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Red Cross warns seniors about dangers from winter storms

By Staff | Feb 14, 2014

During the winter season Donald Chappell, a representative with the American Red Cross from Harrisburg, has been coming to the Meck Senior Center in Muncy Township to provide resources and safety tips for winter storm emergencies. His next visit will be March 4.

MUNCY – January’s cold arctic-like winds and many days below freezing temperatures brought some valid safety concerns for many citizens. “Winter storms can be deceptive killers.” Donald Chappell, an AmeriCorps member with the American Red Cross announced this at the Meck Senior Center and with a safety checklist advised everyone to be ready for cold climates.

Special needs are required for the home and the vehicle during winter storms which can bring significant snowfalls, ice storms, squalls, power shortages, and other unpreventable disasters from nature.

Having a plan and a point of communication during severe weather is essential according to Chappell. He asked if anyone present was prepared and had evacuation plans if needed. Only one hand was raised. That left many without a plan for pets, an escape route or meeting place, plans for disabilities, a place for medications, hearing aids, and any other special devices.

“Be aware and inform others. It’s the right thing to do,” Chappell said as he distributed a well-informed booklet from American Red Cross, “DISASTER PREPAREDNESS for Seniors by Seniors.” Inside there is a comprehensive checklist for basic needs and supplies and ways to establish an alert system.

Know public shelters, car pools, proper attire, and have disaster kits ready to grab. If evacuations are necessary, travel routes will be designated by local officials.

“Have two routes of safety in any emergency,” stressed Chappell. Emergencies can strike quickly, without warning. “You will be forced to leave or be confined to your home.”

Preparing for an emergency disaster requires three steps: get a kit, make a plan, and be informed. This includes emergency phone numbers, plans for pets and those with disabilities, procedures for utilities and alarms, plus insurance coverage, vital records and documents.

“Don’t over exert yourself,” he warned. “Often men over 60 suffer from heart attacks and exhaustion from pushing cars or shoveling snow.”

Keep an updated winter storm kit with water, non perishable food, working flashlight, extra batteries, blankets, dry clothes and a radio. Have a kit for both vehicle and home. “Have copies of personal documents waterproofed,” Chappell said. “And have extra cash too. Credit cards won’t work in ATM’s if no power.”

Help a neighbor. Follow forecasts. A “Watch” is within 12 to 36 hours, and a “Warning” is 30 minutes to an hour. “During a warning, you won’t have time to prepare,” Chappell said.

Stay indoors, stay warm, conserve fuel, take plenty of fluids. Stay dry and stretch.

“A lot of this is common sense,” he forewarned, “but we have to do it.”

The cold wind chills are hazardous too, resulting in hypothermia, frostbite. “If you get stuck in your car, stay with your vehicle. Don’t get caught in snow drifts. Display a trouble sign.” Run the engine ten minutes each hour, and do minor exercises to keep circulation going. It’s important not to lose consciousness.

Power outages can occur anytime. Back up power for life sustaining equipment, cell phones. Consume refrigerator food first. Disconnect all electrical appliances, TV’s and computers in case of power surges. “Leave one light on so you know when the power comes back on.”

Do not run a generator inside the house or garage. All exhaust fumes should be vented outdoors. Be sure carbon monoxide alarms are installed in central locations.

Winter storms can range from a moderate snow fall to a blinding blizzard in just a few hours, without warning and many accompany dangerously low temperatures. Preparation will save lives. More information is available at redcross.org.

Chappell will be coming back to the Muncy area on Tuesday, March 4 at the Meck Senior Center at 11:30 a.m. to do another presentation and provide resources for emergency disaster preparedness.