Terms to Know

  • Winter Storm Watch:  Indicates severe winter weather may affect your area.
  • Winter Storm Warning:  Severe winter weather conditions will affect your area.
  • Blizzard Warning:  Large amount of falling snow or blowing snow with winds of at least 35 miles per hour expected to last for several hours.
  • Wind Chill:  The effect of wind in combination with the actual temperature, which increases the rate of heat loss to the human body.
  • Frostbite:  Severe reaction to cold exposure that can permanently damage its victims.  Symptoms include a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in fingers, toes, ears, and nose.
  • Hypothermia:  Occurs when the body’s core temperature drops below normal.  Symptoms include uncontrollable shivering, slow speech, memory lapses, frequent stumbling, and drowsiness.  If frostbite or hypothermia is suspected, slowly warm the victim and seek immediate medical assistance.
  • Overexertion:  Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart.  Shoveling snow or pushing a car may cause a heart attack.  Stay warm, dress warm, and slow down when working outdoors.

Be Prepared

  • Service snow removal equipment.  Use rock salt to melt ice on walkways, and sand to generate traction.
  • Winterize your home and have heating sources inspected annually.
  • If you use heating oil, maintain an adequate supply.
  • Have safe, emergency heating equipment available and use according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Install and check smoke alarms.
  • Protect water pipes from freezing.
  • Have adequate winter supplies on hand.

Winter Travel Supplies

  • Several blankets and sleeping bags
  • Matches and candles
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Extra set of mittens, socks, and wool caps
  • First Aid kit with pocket knife
  • Small sack of sand to generate traction
  • Small shovel, pliers, wrench, and screwdriver
  • Windshield scraper and a small broom
  • Booster cables and distress flares
  • Set of tire chains or snow tires
  • Brightly colored cloth (to use as a flag)

Winter Driving Tips

  • Keep vehicles clear of ice and snow—good vision is key to good driving.
  • Slow down, remember to match your speed to account for road and weather conditions.
  • Keep your gas tank above half-full if possible.
  • Check tires for proper inflation and sufficient tread.
  • Plan your stops and keep more distance between cars.
  • Remember that snowdrifts and snow banks can hide small children.
  • Don't crowd the plow.

If Stranded in a Vehicle

  • Stay in the vehicle.  Do not leave the vehicle to search for assistance unless assistance is visible within 100 feet.
  • Display a trouble sign.  Hang a brightly colored cloth on the radio antenna, raise the hood, and turn on hazard lights.  At night, use the dome light.
  • Occasionally run the engine to keep warm.  Run the heater sparingly. Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning.  Keep the exhaust pipe clear and open the downwind windows.
  • Do minor exercises to keep up circulation.  Clap hands and move arms and legs.  Try not to stay in one position for too long.
  • If there is more than one person in the car, take turns sleeping. Huddle together for warmth.

Heavy Exertion Safety

Heavy exertion, such as shoveling snow, clearing debris or pushing a car, increase the risk of a heart attack. To avoid problems: 

  • Stay warm, dress warm and SLOW DOWN when working outdoors. 
  • Take frequent rests to avoid over-exertion 
  • If you feel chest pain, shortness of breath, or pain in your jaw radiating down your arm -- STOP and seek help immediately. 

Power Outages


  • If you use medication that requires refrigeration, most can be kept in a closed refrigerator for several hours without a problem - check with your physician or pharmacist. 
  • If you have space in your refrigerator or freezer, consider filling plastic containers with water, leaving an inch of space inside each one –this will help keep food cold if the power goes out. 
  • Plan to have an alternative cooking source, such as a camp stove or outdoor grill.  Follow appropriate safety rules for its use outside the residence. 
  • Consider buying a generator and follow the rules for using it outside the residence.  Before installing a generator, be sure to properly disconnect from your utility electrical service. If possible, have your generator installed by a qualified electrician. 
  • Have extra blankets, coats, hats, and gloves on hand to keep warm. 
  • If you have a computer, back up files and operating systems regularly.  Turn off all computers, monitors, and other devices when they are not being used. 
  • If you have an electric garage door opener, locate the manual release level, and learn how to operate. 
  • If you have a telephone instrument or system that requires electricity to work, plan for alternate communication such as a standard tele-phone handset, cellular telephone, or radio.



