What supplies does your organization need stocked should the worst of winter weather strike?

Avoiding Snowpocalypse: Emergency Supplies for Winter Emergencies

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What can your organization learn from the winter weather disasters in Atlanta and D.C.? Here are the emergency supplies you should consider, just in case.

If you live in northern states that expect considerable snowfall every year, it’s likely you have some version of what can be considered an emergency preparedness kit in your car, just in case. In the South, you may not think to do the same, despite the crippling effects of even light winter weather.

Having the right emergency supplies on hand is a crucial aspect of preparing your organization for winter. Of course, the nature and amount of those supplies may depend upon where you work and the likelihood of you experiencing winter emergencies. But, as scientists say winters are getting more extreme, you may need to be ready for the unexpected.

A Little Snow, a Lot of Disruption

Snow can paralyze a business or a city, even small amounts of it, as Washington, D.C., and Atlanta have seen in recent years. Just an inch of snow in January 2016 led to gridlocked traffic for a whole day in Washington, D.C., and caused more than 1,000 car accidents. As a Washington Post article explained, “When taken by surprise, Washington is woefully unprepared, not just for a blizzard but for any snow event.”

Back in January 2014, just two inches of snow and ice paralyzed the metropolis of Atlanta, in what one Atlanta television station called a “snowpocalypse.” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed blamed local businesses, saying they contributed to the traffic gridlock by letting workers out early and at the exact same time. When the snowfall started, and with everyone on the roads, it was too much for Atlanta’s inexperienced, under-resourced snow management plan to handle.

In cities more accustomed to heavy snow and icy roads — places like Boston and Buffalo — a few inches of snow won’t create much disruption because people and local governments, as well as the local businesses, have experience managing such conditions. These entities also have the right tools (such as snow plows) and supplies at the ready when harsh winter weather strikes.

Supplies to Consider for Winter Emergencies

No matter where your business is located, from California to Maine, part of your winter readiness depends upon having the right emergency supplies in stock for when you might need them. What should your emergency supply closet contain? Here are a few must-haves, according to the American Red Cross:

  1. Enough food, water and medical supplies for three days Your business could find itself rendered inaccessible by a weather emergency, meaning that your workers won’t be able to get out nor will help be able to get in. Having 72 hours worth of food, water and medical supplies on hand may help you hold tight until help finally arrives.
  2. A back-up generator and flashlights. Weather emergencies have a way of knocking out local power supplies, so having back-up power sources on hand is a big component of emergency readiness. Keep extra batteries around, too. In terms of illumination, you’ll need flashlights and candles, as well as matches.
  3. Sources of heat. Just as your electricity can go out, so can your heating system. If you’re hit by a powerful winter storm, the last thing you want is to be stuck in the dark and the cold. Have a back-up heater available too, such as a portable propane heater. You should also keep some blankets on hand as a source of heat and comfort for potentially stranded workers.
  4. Salt, sand, shovels and ice picks. Winter storms create higher risks of dangerous, potentially bone-breaking falls and car accidents (as seen in Washington, D.C.). Have the tools ready for removing snow and ice, and for melting it away or making it easier to walk on. You might begin by shoveling, then scraping surface ice and finally adding salt to melt it away. If you don’t have salt, you may want to use sand to make walkways and steps less slippery.
  5. Emergency radio(s). In the event of an emergency while employees are at work, your workers may be forced to evacuate the office and travel to a previously agreed-upon safe location. Because electricity will likely also be out, you should have battery-operated or solar-fueled emergency radios in order to hear emergency broadcasts. You should also have a list of emergency contacts on hand (including local police, the American Red Cross, weather services, etc.), so you can request help and get information as needed.

No matter the weather emergency, having a well-stocked supply closet can help prepare you for any contingency. Follow the American Red Cross’ suggestions for stocking emergency supplies to better prepare your business.

Chuck Leddy
Chuck Leddy

Chuck Leddy is a versatile, fast-learning communications professional with a proven track record as a digital content marketer. Writing for clients like GE, ADP, the National Center for the Middle Market, smartShift (computing), Office Depot, and more, he's published hundreds of articles, features, profiles, and interviews.