ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (Jan. 19, 2024) - As winter weather ensues in Elizabeth City and around the world, preparation is the key to staying healthy and avoiding costly, and cumbersome weather-related incidents and accidents. David Hill Jr., emergency management coordinator in the Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) Office of Emergency Management answered questions from the Office of Communications and Marketing about how the campus, and greater community can be prepared and proactive this winter.


When does winter weather become dangerous?

The National Weather Service reminds us that, warnings are usually issued when dangerous winter weather is “expected, occurring, or imminent.” It is best practice to remember that when in temperatures 13 degrees to 31 degrees, indoor breaks should happen every 20-30 minutes. For wind chills of 13 degrees and below, move activities indoors as the dangers of frostbite and hypothermia are possible. A wind chill of -20 degrees Fahrenheit can cause frostbite in just 30 minutes. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose.

What are some things to do in the home to prepare and prevent winter weather dangers?

Fundamentally, we must ensure that we are properly stocked with items such as batteries, extra medications, salt for driveways and walkways, fuel for generators and snowblowers.  Keep these things on hand, even if you think you won’t need them. Additionally, there are other practical, precautionary steps that can be beneficial:

Heat your home safely - If planning to use a wood stove, fireplace, or space heater, be extremely careful. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and follow safety tips to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Only use generators and grills outdoors and away from windows. NEVER heat your home with a gas stovetop or oven.

Light your home safely - If there is a power failure, use battery-powered flashlights or lanterns rather than candles, if possible, and have extra batteries on hand. Candles can lead to house fires and should never be left unattended.

Conserve heat - Some gas-fueled heaters, such as vent-less gas fireplaces, require some ventilation. Otherwise, if you don’t need extra ventilation, keep as much heat as possible inside your home by not unnecessarily opening doors or windows, closing off unneeded rooms and placing towels or rags in cracks under doors. Keep out the cold with insulation, caulking and weather stripping. Lastly, reverse ceiling fans if your ceiling fan has a reverse switch. This will run the fan's blades in a clockwise direction after you turn on your heat. The fan will produce an updraft and push down into the room heated air from the ceiling. Remember, hot air rises.

 What are some things to do for your car to be fully prepared for winter weather?

In the winter, roads may be slippery and, depending on your location, possibly not plowed, or brined. Most winter storm-related deaths involve a vehicle, so drive slower than usual and make sure you’re comfortable driving in snow or wintry conditions before you go out. When preparing your vehicle for the winter, these tips are extremely helpful:

  • Attempt to keep a full tank of gas.
  • Keep up with recommended and required vehicle maintenance all winter.
  • Inspect your battery as a vehicle’s battery capacity lessens in cold weather. Have a professional inspect your battery’s fluid and cables.
  • Change your oil and antifreeze and keep extra windshield wiper fluid.
  • Check your tire for tread wear by using the “Penny Test.” You do this by taking a penny and placing it in the tread groove of your tire. Place the penny with Lincoln’s head facing you and stick the penny in the tread so that the top of Lincoln’s head is no longer visible. If his entire head is visible while in the groove, it’s time to replace your tires.
  • Keep air in your tires. Low air pressure can be potentially dangerous on winter roads. If you know how check the pressure yourself at your local gas station or car shop. Or, take your car to a mechanic.
  • Minimize the use of cruise control.

What are some common items every car should have in the winter?

When traveling, always prepare for the worst! Have an emergency supply kit that includes as many of the items listed below as possible:

  • Warm clothes
  • Boots
  • Blankets
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Snacks and water
  • Shovel
  • Jumper cables
  • Bag of sand
  • Cell phone charger
  • First aid kit
  • Tow rope
  • Flares
  • Click here for more tips on building a car supply kit.

How should students walking to class or people walking to work be prepared for winter weather?

 First, we should remember to limit our outside time. For example, if you have asthma, breathing in cold, dry air can trigger an asthma attack. If you must be outside, consult your physician, talk to your doctor and remember to follow your Asthma Action Plan. If a person must venture out, consider the safeguards below:

  • Wear layers of loose-fitting and lightweight clothing. Trapped air between the layers will insulate you. Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellent, and hooded. If doing strenuous outdoor activities, avoid wearing cotton. Once wet, it takes a long time to dry and will sap your heat. Use synthetic fabrics that wick moisture from your skin and dry quickly.
  • Don’t overexert yourself. Shoveling heavy, wet snow can cause strain on your muscles, heart, and spine. Be aware of what your body is telling you and take breaks when needed.
  • Wear a hat (40% of your body heat can be lost from your head) and cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold. Of note, mittens, snug at the wrist, are better than gloves.
  • Double-check public transportation’s running schedules to ensure you aren’t stuck outside too long waiting.

What are some campus resources available for students navigate winter weather?

ECSU may be able to provide resources through Student Affairs and Career Development. Local city, county, and state resources may also be available. During weather related events, always feel free to contact ECSU University Police at (252) 335-3266 or the Office of Emergency Management at (919) 806-6913.