Winter survival focus of talk
Published: Thursday, February 03, 2011, 10:30 AM Updated: Wednesday, February 09, 2011, 9:32 AM
By Kathryn Roy
While they occurred more than two years ago, the ice storms of 2008 reverberate in the minds of Western Massachusetts residents whose lives were turned upside down due to the extreme weather.
Residents in the hilltowns and other areas across the Pioneer Valley were left without power for days.
The incident reminded Frank Grindrod of Williamsburg-based Earthwork Programs of the importance of knowing winter emergency skills, both inside and outside the home.
Earthwork offers emergency preparation talks, emergency survival and self-sufficiency workshops all over the region.
Grindrod, Earthwork’s founder and director, said the ice storms taught that being prepared for any weather-related emergency is essential if you live in New England.
If a weather forecast indicates a big winter storm is approaching, that’s the time to start preparing. Homeowners who have wells should gather bottled water for sanitation and cooking, in the event that their wells are inoperable due to a loss of power.
“We go through the house and talk about how to utilize your home if you don’t have power,” Grindrod said of his classes. “Some people have a generator, but a lot of people don’t realize your heater may not work on a generator, or you have to plug it into whatever unit you’re using.”
While most people have cordless phones these days, Grindrod said it’s important to have a corded phone as well.
“When the power goes out, those cordless phones stop working,” Grindrod pointed out. “Even though you still may have a line to your house, you want to get an emergency land line phone so you still have use of your phone in the event of a power outage.”
Grindrod recommends that in the event of a power outage or other emergency, residents need to become aware of their surroundings and to be able to accurately assess the situation.
“With that land line, you can call the electric company to report the outage and get an estimate on when it will be turned back on,” he said. “You may have someone down the road from you who doesn’t have power, even if you haven’t lost yours or if yours has been restored.”
Grindrod said with the 2008 ice storms, there were elderly and disabled people who weren’t able to take care of themselves and needed help, but no one knew of their situation.
“Some of them died; some of them used the stove in their house like a camp stove and got carbon monoxide poisoning,” he said.
Grindrod also recommends being prepared for emergencies when traveling. Cars should be stocked with water, non-perishable snacks, blankets, decent gloves, a flashlight and flares.
“If your car goes off the side of the road, one thing you have to think about is, ‘Do I stay in my car or do I leave my car?'” he said. “If a plow is coming through, you might have to leave your car if you’re in a place where you might get hit.”
Those who stay in their car should only run the engine as the car is cooling off. They should also get out and clear any snow out of, and around, the exhaust pipe.
“If you’re going to run your car, you want to make sure you crack your windows and always have blankets,” Grindrod said.
When traveling in wintry weather, or going out in the woods to hike or hunt, it’s a good idea to give friends or family an estimated time of arrival and a phone number.
“If you have a situation where someone is lost, the quicker you’re able to alert search and rescue or EMS, the quicker they’re going to be found,” he said.
In his classes, Grindrod talks about how to be prepared to survive three days in the wilderness. At home, the preparedness is different.
“Our focus is about having some basic skills to be confident and to be comfortable; it’s about knowing what to do and being able to take care of your kids at the same time,” he said. “You could try to play games with your kids, to see if you can do without power for three hours or so at home.”
To learn more about Grindrod’s talks and workshops, visit www.earthworkprograms.com or call (413) 522-0338.
Earthwork Programs will also travel throughout the Pioneer Valley to offer workshops for larger groups.