Expecting the unexpected

Officially launched in April of 2010, “What If?” offers the following tips on a variety of safety issues to help you expect the unexpected and prepare accordingly.

Winter weather

 Be prepared

  • Keep ahead of the winter storm by listening for the latest weather statements, watches and warnings, and understand what those terms mean.
  • Be equipped for the worst. Carry a winter survival kit in your car, especially when traveling in rural or open areas. Try to travel with others. If a cell phone is available have it with you and fully charged.

Winter driving

  • Yield to snowplows, and give them plenty of room to operate.
  • If you become stranded in your vehicle, stay with it until help arrives. Do not try to walk for help during a blizzard, as you could easily get lost in whiteout conditions.

Outdoor activities

  • Dress in layered clothing and avoid overexertion during winter storms or extreme cold.
  • Shoveling snow is very hard work and may induce a heart attack—so take it easy while shoveling.
  • If you will be snowmobiling, avoid alcohol. Most snowmobile deaths are alcohol related. Take a snowmobile course offered by the DNR or check with your snowmobile dealer.
  • Be aware of the signs and symptoms of frostbite.

More information

Learn more about winter weather.

Home safety

  • Heating devices are a major cause of residential fires in Minnesota. Turn off portable heating devices when you are away from home or retire for the evening.
  • Have a working, UL-listed smoke alarm on every level of your home and in every bedroom.
  • Have your fireplace and chimney professionally inspected before winter.
  • Carbon monoxide is most likely to accumulate inside homes during winter. Check your heating systems and ensure your home has proper ventilation. Install a UL-listed carbon monoxide detector that sounds an alarm.
  • Have fire extinguishers in your home and know how to use them.
  • Know where all your utility shutoffs are located.

Finding your house in an emergency

Visible house numbers are vital when there is an emergency call for fire, police, or the ambulance service. To assist emergency personnel in finding you quickly, follow these tips to ensure visibility of your house number from the street:

  • Display numbers next to the front door.
  • House numbers must be 4 inches or larger.
  • Use contrasting colors and ensure numbers are at least four inches high.
  • Use numerals, not words.
  • Use reflective numbers if possible.
  • Have address near lighting to illuminate the numbers.
  • Clear bushes and vegetation from the area around the address.

What to do in a power outage

Most Minnetonka homes have air-conditioning, high-speed internet, wide-screen televisions and modern kitchen appliances. But imagine—what would happen if there were no electricity for several days? What would it mean to you and your family? Would you be prepared?

“What If?” recommends that every family asks questions about the risks you may face and how your family might be affected in event of a long-term power outage.

For example:

  • “What If?” you find yourself with no air-conditioning? Even more seriously what would happen in the winter? Would your family be able to stay warm if your furnace didn’t work?
  • How about cooking? Most gas stoves will not work without electricity, and electric stoves most definitely wouldn’t work. How would you prepare food without electricity? Here’s a hint: think of creative ways to use your gas barbeque.
  • Would you even be able to open a can of food? “What If?” recommends that every home have at least one manual can opener.

“What If?” recommends that your family discusses your risks and makes a plan.

Telephones and power outages

In the event of a widespread power outage, most telephones will still operate because in most cases, the phone lines are independent of the electrical service that provides power. Cordless phones that depend on electricity to work are the exception. In addition, if the power failure is lengthy or widespread, cell phones may not work. “What If?” recommends that each household have at least one corded phone and working flashlights.

Always have cash!

Many people rely on cash machines or credit cards when traveling, but you should always have cash with you. In some emergencies if you are without cash you could find yourself out of luck!

Remember the large power outage experienced by more than one-third of the nation a couple of years ago? No cash machines or banks were open. Hotels were full. Since credit card services did not work, major purchases like airline tickets required cash. While Minnetonka was not affected, it could be the next time. Be sure to plan ahead to manage these types of emergencies.

Know your insurance coverage and secure it in a safe location.

Remember your paper map!

While many people rely on internet mapping programs or GPS to plan a car trip, you should always have a paper map in your car. If you encounter severe weather while traveling by car, listen to the radio for a National Weather Service advisory. Warnings are usually given by counties. With a paper map that shows county names and boundaries, you can determine where you are in relationship to the storm and change your direction of travel to avoid the worst of the storm.

Store gasoline safely

Did you know that there is a safe place to store gasoline? In the event of a widespread power outage you may not be able to purchase gasoline. Power outages and other emergencies may make gasoline difficult to obtain. Many residents can remember the gasoline shortages in the 1970s. There is a safe place to store gasoline. It’s in the gas tank of your car. “What If?” recommends always filling your tank before your gauge reaches the ¼ mark. Better yet, fill it every time it drops below a ½ tank. Then, you will always have some gasoline in reserve.

Personal safety

“What if?” if your personal health is compromised? Are prescriptions and over-the-counter medications available? Do you have first aid supplies? Do you have extra supplies for special-needs family members (diapers, formula, etc.)?

Neighborhood gatherings

If you’re planning a neighborhood gathering, the Minnetonka Fire Department would love to be invited! We’ll talk with you and your neighbors about “What If?”, and how to prepare for the unexpected. Call Sara Ahlquist or Jim Lundeen, Public Education Specialists, Minnetonka Fire, 952.939.8331.