Winter Preparedness Week in Virginia continues through Saturday. The annual campaign serves as a call-to-action, reminding communities across the commonwealth that hazardous cold weather conditions are on the near-horizon and being unprepared could result in harm, serious injury or a combination of both.

Topics that need to be considered during this time of planning and preparation include identification and prevention of cold weather injuries; steps to ensure motorists stay safe on slick roads, particularly if they’re new drivers or have never driven in winter conditions; how to protect home’s from damage; and, in the case of Team Lee, what the procedures are for early release, delayed openings and/or post closures.

There are numerous websites that offer in-depth information on many of these topics. For example, the following Army Public Health Center page – https://phc.amedd.army.mil/topics/discond/cip/Pages/Cold-Weather-Casualties-and-Injuries.aspx – includes training videos, articles from subject matter experts and factsheets to help users prevent, identify and treat cold weather injuries.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides a compendium of winter driving tips on the following webpage: https://www.nhtsa.gov/winter-driving-tips-20172018. The immediate concern for motorists, the agency notes, is “winterizing” vehicles so they are in peak operating condition and don’t leave their operators stranded on the side of the road or in a snowbank.

A few of the NHTSA tips offered include the following:

• Check anti-freeze levels to ensure they are sufficient to avoid freezing.

• Ensure the battery and ignition system are in good condition and clean.

• Get brakes inspected and serviced if needed.

• Ensure the heater and defroster work properly.

• Check the operability of the headlights, flashers and hazard lights.

• Repair or replace any windshield wiper equipment that is malfunctioning.

• Ensure tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions.

All motorist should have these items in their vehicle, especially during long-distance travel:

• Jumper cables

• Ice scraper

• Flashlight

• First aid kit

• Toolkit (pliers, wrench and screwdriver)

• Snow shovel

• Cat litter or sand (for traction if vehicle is stuck)

Home Advisor, the popular website for do-it-yourselfers, offers an extensive list of winter preparation tips to not only cut energy costs but also keep dwellings warmer. The information can be found at https://www.homeadvisor.com/r/home-winterization-checklist. Paramount among the recommendations is to ensure heating and ventilation systems are regularly serviced by a licensed professional. This is a safety measure in as much as an efficiency one. Malfunctioning heating equipment with loose connections can cause a fire or allow toxic fumes to escape into the home, particularly with gas- or wood-burning systems.

Other tips to winterize a home include the following:

• Clear rain gutters to prevent water backups that could freeze and cause roof damage.

• Get fireplace chimneys cleaned and inspected every year.

• Ensure water pipes are properly insulated, and remember to allow faucets to drip a little when overnight temperatures are expected to drop well-below freezing.

• Know how to shut off main water valves in case a pipe bursts.

• Check fire extinguisher levels, and ensure everyone in the home knows how to use that equipment.

• Never leave portable electric space heaters unattended and make sure they are placed well away from flammable material. All devices must have an automatic shutoff if bumped or tipped over.

To ensure maximum winter preparedness, all Fort Lee community members should review the online information available at https://home.army.mil/lee/index.php/about/hazardous-weather-guide. The webpage includes a printable document with preparation recommendations and emergency notification procedures.

One question commonly asked is, “who makes early release or post closure decisions, and how will that information be announced?”

Only the senior commander has the authority to approve full or partial suspension of installation operations as well as excusing employees administratively from all or part of the normal workday due to adverse weather.

When the decision is made, the Fort Lee Status Hotline (804-765-2679) will be updated with the appropriate guidance, and employees registered in ATHOC (read more about it at www.fortleetraveller.com, type “ATHOC” in search bar) will receive direct notification by phone, email or both. In addition, the Fort Lee webpage, Facebook and local media outlets will be used to disseminate information about the post’s operational status.

All post employees, both military and civilian, should contact their immediate supervisor for further guidance whenever a change in operational status is announced.

The Fort Lee emergency management team at the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security also encourages all community members to assemble or check the contents of their home emergency response kits – paying particular attention to items that would be a necessity if sheltering at home for an extended period due to unsafe driving conditions and possible closure of retail facilities. A comprehensive checklist for recommended emergency kit contents is available at www.vaemergency.gov/emergency-kit.