Preparing for winter in this time of global warming

Posted by Michael Collins in Life After Paralysis on October 08, 2018 # Mobility, Safety

The weathercasters were giddy this week, as they got to report that the first snow had fallen in the peaks of the nearby Cascade mountains. That first sign of winter in the great Northwest is something that the skiers look forward to each year, but I no longer share that excitement since I rely on the four wheels of my wheelchair as my means of mobility. Don't get me wrong; snow is pretty when it first falls and things turn quiet and white. When it piles up to the point of blocking sidewalks, curb ramps and making flat surfaces into skating rinks, that's when I no longer consider it a thing of beauty.

Those of us who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices, depending on our level of injury, need to plan ahead so that we're not unprepared for whatever weather strikes us in the coming season. While many parts of the world have just endured the hottest summers on record, and some of the most violent storms, 'global warming' does not seem to describe what is happening. Last winter's heavy snowfalls and extended periods of freezing weather in the northern hemisphere are likely to return again, which means many of my peers may share my plight of being 'trapped' at home for days or weeks at a time. There is no time like the present to get prepared for that eventuality.

My initial concern involves batteries; when temperatures drop, the performance of batteries drops right along with it. If it has been an extended period of time since wheelchair batteries were changed, or they run low by the end of a normal day, this would be a good time to visit the wheelchair vendor to get a new set installed. While there, check out the tread on tires and if they are worn replace them so there will be traction if snow and ice blankets the ground.

My diverse collection of flashlights and lanterns requires many batteries of different sizes. This is the time of year when I make sure I have plenty of each so that I will not be sitting in the dark for extensive periods when our power goes out in a winter storm. A battery that is really affected by the cold is the one that powers the number pad for my door opener; it needs to be changed so it will keep working when the temperatures drop below freezing. An emergency radio that has been sitting since last winter may not have adequate battery life remaining so should be changed as a precaution. Emergency battery devices for cellphones are inexpensive and I have two or three of them available so that the phone can keep operating for days, even without electricity in the rest of the house.

Preparing vehicles for the approach of winter is something that everyone should be doing at this time of year, whether they use a wheelchair or not. Make sure that antifreeze levels are adequate, especially the windshield washer fluid, and that the ice scraper and snow brush are within reach for the person who has to clear the windows on a snowy morning. While I no longer shovel sidewalks and driveways, I do make sure that the snow shovel or push broom is located just inside the garage door within reach of the unlucky person who needs to get bundled up to do that.

Since I am unable to do most of these things by myself, it is necessary to recruit volunteers or hire someone to do them for me; that includes winterizing the house and yard. Hoses need to be drained and put away, insulating covers placed over the faucets, leaves removed from the gutters, and the furniture stored after spending the summer on the deck. If there is a generator available, is there plenty of fuel for it and is someone nearby trained to operate it? I don't use my fireplace, but how is your firewood supply?

I always check emergency water supplies in case there is an extended power outage, and refresh the supply if necessary. It is important to keep the pantry full of some non-perishable foods that can be eaten without cooking, although the tastiest items seem to disappear prior to the arrival of winter.

The squirrels and birds that frequent my feeders have increased the volume of food that they consume, getting fattened up for winter. Personally, I like to keep 'fattened up' year-round, and always hope that winter is just another season.

© 2018 Michael Collins