By Niki Morock, Meteorologist
You might have heard that this week has been declared Winter Weather Preparedness Week in the state of North Carolina by Governor Pat McCrory. If you follow the local National Weather Service offices, NC's Department of Public Safety's Emergency Management Office, Ready NC, or any other state government agencies concerned with public welfare, you have probably started seeing informational posts about the challenges of winter weather forecasting in North Carolina.
I could add to the topic, but I think they have it covered pretty well. Instead, I want to point out how important being a proactive member of your community is, especially when it comes to weather emergencies.
While the local, state, and federal government are tasked with emergency management and official response, true preparedness starts with individuals and families in their own homes. Are you prepared for a winter weather emergency? What does being prepared actually mean?
The first step in readying for a potential disaster is to know what threats you may face. Winter storms can bring snow and ice to our area, and those hazards can lead to power and other utility outages. Prolonged power outages can make daily activities that we take for granted difficult, warmth hard to maintain, and food hard to preserve. Snow and ice can also make travel difficult for everyone including first responders and utility workers.
Considering those two basic points, ask yourself if you have batteries, candles, and a safe way to keep warm. Do you have enough easy-to-prepare food and water to last three to seven days? Do you have a basic first aid kit? How about a reliable way to receive information such as a hand-crank or battery operated radio? Is there enough gas in your vehicle in case you absolutely need to leave your home to find better shelter? Other supplies you may need in a winter weather emergency include rock salt or ice melt, a shovel, an ice scraper for your car's windows and a way to remove all of the snow and ice from your car before traveling. You can check ReadyNC.org for a full list of what should be in an emergency preparedness kit.
Once you have your own house in order, think about your neighbors. Do any of them have special needs? Is there an elderly person you should check on, or family with small children that might need extra assistance? Do you even know?
There was a time when neighbors talked to each other, really knew each other, and helped each other out. These days, there are whole neighborhoods that seem to limit their interactions amongst themselves to a nod and a wave. While it may seem nostalgic to ask how well you know the people in your neighborhood, those people are your immediate community and ideally should be the ones who come together first in an emergency.
You can go a step further in your preparedness and take a CPR course or join the Citizen Corps or a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). CERTs train in several types of emergencies including fire, medical, and search and rescue operations. They help fill the gaps in emergency response that may happen during an extreme disaster when resources and the availability of police, fire, and emergency medical personnel are limited.
The goal of Winter Weather Preparedness Week each year is to remind people of the seasonal hazards we may face in the coming months. I challenge you to do more than just read the articles. I challenge you to take responsibility for your personal preparedness and think about how to get more involved in your community's preparedness as well.