Winter Storm Preparation
The winter season is a magical time, but winter storms can kill.
Each year, thousands are killed or injured by automobile accidents, home fires, over-exertion, exposure, carbon monoxide poisoning, falls, and electrocution from downed wires. The links below contain important safety information courtesy of the Dane County Department of Emergency Management.
Winter Weather Information
- New wind chill temperature index
- Safety tips
- Silent dangers
- Fire safety
- Preparing your vehicle for winter driving
- Protecting livestock and pets
Before Severe Weather Arrives
- Have your furnace checked and serviced, so it is in good working order.
- Make sure your household smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order:
- Replace them every ten years.
- Vacuum them frequently.
- Replace their batteries at least once a year.
- If you don’t have smoke or carbon monoxide detectors in your home, you should purchase them right away. When purchasing a carbon monoxide detector make sure it has an audible alarm.
- Store drinking water, first aid kit, canned/no-cook food, non-electric can opener, radio, flashlight and extra batteries where you can get them easily, even in the dark. For information on what to put in a first aid kit check the Red Cross Family Disaster Supplies Kit.
- Get a NOAA Weather Radio to monitor severe weather. For more information and where to purchase these radios, check our Warning page.
- Know how to contact other household members.
- Know ahead of time what you should do to help elderly or disabled friends, neighbors or employees.
- Know alternate safe routes from home, work and schools.
- Keep vehicles fueled, maintaining at least a half tank of gas during the winter season. Make sure all vehicles are in good repair. Check our Prepare Your Vehicle for Winter Driving page.
- Winterize your house, barn, shed or any other structure that may provide shelter for your family, neighbors, livestock, pets or equipment. Check and repair the roof, doors, and windows. Also check the structural ability of the roof to sustain unusually heavy weight from the accumulation of snow. Check our Preventing Cold-Weather Injuries to Livestock and Pets page.
- If you think you might want to volunteer in case of a disaster, let voluntary organizations or the emergency services office know beforehand.
During a Winter Storm
- If using kerosene heaters, maintain ventilation to avoid build-up of toxic fumes. Keep heaters at least three feet from flammable objects. Refuel kerosene heaters outside.
- If using space heaters, periodically check the unit and cord to make sure it is not over heating. Never leave a space heater plugged in unattended if even the unit is turned off.
- Avoid travel if possible. If you must travel, do so during daylight hours and try not to travel alone. Stay on main roads, and keep others informed of your schedule and route. Checking current road conditions before you leave is important. You can do this by calling the Winter Road Conditions at 1-800-762-3947.
If a Blizzard Traps You in Your Vehicle
- Pull off the road, set hazard lights to flashing and hang a distress flag from the radio aerial or window. Remain in your vehicle.
- Conserve fuel, but run the engine and heater about ten minutes each hour to keep warm, cracking a downwind window slightly to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Exercise to maintain body heat but don’t over exert. Huddle with other passengers and use your coat for a blanket.
- In extreme cold you can use road maps, seat covers, floor mats, newspapers or extra clothing for covering - anything to provide additional insulation and warmth.
- Turn on the inside dome light so rescue teams can see you at night, but be careful not to run the battery down.
- Stay in your vehicle. Weather conditions could change suddenly.
After the Storm
- Report downed power lines, broken gas lines and water mains immediately.
- After blizzards, heavy snows or extreme cold, check to see that no physical damage has occurred and that water pipes are functioning. Wait for streets and roads to be opened before you attempt to drive anywhere.
- Check on neighbors, especially those who might need help.
- Check on livestock and pets to make sure they still have good shelter, fresh open water and food.
- Beware of over-exertion and exhaustion. Shoveling snow in extreme cold causes many heart attacks. Set your priorities and pace yourself after any disaster that leaves you with a mess to clean up. The natural tendency is to do too much too soon.