Facility Dude

What to do during a winter storm

By Kate Donnelly
Nov 11, 2015

Facilities Management, Safety and Risk Management

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What to do during a winter storm Even with weather watches and warnings, it's still possible to get stuck somewhere during a winter storm. If your staff is out on the road or snowed in at the facility, there are several things they should be trained for. A good facility manager will make sure this information has been included in a training session, and he should keep the information current via a computerized maintenance management system - that way, if staff should forget the safety best practices, they are available for immediate perusal. Here's what to do if you or your staff get caught out in the cold.

Stranded outdoors

If your crews work outside, there's a chance they could get trapped away from the safety of the work vehicle. This is especially possible if there is lake effect snow, which falls suddenly and plentifully over a small area. According to the National Weather Service, the primary objective of someone stuck outside should be to seek shelter, either in a vehicle or nearby building. If that isn't possible, they should look for some natural means of escaping the elements, which could involve going into a sheltered forested area or taking cover under a lip of rock. A person outside in severe winter weather needs to keep warm above all, so they should stop every now and again and perform a few exercises to keep their blood flowing.

Stranded in a vehicle

All work vehicles that go out into rural areas or other places away from buildings should be equipped with the proper safety gear. The Weather Channel reported that the first thing to do is try not to panic and stay put unless there's a nearby heated building. If you have to stay in the vehicle, turn it off, as the exhaust pipe could become clogged with snow and force noxious fumes into the cab. If you need to turn the car back on to warm up the heater, step outside for a minute and make sure the exhaust pipe is clear. If you don't believe you'll be able to get the vehicle unstuck, call for help as soon as possible. Otherwise, stay hydrated and keep your hazard lights on.

Stranded in a building without heat

Hopefully, the heating system in your facility was inspected before the harsh winter season sets in. If, however, the heat should fail and an external generator isn't capable of supplying enough energy, staff should go around the building and check to see that any cracks or openings are sealed up. If there are gaps under doors, stuff them with rags to keep the cold air from seeping inside. According to the Department of Energy, windows can be a big source of heat loss. If you believe this is the case, find something to cover them with. At this point, the main goal is to contain any heat still in the building. With that done, staff should remember to drink lots of water and eat plenty of food.

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