As Alaskans we all grow up knowing the "basic rules" of outdoor safety like: notifying someone when heading out on the trails, keeping a shovel and some rock salt in your truck to throw down on the road if you get stuck and dressing for the weather. A lot of these practices are common sense, but even the most experienced sourdoughs and outdoorsy types have stories of when they were left in a lurch, unprepared to deal with winter conditions. Do you have enough gravel for your driveway if a winter storm blows through? Did you put enough gas in the tank for that weekend road trip? We could all use a little refresher as we prepare for the coldest months ahead.
URBAN AND RURAL SAFETY
Whether you live up north in the Golden Heart City, in Southcentral or in Western Alaska there are a few things to keep in mind for overall home, car and recreation safety.
Being a homeowner is a lot of work, but with a little planning, you'll be prepared to hunker down with a cup of hot cocoa and Netflix instead of scrambling during the next winter storm.
Clear driveways/walkways: Make sure your home's driveway and walkways are safe for you and visitors by clearing snow and laying out gravel or ice melt in slippery areas.
Knock down those icicles: Icicles, though pretty, can cause damage to your roof and even serious injury. Carefully remove them from the eaves of your home so you, your family and visitors can safely walk to your front door.
Keep it light and bright: Whether you install a motion detector light for the driveway or keep your front porch lights lit—a little extra light goes a long way in preventing an accident or a surprise encounter with a moose when taking out the garbage.
Emergency kit: The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends having a seven day emergency kit. If you live in a rural community, extend that timeline. Top items to include in your home emergency kit are water, non-perishable food items, a radio, extra batteries and flashlights. The FEMA's website offers a full emergency home kit checklist here.
Check CO and smoke detectors: Although this is a year-round home safety recommendation, it's a good reminder to check these life-saving tools every few months to ensure they're working properly.
Monitor holiday lights: Those holiday twinklers are beautiful to look at, but suck a lot of energy and can be a potential fire hazard. So when not in use, just unplug.
Watch those pots: According to the American Red Cross, they respond to 66,000 disasters a year—most of which are home fires. Keep young children, pets and flammable items like kitchen towels away from a hot stovetop and don't leave your stovetop cooking unattended.
Even if you're just heading down the road to a friend's house, there's still a chance you could end up on the side of the road waiting for help to come. Depending on where you live, that help could be a few hours or a few days. Here are a few tips on making sure you're safe, warm and dry.
Dress for the weather: Remember the saying, "There's no bad weather, just bad gear." And in winter—being unprepared can turn a minor fender-bender from an inconvenience into a deadly situation. So, no matter if you're traveling in Alaska's urban cities or remote highways, be sure to pack a warm winter coat, hat, gloves, warm socks and boots so you're not stuck in the cold.
Junk in the trunk: Having a few key items in the trunk or backseat of your car can make dealing with snow and ice much easier. The Anchorage Police Department recommends having jumper cables, snow shovel, ice scraper, snow brush, warning devices (like flares), extra blankets and something abrasive to put down on the road for traction (either gravel or rock salt, kitty litter or even floor mats) if you get stuck.
Emergency food/water: Make sure your emergency car kit includes water and non-perishable food items if you get stuck alongside the road.
Stay with your vehicle: Whether you're in town or in a remote setting, stay with your vehicle. If you are stranded for an extended period of time, run your vehicle motor for 10 minutes each hour.
Safety check-in: Notify someone when you're heading out. It's easy to send out a quick text, just do it before you start driving.
Motorized vehicle safety
Whether you're traveling by vehicle, snow machine or four-wheeler, here are a few things to keep in mind. The Tanana Chiefs Conference winter safety video has tips for traveling in rural Alaska.
Tune up: Make sure your motorized vehicle is running properly before leaving for your destination. Whether that means fixing a current issue or topping off the tank.
Toolkit: Pack a toolkit for your motorized vehicle in case you break down along the road or trail. Not only should your toolkit include the items to do some maintenance repair, but a flashlight or headlamp if visibility is low.
Emergency kit: In addition to your toolkit, pack an emergency kit that includes medical supplies and emergency food and water rations.
Terrain awareness: When traveling by snowmachine or four-wheeler, slow down and avoid riding across bodies of water if you're uncertain of the ice thickness.
Living in Alaska, whether you're urban or rural, means easy accessibility to outdoor recreation. From snowmachine trails to bike trails there is much fun to be had—but as with every outdoor adventure it's important to be prepared.
Dress in layers: As Alaskans we've all learned this, but it bears repeating—dress in layers. If you're doing strenuous activities that work up a sweat, consider wearing clothing that wicks away moisture and packing an extra warmer layer for when you've completed your vigorous activity.
Bring water/a snack: Even if you're going for an afternoon stroll, have a little water to keep you hydrated and a snack to give you energy if you end up being out longer than you anticipate.
Tell a friend, or better yet, bring one!: Before you head outside to play, notify someone that you're heading out. Let them know how long you think you'll be out, what time to expect you back or what time to call to check in if they have not heard from you.
Check back in: This is just as important as the previous tip. Remember to follow through and notify your safety check-in so your loved one or friend knows you're home safe and sound.
As an extra incentive to stay safe this season ADN and ANTHC are partnering to give away four winter safety kits. The Facebook contest will run Dec. 6-30. Contest details here.
This article was produced by the special content department of Alaska Dispatch News in collaboration with ANTHC. Contact the editor, Jamie Gonzales, at firstname.lastname@example.org. The ADN newsroom was not involved in its production.