Winter Weather Series – Snow and Ice

SONY DSC  Soon it will be that time of year when we start hearing terms like “freezing rain,” “icy conditions,” and “winter storm watch” from our local weather man. These warnings shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s important to stay informed and be prepared for dangerous road conditions, freezing temperatures, and accumulation of snow.

At Panorama, our Operations Team prepares all year for winter conditions. Preparation includes replenishing supplies and repairing machinery in the warmer months, as well as monthly meetings centered on incident preparedness beginning in September. As the days get shorter and the temperature begins to drop, our most important preparation task becomes staying up-to-date on local weather forecasts. We receive weather updates from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as Thurston County. Any pertinent information received is broadcast to our residents so they can stay informed and be prepared.

In the event of accumulated snow, our crew goes to work plowing and de-icing Panorama roads. Severe storms, such as we experienced this January, call for a system of triage. The number one concern, when it comes to clearing our roads, is making sure emergency vehicles can get around Panorama campus. Common walkways and building entrances are also de-iced to help prevent falls.

Depending on the severity of a snow and ice storm, the Panorama Storm Support Team may be activated to assist in ensuring the comfort and safety of fellow residents. This is especially useful when power outages are in effect, as warming centers and, in some cases, sleeping arrangements will be set up for residents who need such assistance. Snow at Panorama 2012

During a weather emergency, our Situational Alert and Response Assistant (SARA) system will make automated phone calls to every independent household on campus, providing information on the status of the emergency and reminding residents of their on-campus assistance options. Our Social Services department and Urgent Response Aides will perform “Well Checks”, or house calls, on residents who cannot be reached by phone.

Of course every storm is different, which is why we are constantly reviewing our Storm Response plans and educating ourselves about current and near future weather conditions.

Tips and Tricks

It’s important to remember that everyday conveniences may not be accessible during a storm. Here are some tips on how to make sure you’re prepared for accumulated snow and icy conditions:

  • Have plenty of salt or deicer on-hand during winter months so you can ensure your private walkway and driveway are safe
  • Be very cautious of vigorous outdoor activities, such as shoveling snow. Cold weather can put an added strain on the back and heart which is why activities such as shoveling snow are not recommended for seniors.
  • If you do decide to take on this task, be sure to pace yourself and take frequent breaks, keep knees slightly bent, and push the snow; do not lift it.
  • Avoid doing such tasks alone.
  • Dress in light layers both indoors and outside.
  • Drink plenty of water, as cold, dry weather can increase dehydration
  • Always have an emergency kit on-hand.
  • Disconnect hoses and cover outdoor water spigots to prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Avoid driving if the roads are affected.
  • If you must drive, leave extra early in order to have plenty of time to reach your destination.
  • Use your headlights no matter what time of day it is.
  • Leave ample distance between your vehicle and those around you.
  • Slow down when approaching off-ramps, corners, and shady spots.

Winter Weather Series – Power Outages

       As winter is quickly approaching, it’s important to prepare for possible harsh weather conditions. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we typically face heavy rains and, at times, considerable wind storms. These conditions often result in fallen branches and uprooted trees that can cause widespread power outages. Often times we are lucky and power outages are resolved within a couple hours but, here at Panorama, last January reminded us this is not always the case. Unfortunately, there is always a possibility for long-term effects. Preparing for this possibility can increase comfort during tough conditions and even save lives.

During long-term power outages, the biting cold of winter makes its way into our homes, inviting along with it many potential hazards. As we age, our bodies become more susceptible to cold temperatures. This can be attributed to a number of reasons, including affects of certain medications and the body’s general reduced ability to regulate body temperature. This is why it’s particularly important for seniors to be vigilant in preparation for possible rough weather.  Seniors who chose to live in a Continuing Care Retirement Community like Panorama have already done preliminary planning. Our residents enjoy a built-in layer of protection that comes with living at Panorama. Although those who are independent are responsible for their own personal preparation, Panorama addresses preparation of the campus.

Several of our common buildings are on back-up generators. This provides a variety of locations for Panorama residents to stay comfortable and warm during a power outage. “Warming Centers”, as we refer to these locations, are hosted by members of the volunteer resident organization, the Storm Support Team. For the duration of a power outage, Panorama residents are kept up-to-date on the latest reports from Puget Sound Energy. We have in place a designated power outage reporting line as well as an emergency hotline that features a recording of the most recent update. This saves our residents from being fully “in the dark.”

Having our own Social Services department for independent living allows us to reach out to those residents who may need a little extra support. During emergencies such as a prolonged power outage, house calls are made to residents who cannot be reached by phone. These house calls are carried out by a Panorama social worker, Urgent Response Aid, or a CERT-trained member of the Storm Support Team. This adds a level of comfort for Panorama residents and those who care about them.

In addition, we work hard to ensure our residents are continuously educated in preparing for harsh weather. We post reminders and warnings to all residents on campus when Thurston County is expecting a storm. Although we stress that each person should take responsibility for their personal preparedness, Panorama residents have the advantage of knowing they have people working for them; and one of our biggest jobs before, during, and after a storm is gathering as much information for our residents as possible.

Tips and Tricks

It’s important to remember that everyday conveniences may not be accessible during a storm. Here are some tips on how to make sure you’re prepared for a long-term power outage:

  • If you own a vehicle, make sure the gas tank is full before the storm hits.
  • If you park your vehicle in a garage with an electric door, know how to open the door manually without power.
  • Have a few days’ supply of your required daily resources (food, water, medication, etc.)
  • Have an emergency kit and know where it is. It’s best to make sure it’s in an easily accessible place in case you have to find it in the dark.

During a power outage

  • Conserve water
  • Use battery-powered lights, rather than candles, to prevent fire
  • Wear several layers of lightweight clothing.
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer closed as much as possible to delay food spoilage
  • Consume easily-spoiled food first but throw out items that don’t feel cold to the touch
  • Eat regularly; the digestion process increases body temperature

*Beware of Carbon Monoxide poisoning*

  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove, or other gasoline, propane, natural gas, or charcoal-burning devices inside or any partially enclosed area.