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Emergency Preparedness
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Be Safe During Intense Cold and Winter Storms

Winters are so erratic in Maryland that it's easy to find ourselves unprepared. It's hard to think about cold weather emergency supplies when the temperature is in the fifties, but, as every Baltimore area resident knows, it can be balmy one day and bitterly cold the next.

Make sure your home is stocked with basic emergency supplies at the start of the winter season. Before and during a storm, familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations regarding snow removal and other county services by visiting our online winter storm center.

Winter Supplies

For winter emergencies – or any emergency – you should have these three items:

  • Flashlights or battery-powered lanterns, with extra batteries.
  • A battery-powered radio so you can receive information if the power goes out.
  • Enough water to last three days; one gallon, per person, per day.

Other winter supplies:

  • Non-perishable food.
  • A manual can opener.
  • Extra blankets.
  • A warm coat, gloves or mittens, hat and water-resistant boots for every member of the household.
  • A disaster kit with first aid kit and essential medications; battery-powered NOAA weather radio and portable radio; flashlight; and extra batteries.
  • A disaster supplies kit for your car, which should be winterized before the cold weather season. The kit should include blankets, a shovel, sand, tire chains, jumper cables, a first aid kit, a flashlight and extra batteries, a bright cloth to tie to the antenna and extra sets of dry clothing.
  • Extra supplies of necessary medications.

Portable Generator Hazards

Many households use portable generators to supply power temporarily when the power goes out.

Generators pose several hazards:

  • Carbon monoxide poisoning,
  • Electric shock or electrocution
  • Fire

To prevent Carbon monoxide poisoning, never use generators indoors or near doors, windows and vents. Make sure you have Carbon monoxide alarms and that they are in good working order.

For other important tips about using generators safely, view the U.S. Fire Administration's helpful fact sheet.

Understanding Storm Warnings

Emergency management officials stress the importance of understanding storm watches and warnings.

  • A winter storm watch means a winter storm is possible in your area. Avoid unnecessary travel.
  • A winter storm warning means a storm is headed for your area. Stay indoors during the storm. If you must go out, wear several layers of lightweight clothing, which will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat.
  • A blizzard warning means strong winds, blinding snow and dangerous wind chill are expected. Seek shelter immediately.

Travel During Winter Storms

Traveling in a car during a winter storm is dangerous, but if you must:

  • Keep an emergency supply kit in the trunk.
  • Keep the gas tank full, partly to keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Let someone know your destination, route and anticipated time of arrival.

If you get stuck, stay with the car! Do not try to walk to safety. Follow these tips:

  • Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna so rescuers will see you.
  • Start the car and use the heater for 10 minutes each hour.
  • Keep the exhaust pipe clear so deadly fumes won't back up into the car.
  • Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so you can be seen.
  • Keep moving your arms and legs to stay warm.
  • Keep one window (away from the blowing wind) slightly open to let in fresh air.

Detailed information about winter storm preparedness is available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross.

Revised June 5, 2014

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