Severe winter weather has arrived early for portions of eastern North Dakota and neighboring Minnesota. Count some people with physical, medical, cognitive or sensory disabilities among those caught by surprise, before their winter weather preparations have been completed.
It’s clearly better to plan ahead before snow, subfreezing temperatures, strong winds, ice or even heavy rain strikes. But it’s not too late to take immediate precautions, do what planning you can as soon as you’re able, and be especially vigilant about staying warm when braving cold outside temperatures.
NDAD offers this preparation checklist, culled from several federal and state government sources, that provides some of the best ways to keep yourself safe and secure every winter season — particularly if you having a disability or other health challenge:
- Have an emergency supply kit that includes:
A battery-powered or hand crank-powered radio, extra flashlights and batteries, and at minimum a week’s supply of food and water. If you rely on home-delivered meals, be certain to stock nonperishable food at home in case meal deliveries are suspended during an emergency.
Adequate cold-weather clothing and blankets.
First aid supplies.
- Check with your physician or oxygen supplier about emergency plans for respirators or electrical-powered medical equipment. You should plan to have backup for electrical-powered equipment, including for dialysis.
- If you use a portable generator for emergency power, follow the manufacturer’s directions for safe operation, and check with local fire and building officials for regulations governing generator and fuel use. Ask your utility company if the medical equipment qualifies you to be listed as a life-sustaining equipment customer.
- If you are blind or have a visual disability, consider storing a talking or Braille clock or large-print timepiece with extra batteries.
- If you depend on land lines, develop a back-up communications plan in case service is disrupted. A charged cellular phone might be your best option, or possibly a pager.
- If you’re able to do so, maintain a two-week supply of medications, both prescription and non-prescription. Have a plan with your doctor that provides emergency prescription refills, if possible.
- Make certain your copies of medical records, prescriptions and other medical needs are readily available.
- Plan now to have accessible transportation in case you have to evacuate your premises.
- Have contact lenses, extra eyeglasses and batteries for hearing aids ready to go.
- If you receive home-based care, be certain to include caregivers when you develop your plan. Familiarize yourself with your homecare agency’s emergency plan.
- Plan now about how you’re going to deal with pets and service animals in a situation that requires transportation or temporary relocation.
- Think about shelters in your neighborhood or nearby town and whether they can accommodate your special needs.
- Develop and stay in touch with a nearby network of assistance – neighbors, relatives, care attendances, friends, and co-workers — preferably before winter storms or record cold moves in. Never depend on one person alone.
- Wear multiple layers of clothing, including a scarf around your neck, a winter hat, lined boots and two pairs of socks.
- Wear warm gloves. Consider thermal gloves worn underneath mittens, if possible. Gripper driving gloves can also help keep your hands warm and help prevent slipping, especially if you encounter freezing rain, which can stick to canes, walkers, forearm cuffs, wheelchairs and other surfaces.
- If you’re able to carry a cell phone, do so.
- If you travel in a wheelchair, wrap a small blanket around your legs, tucking it underneath yourself or around your sides. This will help to maintain body heat. Wheelchair users may consider purchasing pneumatic tires for better traction. Another alternative for some circumstances is to use standard dirt bicycle tires.
- Use table salt or clay cat litter to clear ramps – rock salt can poison working assistance animals and also may be slippery.
- Remove the tires from your wheelchair and shake debris and ice off them before placing them in your vehicle. Wipe down any metal surfaces (wheelchair tire rims, walkers, etc.) as soon as possible after returning home. This will prevent rusting.
- Using a wheelchair in snow can be strenuous, heavy wheeling – the added exertion could lead to a stroke or heart attack, particularly if you’re unaccustomed to it. Be extra careful.
- Dogs can suffer from hypothermia and frostbite, too. Whether you use a working assistance dog or are taking a pet outdoors, consider a dog coat and boots for your dog’s paws. Also, keep a blanket in your vehicle for your dog.
Do you have some winter weather tips to share? Please offer them in the comments for this NDAD Insight post.
For more information about general severe winter weather safety, visit the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services website.
Most of the information above comes from FEMA, Virginia.gov and the Centers for Disease Control.