OKLAHOMA CITY -- The American Red Cross is preparing shelters that may be needed to help house and feed people who may need help during the major winter storm that will slam Oklahoma. The agency has pre-staged supplies across the state and put trained volunteers and potential shelter locations on standby.
"In the case of either significant power outages or large numbers of stranded travelers, we are preparing to open shelters if needed," said Janienne Bella, Regional CEO. "However, like state and local officials, we are encouraging people to stay home and shelter in place."
The Red Cross has historically opened shelters to provide a warm place to wait out the storm, but it also provides mass sheltering during large-scale power outages. However, the organization said the best option is for individuals and families to be able stay at their homes.
"With this winter storm on our doorstep, we encourage individuals and families to prepare today by stocking up on food, water, batteries and any other items they need to sustain them while at home the next few days," said Janienne Bella, Regional CEO. "The safest option is for people to stay home during this type of weather."
The Red Cross has these recommendations to help families prepare for the winter storm:
• Inspect Heating Sources: Individuals need to make sure that they are using safe heating methods. For example, families should always follow manufacturer's recommendations and safety precautions for space heaters.
• Assembling an Emergency Preparedness Kit: Pack a winter-specific supply kit that includes a warm coat, hat, mittens or gloves, and water-resistant boots, along with extra blankets and extra warm clothing. Sand or kitty litter is good to have on hand to help make walkways or steps less slippery. Additionally, make sure you have a first aid kit and essential medications, canned food and manual can opener, bottled water, flashlights and a battery-powered radio with extra batteries in your home in the event of a power outage.
• Heeding Storm Warnings: A winter storm WARNING means that life-threatening, severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours. Individuals in a warning area should take precautions immediately. People in a warning area should review their winter storm plans and stay informed about weather conditions via a weather radio, or local radio or television stations.
• Preparing Your Home and Car: Winterize your vehicle and keep the gas tank full, which will help to keep the fuel line from freezing. Make sure your home is properly insulated by installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic from the inside to help keep cold air out. Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected every year. Running water, even at a trickle, helps to prevent pipes from freezing.
• Plan for your pets. Cold temperatures impact animals as well. You may need to re-evaluate their sheltering situation in severe cold. Also, make sure to check their water source to ensure it has not frozen over. If you evacuate, take your pets with you. However, be aware that pets (other than service animals) usually are not permitted in emergency public shelters for health reasons. Prepare a list of family, friends, boarding facilities, veterinarians, and "pet-friendly" hotels that could shelter your pets in an emergency.