How to stay safe during the winter storm

Cars are stuck in traffic as a winter storm arrives , Friday, Feb. 8, 2013 in Newington, N.H. Snow began to fall around the Northeast on Friday at the start of what's predicted to be a massive, possibly historic blizzard, and residents scurried to stock up on food and supplies ahead of the storm. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) Jim Cole

The Northeast is bracing for a winter storm, which is expected to dump up to 3 feet of snow in some parts of the region. As people bundle up to keep warm from the icy rain, snow and sleet, the most dangerous conditions could potentially be on the road.

According to a survey conducted by State Farm and KRC Research, 60 percent of drivers have "junk" or non-emergency supplies in the trunk of their car. While 99 percent of people had at least one emergency item, only 9 percent were fully equipped just in case they had car trouble during the storm.

State Farm suggested that all drivers should have these items:

  • Hazard triangle or road flares
  • First aid kit
  • Jumper cables
  • Windshield scraper and brush
  • Spare tire
  • Blankets and extra warm clothing
  • Cell phone and charger
  • High-calorie, non-perishable food
  • Road salt or cat litter to help with traction
  • Candle/matches or lighter
  • Tarp for sitting or kneeling in the snow for exterior work like a tire change
  • Extra clothing and non-perishable food if you have young children

"In these weather conditions, it's better to stay off the road, but if you do have to hit the road it's better to be prepared and have this stuff in your car," Rachael Risinger, State Farm Public Affairs Specialist, said to CBSNews.com.

In general, you should also make sure your gas tank is at least half full in bad whether and that your spare tire has the correct air pressure, according to the company. Check that your supplies are still working twice a year.

If you do find yourself stranded on the road, don't panic. State Farm advises to pull off the highway when possible. Turn on your hazard lights and hang a distress flag from your antenna or window. If you have a phone on you, call 911 and describe where you are in as much detail as possible. Most importantly, stay in your car as much as possible.

If you're going to be in your car for a while, you might be tempted to use your car's heater to keep warm. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, run your vehicle's engine and heater only 10 minutes every hour. Keep a window cracked for ventilation and clear snow from the exhaust pipe if it's safe to go outside. Keep drinking to avoid dehydration.

Try not to waste your battery and only use it for necessary items. It can help if you are stuck at night to turn on an inside light when you run the engine so other people can see you.

"Use your battery power carefully," Risinger explained. "You want to make sure you have enough for heat. Don't waste it on lights or the radio."

Even if you're not driving, you should be prepared just in case you get stuck at home. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends keeping a week's worth of food and safety supplies stocked up in the event of snow. Such supplies may include drinking water, canned foods or foods that don't need to be cooked, non-electric can opener, baby food and formula, prescription drugs and other medications, a first-aid kit, rock salt, battery-powered lamps and a flashlight.

Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, adds that it's important to take measures to stay warm, paying close attention to the head and scalp which could be most at risk for heat loss in cold temperatures, especially if you're going to be outdoors.

"In the cold weather, make sure you also keep your head, face and nose covered and dress in layers to prevent heat loss," Glatter recommended in an email to CBSNews.com. "It is important to wear sturdy insulated boots with thick wool socks which help to keep your feet warm while out in the cold temperatures or while shoveling snow."

For people in poor health or who have a history of heart disease and stroke, the combination of cold weather and physical activity from shoveling could dramatically increase risk for a heart attack, according to the American Heart Association.

"Take frequent breaks while shoveling and keep yourself well hydrated both before and after shoveling," Glatter urged. "If you develop chest pain difficulty breathing dizziness arm or back pain while shoveling, stop -- and call 911."

The AHA adds that people should use a small shovel or consider a snow blower, because lifting heavy now could raise blood pressure significantly during the lift. It's safer to lift smaller amounts more times, or simply push the snow, according to the association.

Other potential risks include back injuries -- which could be prevented by lifting the shovel with your legs -- or falls and slips when walking outdoors. People should wear sturdy, insulated boots and walk slowly, looking carefully at both feet and the pavement in front of them to avoid any potential patches of ice mixed in with the snow, said Glatter.

Don't drink alcohol or caffeine immediately before or after shoveling, because they can lead to dehydration, he added.

Hypothermia is also a risk, and can occur within 15 or 20 minutes if you're outdoors in below-freezing temperature without proper covering. Symptoms of hypothermia include confusion, dizziness, and shivering, with elderly people and young children are most at risk. Hypothermia can also lead to heart failure and death, warned the AHA.

Call 911 and remove the person from the outdoors if they are showing these symptoms.

The CDC has more tips on winter weather safety.

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