep curtains, towels and potholders away from hot surfaces.
- Have your chimney checked before the season for creosote buildup -- and then clean it.
- Have a fire extinguisher and smoke detectors ... and make sure they work! Establish a well-planned escape route with the entire family.
If you use kerosene heaters to supplement your regular heating fuel, or as an emergency source of heat, follow these safety tips:
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Use only the correct fuel for your unit.
- Refuel outdoors ONLY and only when the unit is cool.
- Keep the heater at least three feet away from furniture and other flammable objects.
- When using the heater, use fire safeguards and ventilate properly.
Remember, the fire hazard is greatly increased in the winter because alternate heating sources often are used without following proper safety precautions.
Clearing Your Roof
As the snow and ice continues to build up, homeowners should think about safety before trying to clear the snow from their roof. Here are some safety tips:
- When possible, use long-handled snow rakes or poles.
- If you must use a ladder, make certain that the base is securely anchored. Ask a friend, neighbor or adult family member to hold the ladder while you climb.
- Know where the snow is going to fall before clearing the area.
- Make certain not to contact electrical wires.
- If possible, do not attempt to clear the roof alone.
- If you are afraid of heights or think the job is too big for you, HIRE HELP.
Clearing roofs is a dangerous task. However, if you think safety, and work safely, you will get the job done.Bottom of Form
THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION WAS PROVIDED BY THE SUFFOLK COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT
Preparedness is key! Preparing for a winter storm is much like preparing for any other emergency, with the first step involving ensuring you have sufficient emergency supplies on hand. These supplies should include the following:
- Food and water—at least a three day supply (one gallon of water per person per day, and a 3 day supply of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food). Be sure to have adequate supplies for your pets as well.
- A flashlight and a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, with extra batteries.
- A first aid kit, a seven-day supply of medications and personal hygiene items.
- A cell phone, and family and emergency contact information.
- Warm coats, gloves, hats, boots and extra blankets and warm clothing for all household members.
- Ample alternative heating methods such as fireplaces, wood or coal burning-stoves, remembering carbon monoxide kills. As a result a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning device should never be used inside a structure or partially enclosed areas. All fuel-burning equipment must be vented to the outside, chimneys should be cleaned and inspected each year, and smoke and carbon monoxide alarms should be installed on every level of your home and directly outside sleeping areas.
During and after the storm: The best thing to do following a storm is to stay put, provided your home has power and adequate heat during periods of extreme cold. Stay off the roads and avoid driving, enabling snowplows, utilities and other emergency responders to do their jobs. If you must go outside, protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia by wearing warm, loose-fitting lightweight clothing in several layers. Remember: Cold + Wind = Frostbite.
Use care when removing snow. When shoveling, lift with your legs bent, not with your back, and be sure to not pick up too much at once. Take it slow, making sure to not work to the point of exhaustion, and do not shovel snow into the street on onto sidewalks. Operate snow blowers safely. Accidents occur most frequently when the discharge chute clogs with wet, heavy snow and individuals use their hands to clear the discharge chute. Be sure to stop the engine before clearing foreign objects or snow from the equipment, and never use your hand. Instead use a broom handle, stick or other appropriate object. When using the snow blower, ensure the area is free of all debris as machines can san send objects flying for up to 75 feet. In clearing snow remember, NYS law prohibits plowing or dumping snow onto handicapped parking spots.
Driving During Winter Weather: The best advice that can be offered regarding driving during severe winter weather is to stay home! If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Don’t tempt fate: If you don’t have somewhere to be, watch and enjoy the snow safely from indoors. Recognizing some people must drive during periods of winter weather, we offer the following suggestions:
- Preparation is key! Ensure you have the proper tires, making sure to never mix radial with other types of tires. Ensure tires are properly inflated, that your wipers are in proper working order and that you have sufficient freeze-proof windshield-washer fluid.
- Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow and ice covered roads. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids.
- Allow sufficient time for turning and stopping regardless of whether you are driving a four-wheel drive vehicle or SUV. Do not overestimate your vehicle’s capabilities. Allow additional distance between your vehicle and other vehicles around you.
- Remember, NYS law requires vehicles that headlights and taillights be illuminated during periods of inclement weather, when windshield wipers are in use, or when visibility for a distance of one-thousand feet ahead of such motor vehicle is not clear.
Enjoying Winter Weather: While winter weather can be inconvenient and quite dangerous, it can also be beautiful and provide great opportunity for enjoyment. Children should always be supervised when sledding, and a safe, appropriate location must be chosen. Private property must be avoided, as must locations with slopes that end in a street, parking lot, pond or lake. Health professionals recommend helmets be worn and remind that appropriate clothing must be worn to prevent frostbite, hypothermia or strangulation (Avoid scarves or drawstrings).
ATV’s and snowmobiles should never be operated on private property (other than your own or with the express permission of the owner) or on sidewalks, public roadways, in public parking lots, etc. Each year, hundreds of people are killed and severely injured as the result of these vehicles being used in an unsafe, inappropriate or illegal manner. Helmets must always be worn when using these vehicles.
Lastly, avoid frozen waters. Frozen lakes, ponds and swimming pools may seem like a fun location for winter activities, but they are most often unpredictable and extremely dangerous. A fall through thin ice is often fatal. According to experts, the best advice is to stay off the ice!
CodeRED Emergency Notification System: Stay informed during actual or impending emergencies by signing up for Suffolk’s CodeRED notification system. To do so, visit the Suffolk County website at www.suffolkcountyny.gov or simply call (631) 852-4900.
Move Over Act - As of January 1, 2011, a new law to protect law enforcement officers and emergency workers who are stopped along roadways while performing their duties called the Move Over Act is in effect. Under the law, drivers must use due care when approaching an emergency vehicle that displays red and/or white emergency lighting, and must Reduce speeds on all roads and highways, and on parkways, expressways and other controlled access highways with multiple lanes, drivers must move from the lane immediately adjacent to the emergency vehicle, unless traffic or other hazards exist to prevent doing so safely.
To contact the Suffolk County Police Department regarding any information contained in this newsletter, please visit our website at www.suffolkpd.org, or call our Community Outreach Bureau at (631) 852-6109.