ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Alaska’s winters can bring deep cold, high winds, floods, avalanches and more. The key to surviving any unexpected weather hazard is preparation, according to state and federal emergency management officials.
“We urge all Alaskans to plan ahead for the dangerous threats our winters bring,” said State Coordinating Officer Bryan Fisher of the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. “Advance preparation is key to remaining self-reliant and ensuring the safety of our families during hazardous situations.”
Every part of Alaska is vulnerable to natural disasters. Wind-driven waves from intense storms crossing the Bering Sea produce coastal flooding that can drive large chunks of sea ice inland, destroying buildings near the shore.
High winds, especially across Alaska’s Arctic coast, can combine with loose snow to produce a blinding blizzard and life threatening wind chills. Extreme cold and ice fog can last a week or more at a time.
Heavy snow can impact the interior and is common along the southern coast. Heavy snow accumulation in the mountains builds glaciers, but can also cause avalanches or collapse building roofs throughout the state.
“Although there are just three steps to preparing for emergencies, folks tend to put off getting them done,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Dolph Diemont of FEMA. “One easy approach is to make preparation a family project for just an hour or two over a couple of weekends.”
The three easy steps to prepare for winter disasters in Alaska are:
Step 1 – Make a Plan:
- Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another and what each of you will do in case of an emergency.
- Decide on an emergency plan together. Keep information handy that isn’t easy to remember and store it in a safe place. Make a game or song to help younger children memorize important information.
- Pick one friend or relative for each person to call to help your family get connected if you become separated. An out-of-town contact is best because long-distance phone service is less likely than local service to be affected by an emergency.
- Know where you will meet. Pick a meeting place for when family members are at home and find out the evacuation locations for work, school, day care and other place family members often go.
- Write down important information for all family members – name, social security number, date of birth and important medical information. Collect telephone numbers for doctors and pharmacies, along with critical health, homeowner and/or rental insurance information.
Step 2 – Get a kit of emergency supplies:
- You may need to rely on your own supplies for at least seven days, maybe longer. Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone immediately, especially in rural parts of Alaska. Basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewer and telephones could be cut off for days or longer.
- Remember to include unique family needs like pet supplies, infant formula and medicines. Store these items in easy-to-carry bags or bins. Consider two kits – one for home and a second lightweight, portable kit to keep in your car.
- Both kits should include a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries. Thoroughly check and update your family’s emergency supply kit for winter weather.
Step 3 – Stay informed:
- Some of the things you can do to prepare for the unexpected during Alaska’s winters are the same regardless of the type of emergency. However, it’s important to stay informed about the emergency that may affect your family.
- Listen to a NOAA weather radio or local news broadcasts for critical information about changing weather conditions.
- Follow instructions from local authorities. Above all, stay calm, be patient and think before you act.