Winter Storm Stella, a nor’easter that blasted across the Northeast and Midwest, claimed several lives. At least some of those deaths were a result of physical exertion from snow removal.

Keith Tidball, an expert in emergency response at Cornell University, recommends eight things to do immediately to prepare families for future storms, disasters and emergencies.

Tidball says: 

1. “If you have children, they have no doubt heard about the disaster. Make time to find out your child’s concerns about the situation and let them know their safety is your top priority. Help kids understand they’re safe and secure by talking, playing and other family activities.

2. “Restock your emergency supplies to be ready in case another storm hits.

3. “Assess how well your supplies and family plan worked. What could you have done better?

4. “Take a few minutes to improve your family plan and supplies before the next winter storm hits, and talk to your neighbors and colleagues about their experiences and share tips with each other.

5. “Be sure to dig out your fire hydrants. The fire department has tall markers on most hydrants, so they should be visible despite the piles of snow. You can save first responders valuable time by digging out your local hydrant, and this can be the difference between a fire quickly distinguished and a disaster.

6. “When handling snow removal, re-familiarize yourself with safety and health procedures for heavy exertion in winter conditions.

7. “Plan for the thaw. Mitigate basement flooding and inspect sump pumps. If your pump is more than 10 years old, it may need replaced. The last thing you would want is to find out that your pump needs to be replaced as a result of a flooded basement.

8. “Rake the snow off your roof if you can. This will eliminate moisture runoff. If you notice icicles hanging from your gutters you may want to call a roofer to help chip valleys in the ice to allow water runoff. Creating this will allow the water to run off, verses pooling up on the roof and entering your home. Walking the roof is not recommended. Inspecting the gutter line and removing snow while safely on the ground is preferable.”

Media note: Keith Tidball is coordinator for the New York Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN). Valuable resources about winter storm preparedness and recovery are available at,