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Residents are encouraged to review hazards, safety rules of winter weather

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Today is designated as Winter Weather Awareness Day

SIKESTON -- If local residents have forgotten how nasty Old Man Winter can be, they just need to think back to February when ice storms caused power outages and wreaked havoc on roadways for days in some areas.

To prepare for what the upcoming winter season may bring, local, state and federal agencies have designated today as Winter Weather Awareness Day. Residents are encouraged to to review the hazards and safety rules of winter weather.

Larry Farrenburg, manager of Slusher's Farm and Home Supply in Sikeston, said he recommends residents stock up on supplies now rather than wait for a warning or after a winter storm.

Farrenburg said last year the business sold out of its winter weather supplies -- ice scrapers, ice melt, snow shovels, sleds, anti-freeze, generators and more.

"Maybe after last year people will be more prepared," Farrenburg said.

However, Farrenburg said there are proactive customers who've already purchased items like ice scrapers, warm clothing items and other products to remove ice and snow for the season. There's also a product that fastens onto shoe to give a person better tread when walking in wintry conditions, he said.

According to the National Weather Service and State Emergency Management Agency, the season's two most important terms are winter storm watch and winter storm warning. A winter storm watch indicates severe winter weather may affect the area. A winter storm warning means severe winter weather is in the area or expected immediately.

"You want to be reasonable about thinking ahead and have some supplies around," said New Madrid County Emergency Management Director David McClarty.

These supplies include flashlights, batteries and a heating auxiliary such as a generator.

"Most of the time, we also should realize the electricity will be back on fairly soon. Every once in a while you have that day or two days when you want to have a backup plan to go and stay with neighbors or a family member who would still have power," McClarty said.

Scott County Emergency Management Director Joel Evans said it's also good to have a first aid kit, one-week supply of food (include items that do not require refrigeration or cooking in case the power is shut off), manual can opener; one-week supply of essential prescription medications, extra blankets and sleeping bags

Evans recommended preparing automobiles by adding emergency supplies in the vehicle. These include an ice scraper; sturdy warm shoes; heavy coat, gloves and hat; blanket; keeping the fuel tank full; checking condition of tires and battery.

McClarty said local Emergency Management Agency directors are trying to emphasize Community Emergency Response Training teams so people become more self-sufficient so they can help take care of themselves and others in emergencies.

"A lot of times with things, there's a high awareness for a period of time and then gets put on the back burner," McClarty said.

The awareness day is one way to remind people of the importance of being prepared for emergencies, he said.

"People lose sight of what can happen," McClarty said. "We're always constantly talking about awareness and making sure people are reminded that these things can happen and need to have some kind of self sufficiency."

Quick tips

Missourians can prepare for winter by:

-- Creating a family emergency plan and creating an emergency kit with additional water

and food that can be prepared without cooking in case there are power outages.

-- Buying a tone alert weather radio or extra batteries for your regular radio. Listen for

updates.

-- Securing an alternate fuel source such as firewood or a generator. Make sure your

fireplace functions properly. If you have a generator, make sure you have fuel and your

generator functions properly and is only operated in a well-ventilated area. If you have a

kerosene heater, refuel your heater outside and remember to keep the heater at least 3 feet

away from flammable objects.

-- Insulate walls and attic. Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows.

-- Install and check smoke detectors. Get a fire extinguisher (A-B-C type)

-- Keep pipes from freezing. Wrap pipes in insulation and let faucets drip a little to avoid freezing.

-- Know how to shut off water valves.

-- Develop an emergency communication plan.

-- Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the "family contact."

-- After a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.

-- Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1

Information was provided by Scott County Emergency Management Director Joel Evans and Gov. Matt Blunt's Office.


On the Internet:

Missouri's Ready in 3 program: http://www.dhhs.mo.gov/Ready_in_3

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SEMA: http://sema.dps.mo.gov/sema.htm then click on the 2008 Winter Awareness Link

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FEMA's Winter Awareness Campaign: http://www.fema.gov/areyouready/winter.s...