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Emergency Preparedness

Often, when emergencies such as blizzards strike, the elderly and isolated are affected most severely. Vans that take people places cannot run on schedule due to driving hazards. The meals on which people depend may not be delivered on schedule. Because Senior Services recognizes that planning can help in these situations, we have developed this page to help you prepare for emergencies.

Of course, an ideal situation is to be prepared for an emergency before it happens. Below is a list of suggested foods and materials to set aside in an easily accessible location. It is suggested you purchase enough emergency food for at least 7 days.

For City of Buffalo residents, during an emergency, the web site at will be updated every few hours to indicate which streets in the city have been plowed, and which are not passable. When a snow emergency is declared (not normal Buffalo snowfall) this system will be in effect. It will also identify off-street parking areas, shelters, emergency transportation routes and storm-damaged buildings.

Local television and radio stations are very good at announcing/tracking current closings/delay situations.

Emergency Preparedness Brochure

Monitoring The Weather

Listen to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio, TV or emergency broadcast stations. NOAA broadcasts 24 hour weather information on the following frequencies:

Buffalo: 162.550 Mhz

Elmira: 162.400 Mhz

Rochester: 162.400 Mhz

Syracuse: 162.550 Mhz

Watertown: 162.475 Mhz

Snow And Ice

Winter Storm Watch - severe winter weather conditions may affect your area.

Winter Storm Warning - severe winter weather conditions are imminent.

Blizzard Warning - Large amounts of falling or blowing snow and winds of at least 35 miles per hour are expected to last for several hours. Visibility is dangerously restricted.

Wind Chill - the effect of wind, in combination with actual temperature, which increases the rate of heat loss to the human body. Also the temperature at which exposed skin suffers frostbite within a short time period.

If you are under shelter:

Remember to service snow removal equipment. Stay inside -- avoid driving in dangerous snow or ice.

If you are outdoors:

Avoid overexertion. Cold weather puts added strain on the heart. Shoveling or pushing a car can cause a heart attack. If you are in a vehicle:

  • Stay in your car. DO NOT leave the vehicle to search for assistance unless assistance is visible within 100 feet. You can become disoriented and lost in blowing snow.
  • Display a trouble sign. Hang a bright colored cloth on the car radio antenna, and turn on flashing hazard lights.
  • Occasionally run the engine to keep warm. Keep the window slightly open and beware of carbon monoxide poisoning. Keep the exhaust pipe clear.

Winter Health Hazards

Frostbite: Is a severe reaction to cold exposure that can permanently damage its victims. Symptoms include a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in fingers, toes, ears and nose.

Hypothermia: Is brought on when the body's core temperature drops below normal. Symptoms include uncontrollable shivering, slow speech, memory lapses, frequent stumbling and drowsiness. If frostbite or hypothermia is suspected, slowly warm the victim and seek immediate medical assistance.

Overexertion: Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Shoveling snow or pushing a car may cause a heart attack. Stay warm, dress warm, and slow down when working outdoors.


Get a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admin. (NOAA) Weather Radio to monitor severe weather.

  • Service snow removal equipment.
  • Use rock salt to melt ice on walkways, and sand to generate traction.
  • Winterize your home.
  • If you use heating oil, maintain an adequate supply.
  • Have safe, emergency heating equipment available and use according to manufacturer's instructions.
  • Install and check smoke detectors.
  • Protect water pipes from freezing.
  • Have adequate winter supplies on hand.

Home Emergency Supplies

  • One week supply of food (include items that do not require refrigeration in case the power is lost) Portable battery-operated radio flashlight and extra batteries
  • Extra blankets and sleeping bags
  • One week supply of essential medicines
  • First aid kit and fire extinguisher

Winter Car Supplies

  • Several blankets and sleeping bags
  • Matches and candles
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Extra set of mittens, socks and wool cap
  • First aid kit with pocket knife
  • Small sack of sand to generate traction
  • Small shovel, pliers, wrench and screwdriver
  • Windshield scraper and a small broom
  • Booster cables and distress flares
  • A set of tire chains or snow tires
  • Brightly colored cloth to use as a flag
  • Food: granola bars, water, raisins, etc.


