As the temperature drops in the winter, it’s important to keep yourself and your family safe.
Whether there’s a winter storm approaching or it’s getting dangerously cold outside, there are steps you can take to prepare. Here are some tips from the National Weather Service, the CDC and Ready.gov for staying safe in cold weather.
Lots of terms get thrown around by weather channels when cold weather sets in, and knowing what those terms mean is the first step to staying safe.
A Winter Weather Advisory means winter elements (like snow, ice or sleet) are expected, but not to a degree to meet the warning criteria. Be prepared to see these conditions on the roads and take care when traveling.
Winter Storm Watches occur when there’s a chance of a significant winter storm based on present weather conditions.
Winter Storm Warnings are issued when severe winter weather (including heavy snow or heavy freezing rain) is imminent or occurring. They’re usually issued in the 12 to 24 hours before the event is expected to begin. If one of these are issued, do not travel and delay any plans to do so until conditions improve.
If you do have to go out into the cold, prepare by wearing the right clothing. As the temperature drops, add extra layers of clothing to stay warm.
For example, wear one to three layers plus an outer wind and waterproof layer when it’s chilly or cold, and add extra layers (including an insulating layer) in extreme cold conditions.
Wear warm and waterproof shoes or boots. Cover your face, head and hands, especially when it gets extremely cold.
Traveling can get dangerous in cold weather. Stay safe while driving by checking road conditions before you head out.
If conditions are severe, stay home and don’t make unnecessary trips. Consider taking extra steps to winterize your vehicle by looking into snow tires.
Keeping an emergency kit in your car is a good way of staying prepared and safe in the chance that you get stranded in the snow or the cold.
Keep your car stocked with supplies like jumper cables, flares, an ice scraper, a car cell phone charger, blanket and a map.
Take extra precautions by going out with a full tank of gas when it gets cold and keeping an eye on things in your car like antifreeze levels, brakes, the ignition system and the heater, defroster and thermostat.
Hypothermia, an unusually low body temperature, is a problem that can arise in cold conditions. Signs of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, memory loss, slurred speech, stiff muscles and drowsiness.
If you suspect someone is suffering from hypothermia, get them to a warm room and start warming the center of the body first. Keep them dry and wrapped in warm blankets.
Preparing your house for a cold spell or winter storm can start long before you get the notification of a winter storm warning.
Some items to keep in your house include a flashlight and extra batteries, first-aid supplies, baby supplies and extra non-perishable and ready to eat food. Check on your stock of these items as winter weather starts to get close.
The instinct is to turn up the heat when the temperature drops, but be sure to do it carefully to keep you and your family safe. If you’re using a fireplace, wood stove or space heater, take fire safety precautions and make sure the area’s properly ventilated.
For gas furnaces, check that it’s not blocked by a snowdrift when it’s safe to go out. Never use items like generators, charcoal grills or camp stoves inside your home, and protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning by keeping a detector in your house.
If your heat goes out, you can take steps to keep your home warm. Close off unused rooms to avoid wasting heat, stuff towels or rags under cracks in doors and close blinds and curtains to keep heat in.
Layer up with loose-fitting, lightweight and warm clothing, but be careful to avoid overheating, sweating and the chill that comes after.
Extreme cold temperatures can cause water pipes to freeze, rupture or break. If you’re expecting freezing temperatures, leave water taps slightly open so they drip continuously, keep the temperature inside your house warm as much as you can.
In the event that your pipes do freeze, don’t thaw them with a torch.