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Is Your Organization Prepared for a White Christmas?

Wednesday, December 9th, 2020

No other weather ignites the romantic imagination like snow. Whether it’s the sheer beauty of a pristine white landscape or the prospect of getting a day off work or school, that first major snowfall of the year is always a source of excitement and nostalgia. Or that’s what popular culture would have us believe. In fact, the first snowfall is more often a reminder of the hardship that the upcoming winter will bring. While we all dream of a white Christmas, there are many parts of the country that would gladly forego the cliché to get a break from the relentless march of ice storms, frigid temperatures and wind chill.

I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas. Or Labor Day…

Take Wyoming for example. While they generally expect to receive their first snowfall in October, 2020 decided to bring that forward to Labor Day weekend. Or New England being frosted with their first few inches in October. Or Kentucky waking up to a late November Monday with a decidedly February-esque vista.

Irrespective of where you are in the country, the whimsy of winter weather can’t disguise the perils it can bring. With the ever-reliable Farmers’ Almanac predicting above normal snowfall for vast swaths of the country this winter, it’s high time to prepare your organization for a winter weather emergency.

It’s Not Just Snow, You Know

It can be easy to associate winter weather emergencies with multiple inches or feet of snow. And while snow can be very inconvenient for travel and outdoor working conditions, it’s the less obvious conditions that can cause the most trouble. Here are the three main culprits.

1. Low Temperatures

With 25 states having average winter temperatures of below 32 degrees (and a further 11 averaging under 40), the vast majority of the country will experience extreme cold at some point this winter. This can be particularly challenging for any organization that requires employees to spend any time outdoors. While following OSHA guidelines on winter preparedness will undoubtedly help, it’s also critical to have access to National Weather Service (NWS) alerts and inform your staff in real-time if conditions become too severe.

2. Wind Chill

As if the air temperature wasn’t problematic enough, frigid winds can significantly increase risk for your employees. According to OSHA, “Wind Chill is the term used to describe the rate of heat loss from the human body resulting from the combined effect of low air temperature and wind speed. For example, when the air temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind speed is 35 mph, the wind chill temperature is 28 degrees Fahrenheit; this measurement is the actual effect of the environmental cold on the exposed skin.” While adequate PPE can mitigate wind chill up to a point, prolonged exposure to wind-chill-enhanced cold can lead to frostbite or hypothermia. As mentioned previously, being able to immediately detect such conditions and inform vulnerable workers is of paramount importance.

3. Freezing Rain

Finally, freezing rain is the worst. That’s not just vague hyberbole – it’s even an infographic from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Nearly everything that’s dangerous about winter results from this particularly lethal cocktail of precipitation and cold. First, there’s the black ice that causes treacherous driving conditions and countless casualties every year. Then there’s the the added weight of ice downing trees and power lines, resulting in closed roads and interrupted utilities. And to make matters even worse, it can be very difficult to safely clear the accumulated ice. Whereas snow can be safely ploughed, we have to generously salt the ice or just wait for it to melt. And in most scenarios, the latter is more practical. The only silver lining with ice storms is that they aren’t terribly common. However, every organization still needs to have plans in place if and when freezing rain strikes.

Effective and Immediate Communication Is Key in Any Winter Weather Emergency

Unlike crises such as active shooters or chemical explosions, severe winter weather can be anticipated. As mentioned above, however, this does not mean that you should wait until the last minute to prepare.

To keep your employees or community safe, you need to quickly broadcast health and safety messages. You also need the ability to update information to meet people’s changing needs throughout the crisis. Thankfully, CentrAlert has a simple solution.

Weather NOW! Sends NOAA Reports Directly to Any Device

Part of our suite of Adaptive Intelligent Controls, Weather NOW! allows the CentrAlert C-DAC to automatically send preset weather crisis warning messages to specific people via any communication channel. Using C-DAC’s Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) module, this fully-customizable feature allows emergency management directors the flexibility to compose specific responses to different NWS and NOAA events.

All event types are recognized and are user-configurable to automatically trigger a single action or multiple actions. The full suite of CentrAlert notification devices is available for information or alerting, allowing the user to target the general public, specific groups or individuals with default or custom messages. This module can also be combined with CentrAlert’s patented Advisor Alert Radio (which is the only alert radio that can provide both an NOAA and a local receiver) to allow localized control of escalating events.

All of these solutions can be adapted to fit any winter weather preparedness plan and if you want more information on how CentrAlert can help protect your municipality or organization from a white Christmas, please click here.

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