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Winter is coming and with it approaches the potential for harsh storms and freezing temperatures. Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB) Safety Manager Jim Ganz and NSAB Emergency Manager Ron Kunz advocate for base preparedness during the harsh winter months.

“The time to get ready for winter weather is long before the first snowflake falls,” said Kunz. “If the snow advisory [on Nov 24] was any indication, the time to prepare is now.”

Supplies

“Usually right before a storm people panic and rush to the store to buy their supplies. You’re better off stocking up right now,” said Kunz.

In addition to keeping households stocked with both perishable and non-perishable food items, Kunz recommends keeping several tools in a disaster supplies kit. These items include: rock salt to melt ice on walkways; sand, to improve traction for cars in snow; snow shovels and other snow removal equipment to dig yourself out if the need arises.

“Prepare for possible isolation in your home by also having sufficient heating fuel, since regular fuel sources may be cut off,” said Kunz. “For example, store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove. You can also winterize your home to extend the life of your fuel supply by insulating walls and attics, caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows, and installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic.”

Vehicular Maintenance

“In the event of a snowstorm, your car will probably be your main mode of transportation,” said Kunz. “It’s important to make sure the vehicle is properly checked for serviceability beforehand.”

Both managers recommended that drivers ensure that these commonly used components are fully operational in your vehicle: the thermostat, brakes, heater, defroster, headlamps, flashing hazard lights, windshield wiper equipment, as well as the fuel and air filters. Liquids such as the antifreeze, motor oil, brake fluid and windshield wiper fluid should also be checked and refilled if necessary.

“Battery and ignition system should be in top condition with clean battery terminals. Check for leaks and crimped pipes in the exhaust system; carbon monoxide is deadly and usually gives no warning,” added Kunz.

A strong emphasis was also placed on vehicle tires. “It’s one of the most important parts of your car. They’re what’s actually coming in contact with the ice and snow,” said Kunz, who encouraged drivers to “consider buying snow tires with studs or chains for better traction in icy weather.”

Drivers who aren’t car savvy were advised to seek an automotive service station, where most of these precautions and system checks can be included with regular service, and sign up for road side assistance services that offer towing, car repair and rental if the unexpected happens.

Dressing for the Cold

“Bundling up is the best way to stave off the cold to improve your health and disposition this winter,” said Ganz.

When selecting winter clothes for outdoor activities, Kunz recommended wearing several layers of loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent to protect against adverse weather conditions like rain, wind or snow. The inner layers should be clean, lightweight and easy to remove. This prevents overheating by allowing the wearer to adjust the amount of clothes needed as they move in and out of heated buildings.

“If you have trouble remembering these tips, remember the acronym, C.O.L.D.; keep it ‘Clean,’ avoid ‘Overheating,’ wear it ‘Loose and in Layers,’ and keep it ‘Dry,’” said Ganz.

Accessories are also essential when keeping extremities warm. Both managers advocated wearing hats and scarves to protect your head, face and even lungs from winter winds. Mittens were also suggested as a warmer alternative to gloves.

Decorations

The holiday season usually accompanies a flurry of decorations, but the combination of extreme elements, dry air, uneven heat and electronic lights can cause problems at home and in the office if not carefully maintained.

“If you plan on placing a Christmas tree in your house, use caution,” said Ganz. “Most artificial trees are fire resistant, but live trees have a tendency to dry out over time and create a serious fire hazard. Any living Christmas tree you use this season should be fresh. Newer trees are less flammable and can be identified by firm, flexible, green, needles that are difficult to pull from branches as well as a trunk butt that is sticky with sap. A tree displaying these signs will last for approximately a month if kept away from heat sources and stored within a well-watered basin.”

While there are already wreaths and trees adorning the halls and offices of NSAB, Ganz stressed that “there are strict guidelines for workplace decorations that service members and civilians at NSAB must observe.” Artificial Christmas trees are allowed in NSAB workspaces, but living ones are not. If a decoration requires strings of lights, the lights must be UL-listed, used in moderation, plugged directly into the wall without use of extension cords and turned off when unattended. No decoration should completely cover a door or block a hallway or walking space. The use of aerosol artificial snow is strictly prohibited.