Emergency Preparedness Timing – Winter Woes
When we talk about emergency preparedness, we often talk about events that we need to prepare for, but I’d like to talk about timing, at least in a general sense. When it comes to facing some sort of a problem, the worst time of the year for it to happen would likely be winter.
Our ability to engage in emergency preparedness planning is complicated by severe winter weather.
It’s enough of an effort to get prepared for severe winter weather, and if you have to respond to some sort of emergency, it makes matters worse. In fact, it makes your preparations for severe winter weather just as important as any other emergency.
So, when it comes to wintertime emergencies, it’s very possible that each could be a double emergency scenario, all depending on what’s happening on the weather front. Let’s take a look.
If I were to make a quick list of why wintertime is the worst time to implement response to an emergency, I’d suggest the following make it to the top of my list right away. There are others, but these are the “heavy hitters.”
- With an extended loss of power, it’s conceivable that one could freeze to death or at least suffer irreparable damage to extremities due to frostbite. No similar risk presents itself in the summer where one might make good use of evaporative cooling in the absence of electric power.
- Any outdoor activity can be miserable. Try changing a tire in the middle of a snow storm. Exposure can easily be life threatening, even with proper outerwear. In summer one can elect to conduct outside work after the sun goes down to avoid sun and excess heat, in winter, when the sun goes down it just gets colder.
- Roads can be impassable after heavy snows and high winds. If you need assistance from even a neighbor, getting to you might be challenging to say the least. In blizzard conditions it can be impossible to identify the road ahead, even if it’s not clogged with snow.
- Ice storms are beautiful, but are a leading cause of downed electric lines, especially transmission lines and other overhead power delivery infrastructure. Recent extended power outages in the mid-west and northeast, that have been nothing less than crippling, have all been attributed to ice storms.
- If food is a need of yours, just remember that planting, growing and harvesting are difficult if not impossible in the winter months. Many places in North America are not conducive to any sort of agriculture for at least four months out of the year because of winter weather. If you’re going to find something natural to eat, you’ll need to make like a foraging deer or be a good hunter (see item #2 about exposure).
- Natural water sources tend to freeze up during the winter, even if the water is otherwise a year round source. This also interferes with the ease of fishing that one might otherwise make use of.
- Whether it’s travel or standby power generation, engines don’t like to start in severe cold, battery capacity is diminished by lower temperatures, and gear oil can turn to sludge in below zero weather. In parts of Alaska, work vehicles are left running 24 hours a day during the winter just to provide assurance that they’ll be available when needed.
So, there you have more than a half a dozen considerations as to why responding to emergencies in the winter can be especially challenging, regardless of what kind of emergency you might be dealing with. Emergency preparedness is challenging, but when you throw in the idea of a mishap in the middle of severe winter weather, it can stretch our ability to cope. Perhaps we should wait until winter before we get ourselves knee-deep in emergency preparedness planning. At least that might help us keep in mind the challenges that severe winter weather can bring with it.
Clair Schwan used to live in California where 28 degrees F for an hour or so before dawn was considered “winter” weather. He now resides in Wyoming where 10 below zero and gale force winds aren’t uncommon in the winter, and he spent the first 23 years of his life in Michigan, so he’s no stranger to snow, ice, sleet, cold weather and cars that refuse to start due to temperature extremes.