Helping Give Away Psychological Science/Winter weather events preparation and tips

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The initial impetus for this article were Winter Storms Uri and Tabitha in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, but the information can be re-used quickly in response to other situations. We are thinking especially of severe snow events and blizzards that have the potential to threaten safety and well-being (both physical and mental). The organization of this page is based on what we have done in the past in response to hurricanes and wildfires. This page was curated by Helping Give Away Psychological Science, a non-profit focused on dissemination and connecting people to resources from which they could greatly benefit.

Before: How to Prepare[edit | edit source]

Winter Storm Warning Terminology[1][edit | edit source]

Winter Weather Advisory: Expect winter weather conditions to cause minor inconveniences and hazards

Frost/Freeze Warnings: Below-freezing temperatures likely

Winter Storm Watch: Winter storm is likely

Winter Storm Warning: Storm is in or entering the area--take action

Blizzard Warning: Snow and strong winds with near-zero visibility and life-threatening wind chill--seek refuge immediately

Winter-Proofing[edit | edit source]

Information taken from:

Your Home[2][edit | edit source]

  • Insulate water lines that run along exterior walls[3]
    • This way water supply will be less likely to freeze
    • If pipes do freeze
      • Do not thaw with a torch--use warm air from an electric hair dryer instead
      • If thawing is not possible, use bottled water
      • In an emergency, snow can be melted for water but must be boiled for one minute to kill germs
  • Caulk and weather strip windows
  • Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from inside
  • Cut away tree branches or cover windows with plastic from inside
  • If using fireplace, wood stove, or kerosene heater[3]
    • Install a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector
    • Make sure your chimney has been inspected by the fire department and is up to code
    • Keep a multipurpose fire extinguisher nearby
    • Use heaters with automatic shut-off switches and non-glowing elements
    • Keep heat sources at least 3 feet away from furniture
  • Drain dry pipe sprinkler systems completely and protect wet pipe systems with antifreeze

Your Car[2][edit | edit source]

  • Create an Emergency Car Kit
    • Portable cellphone charger and extra batteries
    • Warm clothing/blankets
    • Windshield scraper and shovel
    • Battery powered radio
    • Flashlight
    • First aid kit
    • Tire chains and tow chains
    • Canned compressed air with sealant
      • For tire repair in an emergency
    • Jumper cables
    • Hazard reflectors
  • Other Precautions
    • Check antifreeze level in radiator and add if needed
    • Replace wiper fluid with wintertime mixture
    • Check tread and air pressure in tires
    • Keep gas tank full
Information taken from:

During: How to Stay Safe[edit | edit source]

Consequences of Winter Storms[edit | edit source]

  • Loss of power
    • In case of power outage[4]
      • Keep refrigerators and freezers closed
      • Maintain self-stable food items
      • Turn off and disconnect electronics and other equipment in case of power surge
  • Loss of heat
  • Loss of communication lines
  • Increased risk of danger, especially to older adults and young children

How to Stay Safe During a Storm[5][6][7][8][edit | edit source]

  • Stay off the roads
  • Limit time outdoors
  • When outdoors wear warm clothing
  • Watch for signs of frostbite or hypothermia
  • Refrain for overexertion when shoveling snow
  • Eat regularly to maintain body heat
  • Avoid alcoholic or caffeinated beverages
  • Monitor body temperature
  • Do not heat your home with a gas stovetop or oven
  • Use battery-powered electronics
  • Conserve fuel
  • Drip faucets to avoid freezing

What to Do When Caught in a Winter Storm[edit | edit source]

Outside[9][edit | edit source]

  • Find or build shelter to stay in
  • Melt snow for drinking water
  • Exercise occasionally to keep blood circulating, which will help you keep warm

Driving in a Vehicle[10][edit | edit source]

