Winter weather is no joke, especially if you are not familiar with it. In general, winter storms create a higher risk of car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning, and heart attacks from overexertion. Winter storms, such as blizzards and extremely cold weather, can bring unforgiving cold, freezing rain, snow, ice, and high winds in a short amount of time. Just an overview:

A winter storm can:

  1. Last a few hours or several days.
  2. Cut off heat, power, and communication services.
  3. Put older adults, children, sick individuals, and pets at greater risk.

It is best to be prepared to handle winter weather before it arrives, and you must be proactive to avoid competing for supplies at the grocery store. Be ready for the next winter storm before winter, and you will be glad you did!

How to Protect Yourself from Winter Weather

Do not wait until a winter storm warning to go to gather supplies! You must have some level of basic preparedness to survive the worst of winter storms. You have no idea if the power is going to go out or if you will be stuck inside for an extended period of time. Have backup energy resources readily available and be sure to test these resources BEFORE cold weather comes!


Know your winter weather terms:

Winter Storm Warning

Issued when hazardous winter weather in the form of heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet is imminent or occurring. Winter Storm Warnings are usually issued 12 to 24 hours before the event is expected to begin.

Winter Storm Watch

Alerts the public to the possibility of a blizzard, heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet. Winter Storm Watches are usually issued 12 to 48 hours before the beginning of a Winter Storm.

Winter Weather Advisory

Issued for accumulations of snow, freezing rain, freezing drizzle, and sleet which will cause significant inconveniences and, if caution is not exercised, could lead to life-threatening situations. Since weather can change very quickly it is important to at least have a plan in the event weather gets worse. If you are driving a long distance, then you should at least have alternate routes and potential alternate stops in mind just in case roads get closed.

Know Your Risk for Winter Storms

Pay attention to weather reports and warnings of freezing weather and winter storms. Listen for emergency information and alerts often, especially if weather is in the forecast for the week! Sign up for your community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts.

Preparing for Winter Weather

Prepare your home to keep out the cold with insulation, caulking, and weather stripping. Learn how to keep pipes from freezing. Install and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups. Gather supplies in case you need to stay home for several days without power. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medication. Remember the needs of your pets. Have extra batteries for radios and flashlights. Just in case you are wondering where to start check out your local outdoor sports store for solutions for you and your family to keep warm. As always, you need to consider your physical safety when using anything that generates heat! The last thing you need is to burn down your home or risk your lives with carbon monoxide poisoning, read the instructions!

In Case of Emergency

Be prepared for winter weather at home, at work, and in your car. Create an emergency supply kit for your car. Include jumper cables, sand, a flashlight, warm clothes, blankets, bottled water and non-perishable snacks. Keep a full tank of gas. Keep in mind that preparedness is much more than being ready for an emergency, it allows you to handle situations better and enables you to help others in an emergency. Bring extra supplies with you because you may need to help others who were not as proactive as yourself.

Stay Safe During Winter Weather

Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Only use generators and grills outdoors and away from windows. Never heat your home with a gas stovetop or oven.

  • Stay off roads if at all possible. If trapped in your car, then stay inside.
  • Limit your time outside. If you need to go outside, then wear layers of warm clothing. Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
  • Reduce the risk of a heart attack by avoiding overexertion when shoveling snow and walking in the snow.

Learn the signs of, and basic treatments for, frostbite and hypothermia.

Frostbite causes loss of feeling and color around the face, fingers, and toes.

  • Signs: Numbness, white or grayish-yellow skin, firm or waxy skin.
  • Actions: Go to a warm room. Soak in warm water. Use body heat to warm. Do not massage or use a heating pad.

Hypothermia is an unusually low body temperature. A temperature below 95 degrees is an emergency.

  • Signs: Shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, or drowsiness.
  • Actions: Go to a warm room. Warm the center of the body first—chest, neck, head, and groin. Keep dry and wrapped up in warm blankets, including the head and neck.