Gaithersburg Church of the Nazarene Disaster Preparedness

                                           Weather Terms

    o   Freezing Rain creates a coating of ice on roads and walkways.

   o   Sleet is rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes roads to 

         freeze and become slippery.

   o   Winter Weather Advisory means cold, ice and snow are expected.

   o   Winter Storm Watch means severe weather such as heavy snow or ice is possible in the next day

          or two.

   o   Winter Storm Warning means severe winter conditions have begun or will begin very soon.

   o   Blizzard is issued for winter storms when the following conditions are expected to last for at least 

        three hours

           winds of at least 35 miles per hour with considerable snowfall that reduces visibility to ¼ of a

          mile or less. 

                                      Dress for the Weather

  • Wear several layers of loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
  • Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves.
  • Wear a hat.
  • Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.

                                   Prepare your home and family

  • Prepare for possible isolation in your home by having sufficient heating fuel; regular fuel sources may be cut off. For example, store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove.
  • Winterize your home to extend the life of your fuel supply by insulating walls and attics, caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows, and installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic.
  • Winterize your house, barn, shed or any other structure that may provide shelter for your family, neighbors, livestock or equipment. Clear rain gutters; repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on a house or other structure during a storm.
  • Insulate pipes with insulation or newspapers and plastic and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing.
  • Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. House fires pose an additional risk, as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions.
  • Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts).
  • Know ahead of time what you should do to help elderly or disabled friends, neighbors or employees.
  • Hire a contractor to check the structural ability of the roof to sustain unusually heavy weight from the accumulation of snow - or water, if drains on flat roofs do not work.

Special Safety Tips for the Winter Storm

Snowfall totals vary greatly in Maryland. Garrett County in far western Maryland often receives as much snow as areas of the central plains and interior areas of New York and New England. Areas of the lower Eastern Shore often have little or now snow during a winter season. In the populous central part of the state, snow totals can vary greatly from one season to the next.

The heaviest snowfall on record in central Maryland was the three-day President’s Day weekend storm in 2003, dumping more than 32 inches of snow on the region. Maryland is prone to quick warm-ups after major storms, which sometimes leads to flooding problems. Winter storms in Maryland also may include sleet (ice pellets) and freezing rain (rain that freezes on contact with roads, sidewalks and other surfaces). Winter in Maryland sometimes also brings extreme cold, which can present health problems for the ill, the elderly, infants and the homeless, especially when reliable heating sources are not available.

On driving: Stay off the roads once a weather warning has been announced. If you are driving on ice, do not stand on the brakes once you begin to spin or slide. Turn the front wheels towards the direction you were going and do not spin the steering fast or you could overshoot the road and flip over and become another stat for the state.

Vehicle maintenance: Inspect your wipers, battery, tires and tire pressure, coolant and other fluids. this will help stop you from becoming a victim on the roadway. always have your gas tank filled during the winter times, this will stop condensation from building up in your gas tank and lines and they will not freeze up with water.

Prepare your car

  • Check or have a mechanic check the following items on your car:
    • Antifreeze levels - ensure they are sufficient to avoid freezing.
    • Battery and ignition system - should be in top condition and battery terminals should be clean.
    • Brakes - check for wear and fluid levels.
    • Exhaust system - check for leaks and crimped pipes and repair or replace as necessary. Carbon monoxide is deadly and usually gives no warning.
    • Fuel and air filters - replace and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas.
    • Heater and defroster - ensure they work properly.
    • Lights and flashing hazard lights - check for serviceability.
    • Oil - check for level and weight. Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.
    • Thermostat - ensure it works properly.
    • Windshield wiper equipment - repair any problems and maintain proper washer fluid level.
  • Install good winter tires. Make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some jurisdictions require that to drive on their roads, vehicles must be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.
  • Maintain at least a half tank of gas during the winter season.
  • Place a winter emergency kit in each car that includes:
    • a shovel
    • windshield scraper and small broom
    • flashlight
    • battery powered radio
    • extra batteries
    • water
    • snack food
    • matches
    • extra hats, socks and mittens
    • First aid kit with pocket knife
    • Necessary medications
    • blanket(s)
    • tow chain or rope
    • road salt and sand
    • booster cables
    • emergency flares
    • fluorescent distress flag

At home and at work
Primary concerns are the potential loss of power, heat and telephone service and a shortage of supplies if storm conditions continue for more than a day.