  • Slow down to avoid slipping
    • Pump the brakes if you begin to slip
    • If you have an anti-lock braking system, press down on brakes with a constant pressure
  • Increase following distance
  • Do not stop on a hill
  • Stay on main roads
  • If you are having trouble seeing, pull over and wait until visibility becomes clearer

Stuck in a Vehicle[edit | edit source]

  • Stay in the vehicle!
    • Run the motor about 10 minutes each hour for heat
    • While running the motor, open the window a little for fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning
    • Clear snow from the exhaust pipe to avoid gas poisoning
    • Turn on hazard lights and keep seatbelt on
  • Make yourself visible to rescuers
    • Turn on the dome light at night when running the engine
    • Tie a bright colored cloth, preferably red, to your antenna or door
    • After snow stops falling, raise the hood to indicate you need help

How to Cope and Help Others Cope[11][edit | edit source]

  • Be a positive role model
    • Answer kids' questions to reduce anxiety
    • Pay attention to younger children's emotions
  • Maintain normal routines
    • Avoid "cabin fever"
    • Play board games or watch movies
  • Practice self-care
    • Stay in tune with your and loved ones' mental health
    • Remain aware of media consumption and its effects on your emotions
  • Reach out for help if necessary

After: How to Recover[edit | edit source]

Now that the winter storm has passed, there are some steps and resources to help you assess and recover from possible damage. What should you do?

Potential Damage to Look out For[edit | edit source]

Funding and Other Resources[edit | edit source]

Mental Health[edit | edit source]

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)[edit | edit source]

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?[edit | edit source]

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression related to a change in the seasons.[12] A biochemical imbalance in the brain due to shorter daylight hours and less sunlight in the winter is liked to SAD. A shift in the biological internal clock or circadian rhythm occurs as the season changes and cause people to shift away from their daily schedules.[13]

Symptoms of SAD[14][edit | edit source]

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy
  • Having problems with sleeping
  • Experiencing changes in appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (i.e. inability to sit still, pacing, handwringing) or slowed movements and speech (these actions must be severe enough to be observable by others)[15]

Causes[16][edit | edit source]

  • Circadian rhythm (biological clock)
  • Melatonin levels
  • Serotonin levels
  • Deficits in vitamin D

Prevention[17][edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Winter Storm Preparedness | Disaster Preparedness | Disaster Recovery Plan". Disaster Recovery Plan Template. Retrieved 2021-02-12.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Preparing for a Winter Storm|Winter Weather". Retrieved 2021-02-12.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Winter Storm Preparedness | Disaster Preparedness | Disaster Recovery Plan". Disaster Recovery Plan Template. Retrieved 2021-02-12.
  4. "Power Outages |". Retrieved 2021-02-12.
  5. "Winter Safety Tips: How to Stay Safe in a Blizzard & Storm". Retrieved 2021-02-12.
  6. "Winter Weather |". Retrieved 2021-02-12.
  7. "Winter Storms: During the Storm | The Weather Channel - Articles from The Weather Channel |". The Weather Channel. Retrieved 2021-02-12.
  8. "Winter Safety Tips". Welcome to the State of New York. 2014-11-25. Retrieved 2021-02-12.
  9. "How to Survive If You Are Stranded in a Blizzard | The Weather Channel - Articles from The Weather Channel |". The Weather Channel. Retrieved 2021-02-12.
  10. "How To Drive During A Winter Storm". GEICO Living. Retrieved 2021-02-12.
  11. "Coping with Disasters | | Blogs | CDC". Retrieved 2021-02-12.
  12. "Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) - Symptoms and causes". Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 2021-02-12.
  13. "Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)". Retrieved 2021-02-12.
  14. "Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) - Symptoms and causes". Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 2021-02-12.
  15. "Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)". Retrieved 2021-02-12.
  16. "NIMH » Seasonal Affective Disorder". Retrieved 2021-02-12.
  17. "Seasonal Depression (SAD): Symptoms & Treatments". Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved 2021-02-12.