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7 Tips for Blizzard Safety


December 3, 2018
Categories: Safety, Health, Travel Tips

Here in New Hampshire, where Global Rescue is headquartered, New Englanders know how to weather a snowstorm. Mother Nature starts her antics as early as Halloween, continuing with flurries as late as April.

It’s easy to plan for a blizzard — a snowstorm with blowing snow and severe cold temperatures — when you’re at home, but not so simple when you are traveling. There are a few things you can do to make sure you’re prepared for winter weather.

Here are some safety tips for a blizzard from Global Rescue’s experts.

Wear the right clothing

Not all the bulky long-sleeved and insulated garments you own are right for the outdoors. If you know you are going to be spending some time outdoors, you need to dress appropriately.

“Everybody should always start with some sort of moisture-wicking base layer,” recommends Global Rescue operations personnel. “If you sweat, you need to get that moisture away from your skin and preferably evaporating out and not into your clothes, so you don't lose the effectiveness of whatever other layers you've got on.”

Add a mid-layer to hold in the heat your body generates and top it off with a jacket that combines insulation and water resistance, so you’re covered in the case of snow.

Don’t forget boots that fit well (too tight a fit will inhibit circulation and make your feet colder) and a set of bulky, insulated mittens or gloves for your hands.

Fuel the machine

Good nutrition is what gives your body the ability to generate its own warmth when there’s none to be found in the weather outside.

“Stay away from things that contain sugars, giving you that burst of energy, but then a significant lag or crash afterwards,” Global Rescue operations personnel recommends. “What you want are long proteins, carbohydrates, things that are going to take the body a little bit longer to process than just a little bit of glucose – nuts, dried fruit, dried meats and jerkies that won’t require a ton of packing space.”

Drink plenty of water

In case you find yourself stuck in a blizzard, it’s essential to have enough water. The general rule is to keep about three gallons per person per day, but that’s a lot of water to carry. Having a water container or metal jug to collect snow will help. In an emergency situation, potable water can be retrieved by melting snow in a container.

Even if you aren’t sweating and the snow around you makes it hard to feel “thirsty,” your body still needs a steady supply of water to function, especially if you’re active.

Carry the right gear

If you’re going to go out in the cold to a remote location, you need some back-up options if something goes wrong. A satellite phone is a worthwhile investment for anyone who ventures away from civilization and a tracking or messaging device can be a good alternative, too.

“If you’re going to be way out in the back country, you should have a small survival kit: a shovel, fire-starting tools, a flint-strike setup of some sort, matches, extra water and a blanket or sleeping bag,” Global Rescue operations personnel recommends.

If you are preparing for a blizzard or other winter weather, a go-bag should address five basic needs: shelter, food and water, warmth, signaling and first aid. Check out this go-bag suggestion list.

Avoid hypothermia and frostbite

Hypothermia, your body temperature falling below 95 degrees, happens fast – probably faster than you’re imagining. It’s the same with frostbite, but there are indicators to let you know that you need to do something before irreversible damage sets in. Learn more about hypothermia and frostbite here.

Know how to handle an injury

While a sprained ankle in civilization is just a trip to the doctor’s office, it could cause far more serious problems in the wintry wilderness. A more severe injury, like a broken leg, brings additional complications. The colder air will impair blood flow, which can lead to shock. That’s how a broken bone or an open wound becomes a life-threatening condition.

“In those situations, time becomes a factor. Staying warm and not losing whatever existing warmth and body temperature you have is really going to save your life in those conditions, so make sure you always have an emergency blanket,” Global Rescue operations personnel recommends. “Staying hydrated is also important – it will help you with temperature regulation, so your body will not have to work quite as hard to maintain homeostasis.”

If you're worried about being injured, especially if you're going someplace in the back country and there’s the chance of snow-in conditions, make sure somebody knows where you are.

Keep your car emergency ready

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 24% of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement, and 15% happen during snowfall or sleet. The recommendation is, of course, to wait to travel until road conditions improve, but if you find yourself trapped in the car during a blizzard, it’s important to know what to do.

“The first thing to do is remain calm,” said Matt Napiltonia, Global Rescue Operations Manager. Take inventory of your situation: where are you? Are you stuck? Are you on the road or off? The golden rule is to stay in your vehicle, unless you’re in sight of a building. In that case, seek alternative shelter.

You can prepare for a blizzard by stocking your car with these items:

  • Warm clothing: thick jacket, neck gaiter, hat, socks, gloves and winter boots
  • Extra items for warmth: blanket, fleece
  • Heating or lighting tools: flashlight, a large candle, grill lighter
  • Snow removal tools: ice scraper, foldable shovel, kitty litter
  • Emergency kit items: Road flares, whistle, duct tape, jumper cables, first aid kit
  • Food (a few granola bars), water and a metal can for melting snow/collecting water

Global Rescue, the pioneer of worldwide field rescue, has provided emergency medical services in snowy environments from Alaska to Canada to Switzerland to Nepal since 2004.

Whether you're seeking outdoor advice, like safety tips for a blizzard, or immediate medical or security assistance, Global Rescue operations centers are staffed 24/7/365 to assist our members. 


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