  • Turn off or disconnect major appliances and other equipment, e.g., computers, in case of a momentary power surge that can damage these devices. Keep one light turned on so you know when power returns. Consider using surge protectors wherever you use electronic equipment. 
  • Call your utility provider to notify them of the outage and listen to local broadcasts for official information. Check with your utility to determine area repair schedules. 
  • Check to see if neighbors and those with access or functional needs have power. 
  • Use only flashlights for emergency lighting - candles pose the risk of fire. 
  • Keep refrigerators and freezer doors closed - most food requiring refrigeration can be kept safely in a closed refrigerator for several hours. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for approximately four (4) hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours. 
  • Do not use a charcoal grill indoors and do not use a gas stove for heat - they could give off harmful levels of carbon monoxide. 
  • Stay warm by dressing in layers and minimizing time spent outdoors. Be aware of cold stress symptoms (i.e., hypothermia) and seek proper medical attention if symptoms appear. 
  • Close off rooms you do not need. 

Heating Safety 

  • Use only safe sources of alternative heat such as a fireplace, small well-vented wood or coal stove or portable space heaters 
  • Always follow manufacturer's instructions 
  • When using alternative heat sources such as a fireplace, woodstove, etc. always make sure you have proper ventilation 
  • Keep curtains, towels and potholders away from hot surfaces
  • Have a fire extinguisher and smoke detectors and make sure they work
  • If you use kerosene heaters to supplement your regular heating fuel, or as an emergency source of heat, follow these safety tips: 
    • Follow the manufacturers' instructions
    • Use only the correct fuel for your unit
    • Refuel outdoors ONLY and only when the unit is cool
    • Keep the heater at least three feet away from furniture and other flammable objects
    • When using the heater, use fire safeguards and ventilate properly

Recreational Ice Safety


  • Strong ice is clear with a bluish tint. Weak ice appears milky and porous.
  • A minimum of four inches of clear ice is required to support an average person's weight on the ice.
  • Ice does not freeze uniformly. It may be a foot thick in one location and an inch or two only a few feet away. Always check conditions when you move on the ice.
  • Find a local source such as a bait shop or fishing guide that knows about local ice conditions.



  • Snow on ice: Ice covered by snow is probably unsafe because snow acts like an insulating blanket and slows the freezing process – ice under the snow will likely be thinner and weaker. A snowfall also can warm and melt existing ice.
  • Slush ice: Stay away from slushy ice, which is only half as strong as clear ice and indicates ice is no longer freezing from the bottom.
  • Warm temperatures: When temperatures vary widely, ice may thaw during the day and refreeze at night, resulting in weak, spongy, or honeycomb-like ice.



  • Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back.
  • Wear a life jacket and bright colored clothing.
  • Take a cell phone for emergency use.
  • Wear a whistle or pocket air horn around your neck in case there is no cell service. Those nearby are likely to hear your distress signal and it will help first responders determine your location.
  • If walking with a group onto a frozen body of water, avoid single file – spread out.
  • Never drive a car or truck out onto the ice at any time.
  • Avoid large cracks or depressions in the ice.
  • Test ice thickness with an ice spud or chisel before you settle on a spot.
  • Keep pets on a leash. If your pet falls through the ice, call 9-1-1 – DO NOT attempt a rescue and risk falling into the icy waters yourself.



  • Try to remain calm.
  • Don't remove winter clothing – heavy clothes, especially snowmobile suits, can trap air to provide warmth and flotation and should not drag you down.
  • Turn in the water toward the direction you came from - that is probably the strongest ice.
  • Dig the points of your ice picks into the ice and, while vigorously kicking your feet, pull yourself onto the surface by sliding forward on the ice.
  • Roll away from the area of weak ice to distribute your weight and help avoid breaking through the ice again.
  • Get to shelter, heat, dry clothing, and warm, non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated drinks.
  • Call 9-1-1. Seek medical attention if you feel disoriented, have uncontrollable shivering, or any other symptoms of hypothermia.



  • Ice cleats or creepers attach to boots and consist of adjustable straps or rubber overshoes with metal teeth or spikes, which provide traction on ice and help prevent falls.
  • An ice spud is a long-handled blade that comes to a point on one side. You can also use an ice chisel to punch a hole through the ice before you take a step to check the thickness.
  • Always bring two ice safety picks and wear them around your neck so they are within reach. The picks can be stuck into the ice and then used to pull yourself back out if you fall through.
  • Keep a floating rescue rope in an easily accessible location. If someone falls through, you may be able to assist by throwing the rope from a safe distance. If you should fall through, throw one end of the floating rope to a rescuer.