Winter and Cold Weather Safety

Winter and Cold Weather Safety
Posted on 01/03/2022

Winter storms create a higher risk of car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning, and heart attacks from overexertion. Winter storms including blizzards can bring extreme cold, freezing rain, snow, ice and high winds. Below are safety tips and reminders to help keep you safe this winter season. 

Stay Safe During Winter Weather

  • 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

WINTERIZE YOUR HOME

  • Winterize your home to extend your fuel supply.
  • Insulate walls and attics.
  • Caulk and weatherize doors and windows.
  • Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic.


FROZEN PIPES

Take steps to prevent frozen water pipes:

  • Locate and insulate the pipes most susceptible to freezing. Typically those near outer walls, in crawl spaces or in attics.
  • Heat tape or thermostatically controlled heat cables can be used to wrap pipes. Be sure to use products approved by an independent testing organization, such as Underwriters Laboratories Inc., and only for the use intended (exterior or interior). Closely follow all manufacturers’ installation and operation instructions.
  • Seal any leaks that allow cold air inside where pipes are
    located.
  • Disconnect garden hoses and shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets.
  • Make sure you know how to shut off the water, in case pipes burst.

frozen pipes infographic


PREPARE FOR POSSIBLE ISOLATION IN YOUR HOME FOR SEVERAL DAYS:

  • Make sure you have sufficient heating fuel. After a severe winter storm, regular fuel carriers may not reach you for days.
  • Have emergency heating equipment (fireplaces, wood burning stoves or space heaters) and ample fuel so you can keep at least one room of your house warm.
  • Always ensure proper ventilation to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • NEVER use an outdoor grill to heat your home or to cook food indoors.
  • Keep fire extinguishers on hand and make sure your family knows how to use them.

HOME HEATING HAZARDS

  • Carbon Monoxide is a odorless, colorless gas that can kill you.
  • Symptoms include headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain and confusion
  • Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters indoors.
  • Make sure your gas appliances are vented properly.
  • Have your chimney checked or cleaned each year.
  • Never use a gas range or oven for heating.
  • Never burn charcoal indoors
  • Never use a portable gas camp stove indoors
  • Never use a generator inside your home, basement, garage or less than 20 feet from any window, door or vent.
  • Install a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector in your home and check/replace batteries when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. 

OUTDOOR WINTER SAFETY
Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a car or walking in deep snow. The strain from the cold and the hard labor of snow shoveling could cause a heart attack at any age – a major cause of death in the winter. Don’t ignore chest pain or tightness in your chest.

  • If you become stranded outdoors, seek shelter to stay dry. Cover all exposed parts of the body. If no shelter is nearby, prepare a lean-to, windbreak or snow cave for protection from the wind. Build a fire for heat and to attract attention. Do not eat snow as it will lower your body temperature. Melt it first.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
  • Frostbite is a severe reaction to cold exposure of the skin that can permanently damage fingers, toes, the nose and ear lobes. Symptoms are numbness and a white or pale appearance to the skin. When symptoms are apparent, seek medical help immediately. If medical help is not immediately available, slowly warm the affected areas.
  • Hypothermia, or low body temperature, is a life-threatening condition brought on when the body temperature falls below 95 degrees.

    Symptoms of hypothermia include slow or slurred speech, incoherence, memory loss, disorientation, uncontrollable shivering, drowsiness, repeated stumbling and apparent exhaustion.

    If these symptoms are detected, take the person’s temperature. If below 95 degrees, immediately seek medical attention. If medical help is not available, begin warming the person slowly. Always warm the body core first. Do NOT warm the arms and legs first – this can force the cold blood toward the heart and can lead to heart failure.

    Get the person into dry clothing, and wrap them in a warm blanket covering the head and neck. Do not give the victim alcohol, drugs, coffee or any hot beverage. Warm broth is better.


RECOMMENDED WINTER ATTIRE
Wear loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing in several layers. The trapped air between the layers insulates. Layers can be removed to avoid perspiration and subsequent chill.

  • Wear outer garments that are tightly woven, water repellent and hooded.
  • Wear a hat. A significant amount of body heat is lost through the top of the head.
  • Wear mittens that are snug at the wrist. Mittens offer better protection. Gloves allow your fingers to cool much faster than mittens.
  • Cover the mouth and nose with scarves to help protect lungs from cold air.
  • Keep your feet as dry as possible. Wear wool socks.

winter clothing

WIND CHILL MATTERS
Wind chill is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by the combined effects of the wind speed and cold temperatures. As the wind increases, heat is carried away from the body at an accelerated rate, driving down the body temperature. The wind chill shows how cold the wind makes exposed flesh feel and is a good way to determine the potential for frostbite or hypothermia.

wind chill chart


The above information is from Ready.gov and IEMA