During the winter of 2013 two separate snow and ice storms shut down metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia, for several days disrupting the lives of more than 5 million people.

Hundreds were stranded overnight in cars. One woman reportedly even gave birth in her vehicle, while stuck in gridlocked freeway traffic. Others abandoned their vehicles to walk many miles through freezing temperatures. Thousands more were left without power.

Southern cities don’t have the infrastructure and experience for dealing with winter storms that their Northern neighbors do. So when an unusually large storm does roll through, the disruption and dangers are magnified.

Here are some ideas for preparing your car, home and family for the next “snowpocalypse.”

In the car

No one could be prepared to give birth in a car, but some simple supplies could make a night in your vehicle much more comfortable. During winter, always keep the following tucked away in the trunk:

  • Warm blankets or sleeping bags
  • Drinking water
  • Non-perishable food items and a can opener
  • Cell-phone charger
  • Sturdy shoes or boots
  • Flashlight

It’s also a good idea to never let the gas level in your vehicle go below a quarter of a tank.

At home

If you’re fortunate enough to make it home from work or school, you’ll want to have supplies on hand for at least a week. Rather than joining the last-minute frenzy at the grocery store, keep an emergency kit in your closet. This should include:

Five days worth of non-perishable food

  • Can opener
  • Dinking water (especially for homes on a well)
  • Flashlight
  • portable emergency radio
  • extra batteries
  • extra prescription medicines
  • food for pets

If your home has a fireplace or wood-burning stove, make sure you have enough firewood available to stay warm. Others should look into purchasing a kerosene heater or other portable option for emergency heat. In addition, you’ll need a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector to help ensure safe air quality when burning emergency fuels.

If you operate a portable generator, be sure to do so away from the house to keep carbon monoxide from entering the home.

For your family

Similar to tornado or hurricane readiness, there are certain precautions that can protect the safety of your family and loved ones.

As young as possible, make sure children know their full names and spellings, as well as their parents’ names and spellings. They also should know addresses and phone numbers.

Family members should agree upon and memorize a separate “ICE” number, which stands for “In Case of Emergency.” This should be the number of someone who lives out of town-an aunt or uncle perhaps-that everyone calls, if local phone service is disrupted. It’s often easier to place an out of town call than to reach others within an emergency area where phone connections are overloaded or disabled.

Naturally, children will want to enjoy the rare opportunity to play in the snow. Accompany young children and make sure everyone, including pets (on leashes), stays well away from downed power lines or trees that may be heavy with snow.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/papalars/2818694260/