As temperatures drop, it’s important to begin preparing for colder months and the threats they present. Winter storms can bring extreme cold, freezing rain, snow, ice and high winds. These conditions can create a higher risk of car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning and even heart attacks from overexertion.
Winter storms can last a few hours or several days. They can knock out heat, power and communication services. Older adults, young children and sick individuals are typically at greater risk during this time.
Taking preparedness actions, such as winterizing your car and keeping an emergency supply kit in it, can make a big difference in protecting you and your family. Other actions you can take to effectively prepare for winter conditions include:
- Preparing your home to keep out the cold with insulation. Learn how to keep pipes from freezing. Install and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups.
- Know your winter weather terms and paying attention to weather reports and warnings of freezing weather and winter storms. Sign up for your community’s warning system.
- 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.
- 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 and, if possible, have a professional check your battery, anti-freeze and cooling system.
Knowing the signs and basic treatments for frostbite and hypothermia is also important. Frostbite can cause loss of feeling and color around the face, finger and toes, as well as numbness and firm or waxy skin. If you think you are experiencing frostbite, go to a warm room, soak in warm water and use body heat to warm yourself.
Similarly, if you are experiencing an unusually low body temperature (less than 95 degrees) accompanied by confusion, fumbling hands or slurred speech, you may be experiencing hypothermia. If you are, go to a warm room, stay dry and wrap yourself in blankets.
During a winter storm, you can also stay safe by doing the following:
- Stay off the roads if possible.
- Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Only use generators and grills outdoors and away from windows. Never heat your home with a gas stovetop or oven.
- Check on your neighbors, while staying safe from COVID-19, by texting, emailing or calling them.
Visit Ready.gov/winter-weather for more information on how to stay safe in winter weather.