Snowpocalypse II: Tips to Keep Your Home & Family Safe

As the snow continues to fall, and DC area stores run out of bread, milk, and shovels, we thought we should share some tips to help you stay safe at home during and after the storm. Our best advice? Get home and stay home, especially as the storm intensifies- this is a great chance to get started on your own February DIY project!

Be prepared: The time to make sure your flashlights are working is before your power goes out (trust us- we've been there!) Make sure you have a full tank of gas and a plan for what you'll do if your power or heat goes out. Though it is a pain, try to keep your car as clear as possible- a good friend found out the hard way how difficult it is to remove snow from a car in an emergency after her mom fell, broke her wrist, and needed to get to the hospital. Charge up your cell phone now just in case there is a power outage later. If you lose power and heat, remember to open your faucets to allow for a trickle of water to keep your pipes from freezing if the temperature continues to drop.

Move your car: Parked or disabled vehicles left on Snow Emergency Routes will be ticketed ($250 in DC!) and towed. Help the road crews do their jobs (and save yourself some money) by making sure you are not parked on a Snow Emergency Route. Montgomery County has suspended enforcement in county parking garages this weekend to encourage residents to park there rather than on the streets.

Clear your walkway and sidewalk: DC law requires property owners to clear snow and ice from sidewalks, handicap ramps and steps abutting their property within the first 8 daylight hours after snow, sleet or ice stop falling. Property owners must also clear snow from the ADA-curb cuts. Montgomery County law requires all residential and commercial property owners to clear their public sidewalks within 24 hours of the end of a snowstorm. Check the rules for your area, and try to stay on top snow removal to prevent injuries on your property.

Be a good neighbor: Heart attacks from shoveling heavy snow are a leading cause of deaths during winter. If you have elderly or disabled neighbors, help them out by handling their shoveling and small errands if you can. In Alexandria, volunteer “Snow Buddies” are available to assist low-income elderly or disabled residents who need help clearing snow; residents can sign up by calling 703.746.4800.

Clear the hydrants: Those big piles of snow pushed up by the plows can easily cover fire hydrants, costing emergency workers precious moments when responding to a fire. Help them help you by digging out the hydrants on your street and keeping an eye out to make sure they stay clear.

Clear the storm drains: Make sure there is no debris (or large blocks of snow and ice) blocking the storm drains on your street to help ensure unobstructed flow into the sewer system once the melting begins.

Check your ventilation: With the possibility of some substantial accumulations combined with high winds, PEPCO is preparing for possible power outages. Please remember that if you are using a portable generator during a power outage, always operate it outside, away from doors and windows to prevent deadly carbon monoxide fumes from entering the home. If your home has a heat pump, clear the ice and snow away from the unit so that air can circulate properly.

Have another safety tip, especially if you live in a part of the country more accustomed to this type of weather? Please share your advice in the comments below.