Even before the first snowflakes fall, people should make sure their homes and vehicles are ready.

The National Weather Service (NWS) says people should make sure their home, office and vehicle is stocked with the supplies they need in case of a winter emergency. People with farm animals or pets should also make sure they have what they need for the animals during a winter storm.

Home and Work

The NWS says people’s top concerns at home and work during a winter storm are loss of heat, power and telephone service, and a shortage of supplies if storm conditions last longer than a day. To prepare their home and workplace, the NWS says people should have:

  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio and portable radio to receive emergency information
  • Extra food and water such as dried fruit, nuts, granola bars and other food requiring no cooking or refrigeration.
  • Extra prescription medicine
  • Baby items such as diapers and formula
  • First-aid supplies
  • Heating fuel: refuel before you are empty; fuel carriers may not reach you for days after a winter storm
  • Emergency heat source: fireplace, wood stove or space heater properly ventilated to prevent a fire
  • Fire extinguisher, smoke alarm; test smoke alarms monthly to ensure they work properly
  • Extra pet food and warm shelter for pets
  • Review generator safety: Never run a generator in an enclosed space
  • Make sure your carbon monoxide detector is working correctly and that the outside vent is clear of leaves and debris. During or after the storm, make sure it is cleared of snow.
  • Home fires are common each winter when trying to stay warm. Review ways to keep your home and loved ones safe.

If the power goes out, AES Indiana says people should also come to a centralized place in the home and shut all of the other doors in the house.

“So, if the family can gather in one warm place, if you do have a fireplace, get together, stay warm, bundle up,” Kelly Young, Director of Public Relations with AES Indiana, said.

AES also provided these tips to protect your home and groceries if you lose electricity:

  • Turn off and unplug most electronic devices to avoid a power surge. Leave one light on to know when the power has been restored.
  • Keep your freezer and refrigerator doors closed. Food will stay frozen for 36-48 hours in a fully loaded freezer, while a half-full freezer will keep food frozen for 24 hours if the door is kept closed, according to AES Indiana.
  • Consider taking the time to check on neighbors, especially those with medical conditions.

In the car

The NWS says before leaving the house during the winter, people should make sure all fluid levels are full and make sure the lights, heater and windshield wipers are in proper condition.

The condition of your wipers and levels of washer fluid becomes even more important when INDOT plows enter the scene. These massive vehicle tend to spray melted snow and salt from the surface of the road – impairing your visibility,” INDOT Crawfordsville District Public Relations Director Megan Delucenay said. “We want you guys to get home safely, we want our workers to get home safely so just giving them room… giving other vehicles room regardless of if it’s a plow truck, just making sure you’re driving as safely as possible to get everybody home,”

“Even in the best conditions sometimes our drivers have trouble seeing. It’s a big truck, there’s a lot of equipment in the way and the plows are very wide so they can cross that center line, they can cross a shoulder so just making sure if you have to pass – please do it very carefully.”

They should also make sure the gas tank is near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.

“If you do have to go out and it does end up being bad, I would suggest that you keep a kit in your car. It’s very important,” Delucenay said. “Better to be safe than sorry, over prepared rather than under prepared so things like flashlights, jumper cables, water, blankets… you want to make sure that if you do find yourself in a situation where you’re stuck somewhere that you’re going to be safe and you’re going to be warm as well.”

Before the winter season begins, people should winterize their vehicles and prepare a winter storm survival kit including:

  • Mobile phone, charger, batteries
  • Blankets/sleeping bags
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • First-aid kit
  • Knife
  • High-calorie, non-perishable food
  • Extra clothing to keep dry
  • Large empty can to use as an emergency toilet, tissues, toilet paper and paper towels
  • Small can and waterproof matches to melt snow for drinking water
  • Sack of sand or cat litter for traction
  • Shovel
  • Windshield scraper and brush
  • Tool kit
  • Tow rope
  • Battery booster cables
  • Water container
  • Candle and matches to provide light and in an emergency, lifesaving heat.
  • Compass and road maps, don’t depend on mobile devices with limited battery life

In general, it’s also important to plan ahead when traveling in winter weather, allowing yourself plenty of extra time to make a trip safely… or staying home if you can.

“If you know you’re going to be going and you know there’s winter weather coming… just leave an hour early, leave a couple hours early. It’s better to get there slowly than to not get there at all,” Delucenay said. “We know it’s very close to Christmas and we’re excited, we want to see family, but don’t let that excitement cloud your judgment.”

For farm animal and pet owners

People caring for animals should also make sure the animals are prepared for the cold. The NWS says people should:

  • Move animals to sheltered areas or bring pets inside. Shelterbelts, properly laid out and oriented, are better protection for cattle than confining shelters, such as sheds.
  • Haul extra feed to nearby feeding areas.
  • Have water available. Most animals die from dehydration in winter storms.
  • Make sure pets have plenty of food and water and a warm shelter.

Enrolling in Smart911 before the storm

Communities across central Indiana like Hamilton, Hendricks, Hancock and Boone County use Smart911 to provide valuable information to emergency dispatchers. This online tool allows you to create a profile and list different needs within your household before a disaster strikes, such as medical information.

“For example, someone that may be on a home oxygen generator, they can put that information into the system and that lets us better understand the potential need for areas that if they do lose power, how many of those folks may be in a serious situation where they need electricity,” Shane Booker, Executive Director with Hamilton County Emergency Management, said.

You can check whether Smart911 serves your community on the system’s website.

“Basically what it does is the 911 dispatcher is able to have that information beforehand and then so they can pass that onto the first responder,” Doug Burris, Director of the Hendricks County Communications Center, said.

This tool will also send severe weather alerts to everyone who signs up. If you lose power and you need a safe place to go, these alerts would deliver that information.

“That would notify where you could go for a warming station and places like that,” Burris said.

Justin Kollar and Courtney Crown contributed to this report.