Severe Thunderstorm Watch - severe thunderstorms are possible in and close to the watch area.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning - a severe thunderstorm has been spotted and is going to move through your county soon.

If you are outdoors:

  • If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately.
  • Move to a sturdy building or car. DO NOT take shelter in small sheds, under isolated trees, near fences, poles or in convertible automobiles. Make sure the place you pick is not subject to flooding.
  • If you are in the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees.
  • If you feel your skin tingle or your hair stand on end, squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible; minimize your contact with the ground. If lightning occurs and sturdy shelter is not available, get inside a hard top automobile and keep the windows up.
  • Get out of boats and away from water.
  • Stay away from telephone lines and metal pipes, which can conduct electricity.

If you are under shelter:

  • DO NOT take a bath or shower.
  • Turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can overload the compressors.
  • Unplug appliances not necessary for obtaining weather information. Use the telephone only for emergencies.


If you are outdoors:

  • Get to higher ground. Watch out for washed out roads, earth slides, broken water or sewer mains, loose or downed electric wires and falling or fallen objects.
  • DO NOT attempt to drive over a flooded road. Most flash flooding deaths occur in automobiles.

If you are under shelter:

  • Find out how many feet your property is above and below possible flood levels.
  • Keep materials like sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting and lumber handy for emergency water-proofing.
  • If you are in a multi-story dwelling, move essential items and furniture to upper floors.
  • If able to do so prior to flooding, disconnect electric appliances that can’t be moved. DO NOT touch them if you are wet or standing in water.


Tornado Watch - conditions are favorable over a large area for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes to develop.

Tornado Warning - a tornado has been detected or seen, is on the ground and moving and is expected to move through your area soon. You should TAKE COVER IMMEDIATELY!

Environmental Clues to look out for:

  • Dark, often greenish sky
  • Large hail
  • Wall cloud
  • Loud roar, similar to a freight train

If you are outdoors:

  • Seek shelter in a substantial building immediately. If there is no shelter nearby, lie flat in a ditch or low spot with your hands shielding your head. DO NOT try to outrun a tornado in your car; instead, leave it immediately and seek shelter.
  • Avoid all downed power lines. Assume they are live with electricity.

If you are at home or in a small building:

  • Go to the basement or an interior room on the lowest floor. Stay away from windows. Closets, bathrooms and other interior rooms offer the best protection. Get under something sturdy or cover yourself with a mattress.

If you are in a school, hospital or shopping center:

  • Go to a pre-designated shelter area. Stay away from large open areas and windows. DO NOT go outside to your car.

If you are in a high-rise building:

  • Go to an interior small room or hallway on the lowest floor possible. DO NOT use the elevators. Use the stairs.

If you are in a mobile home or vehicle:

  • Get out! Mobile homes and vehicles are easily tossed about by strong winds in the tornado. Take shelter in a substantial structure. If there is no shelter nearby, lie flat in a ditch or low spot with your hands shielding your head.


Hurricane Watch - conditions are possible in the specified area, usually within 36 hours.

Hurricane Warning - conditions are expected in the specific area, usually within 24 hours.

  • Learn safe routes inland and the location of official shelters.
  • Fuel and service vehicles.
  • Put up storm shutters and store loose objects. Brace exterior doors. Close all interior doors.
  • Set refrigerator to maximum cold. Open only when necessary.
  • Stay away from windows and doors. If you are in a multi-story dwelling, go to the lowest floor. Take refuge in a small interior room, closet, hallway, or under a table.
  • If you are told to leave your home - do so! Plan to evacuate if you live in a mobile home, high-rise, on the coastline or offshore island, or near a river or flood plain.

Emergency Preparedness Lessons