Kathy Karg Gutierrez, RN, BSN, CEN, is a care coordinator in the Emergency Department at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Kathy Karg Gutierrez, RN, BSN, CEN, is a care coordinator in the Emergency Department at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Winter is here. Preparing for its worst may make a big difference in how you experience winter. Getting a jump on prep work now, before Vermont unleashes her fury, is time well spent for your safety and that of your family and community.

Get your vehicle ready. By now you should have snow tires (on the car, not in the garage, or at the store). Early season accidents are expected because folks have not been practicing, and there is very little salt on the road yet.  Have an extra blanket, some snacks, flashlight, small shovel, flares, and jumper cables in your car. I feel better never needing these items, than wishing I had them! Minimize travel when it gets ugly. Yes, it is pretty out there, but better to see from skis or snowshoes, or even the window, than from the ditch!

Prepare walkways for snow and ice. Have shovels and sand or salt handy to clear walkways. Investment in getting these ready will save some precarious trips across the walk or to your car. Get several pairs of the slip-on grippers (like Yakstrax) for the house and car. They are inexpensive, and pull on easily, making walking on ice much safer. Falls are a real risk and a real pain (with potential for worse). If shoveling is not your forte, line up some help now instead of after the storm.

Get ahead on your holiday shopping. I like to get ahead on my shopping for the winter season…not so much the holiday shopping (I wish!), but for the bulk items that are easier to bring inside before the ice comes (and doesn’t leave until the crocuses come up). If you can afford to do it, plan to stock up on the pet food, the cat litter, the bird seed, the rock salt, etc.

Gather enough supplies to weather out a storm.  This includes potable water and non-perishable food. The ice storm of 1998 left many without power for nearly a week (or longer). We can’t count on being able to just run to the local store, especially if roads are not cleared, and the stores are not open. Emergency preparedness gurus experts recommend households be prepared for 2 two weeks of being self-sufficient.  That includes food, water, and medications (prescription and OTC) for all members of the maximum expected household, including pets.  This may seem extreme, but in a disaster efforts can be focused on restoring utilities and helping those that could not prepare for the events.

Choose a back-up heat source. Many folks choose to have a wood stove in addition to propane, gas, or electric. If you have a generator, be sure that the exhaust is directed from the house. Carbon monoxide is a big threat in the winter. Never use an outdoor grill inside the home.

Being prepared makes you ready for winter, and even more ready to enjoy it!

Kathy Karg Gutierrez, RN, BSN, CEN, is a care coordinator in the Emergency Department at the University of Vermont Medical Center. 

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