Red Cross: Winter storm tips

As residents brace for a winter storm and arctic temperatures, the Red Cross offers winter safety tips to stay safe during the holidays. 


Winter weather can bring life-threatening conditions. Stay indoors and wear layers of loose fitting, lightweight warm clothes.

  • Check on relatives, neighbors and friends, particularly if they are elderly or live alone.

  • Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling snow, pushing a vehicle or walking in deep snow.

  • Caulk and weather-strip doors and windowsills to keep cold air out. Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside to provide an extra layer of insulation to keep cold air out.

  • Make sure you have enough heating fuel on hand.

  • Protect pipes from freezing.

  • Bring your pets inside during cold winter weather.


Wear layered clothing, mittens or gloves, and a hat.

  • Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from severely cold air.

  • Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses much of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly away from the body.

  • Stretch before you go out. If you go out to shovel snow, do a few stretching exercises to warm up your body. This will reduce your chances of muscle injury.

  • Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a vehicle, or walking in deep snow. The strain from the cold and the hard labor may cause a heart attack. Sweating could lead to a chill and hypothermia.

  • Walk carefully on snowy, icy sidewalks. Slips and falls occur frequently in winter weather, resulting in painful and sometimes disabling injuries.

  • If you must go out during a winter storm, use public transportation if possible. About 70 percent of winter deaths related to ice and snow occur in automobiles.


To avoid frostbite and hypothermia, be aware of the wind chill and dress appropriately.

  • When outside, stay active to maintain body heat, take frequent breaks from the cold and avoid unnecessary exposure of any part of the body.

  • Drink liquids, such as warm broth or juice, but avoid caffeine and alcohol.

  • Get out of the cold immediately if signs of hypothermia or frostbite appear. These signs include shaking uncontrollably, getting extremely tired, turning very pale or getting numb fingers, toes, ears or nose.

  • To treat someone who may have hypothermia or frostbite, gently warm them by wrapping them in a blanket and giving them warm drinks and high-energy foods. Call 911 if these signs are severe.


Use flashlights in the dark — not candles.

  • Don’t drive unless necessary. Traffic lights will be out and roads could be congested.

  • Turn off and unplug any appliances, equipment and electronics. When the power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment. Leave one light on, so you’ll know when power is restored.

  • If a power outage is two hours or less, don’t be concerned about losing perishable foods. During a prolonged outage, keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to protect your food. Use perishable food from the refrigerator first. Then, use food from the freezer. If the power outage will continue beyond a day, prepare a cooler with ice for your freezer items. Keep food in a dry, cool spot and cover it at all times.

  • If you are using a generator, keep it dry and don’t use it in wet conditions.

  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning device inside a home, garage, basement or other partially enclosed area. Keep this equipment outside and away from doors, windows and vents, which could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.

  • Plug appliances directly into the generator. Never plug a generator into a wall outlet.