Should all communications be lost, find the closest Ham Radio operator and use them for emergency communications for medical, fire, and EMS. These people have more resources then most people and are volunteers.

Make sure to have available:

  • Flashlight and extra batteries or wind up flashlights
  • Battery-powered National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather radio to receive emergency information. These radios may be your only link to the outside.
  • Extra food and water. High energy food such as dried fruit or cereal bars. Food requiring no cooking or refrigeration is best.
  • Extra medicine and baby needs.
  • First-aid supplies.
  • Heating fuel. Fuel providers may not reach you for days after a severe storm.
  • Emergency heating source, such as a fireplace, wood stove space heater, etc.
  • Learn to use it properly to prevent a fire
  • Have proper ventilation
  • Fire extinguisher and battery-powered smoke detector
  • Test units regularly to ensure that they are working properly

In cars and trucks

  • Plan travel and check the latest weather reports to avoid the storm.
  • Check and winterize your vehicle fully before the winter season begins.
  • Carry a winter storm survival kit:
  • Blankets/sleeping bags
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • First-aid kit
  • Knife
  • High calorie, non-perishable food
  • Extra clothing to keep dry
  • A large empty can and plastic covers with tissues and paper towels for sanitary purposes
  • A smaller can and water-proof matches to melt snow for drinking water
  • Sack of sand or cat litter
  • Shovel
  • Windshield scraper and brush
  • Tool kit
  • Tow rope
  • Booster cables
  • Water container
  • Compass and road maps
  • Keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines
  • Try not to travel alone
  • Let someone know your timetable and primary and alternate routes

If you do get stuck...

  • Stay with your car. Do not try to walk to safety.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) to the antenna for rescuers to see.
  • Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes won't back up into the car.
  • Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so that you can be seen.
  • As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to keep blood circulating and to stay warm.
  • Keep one window away from the blowing wind slightly open to let in air.

On the farm

  • Move animals to sheltered areas. Shelter belts, properly laid out and oriented, are better protection for cattle than confining shelters such as sheds.
  • Haul extra feed to nearby feeding areas.
  • Have a water supply available. Most animal deaths in winter storms are from dehydration.

Dress to fit the season

  • Wear loose-fitting, light-weight, warm clothing in several layers.
  • Trapped air insulates.
  • Remove layers as necessary to avoid perspiration and subsequent chill.
  • Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellant and hooded.
  • Wear a hat. Half of your heat loss can be from your head.
  • Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold.
  • Mittens, snug at the wrist, are better than gloves.
  • Try to stay dry.

Stay tuned for storm warnings

  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio and your local radio and television stations for updated storm information
  • Know what winter storm WATCHES and WARNINGS mean:
  • A winter storm WATCH means a winter storm is possible in your area.
  • A winter storm WARNING means a winter storm is headed for your area.
  • A blizzard WARNING mean strong winds, blinding wind-driven snow and dangerous wind chill are expected. Seek shelter immediately.

When a winter storm WATCH is issued:

  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio, local radio and television stations or cable television such as the Weather Channel for further updates.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions.
  • Avoid unnecessary travel.

When a winter storm WARNING is issued:

  • Stay indoors during the storm.
  • If you must go outside, several layers of lightweight clothing will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat (SEE PREVIOUS PARAGRAPH ON DRESSING TO FIT THE SEASON)
  • Understand the hazards of wind chill which combines the cooling effect of wind and cold temperatures on exposed skin. As the wind increases, heat is carried away from the body at an accelerated rate, driving down the body temperature.
  • Walk carefully on snowy, icy sidewalks.
  • After the storm, if you should shovel snow, be extremely careful. It is physically strenuous work, so take frequent breaks. Avoid overexertion.

Source: American Red Cross and National Weather Service