Winter Preparedness Tips

Winter Preparedness Tips

A major winter storm can be deadly. Preparing for cold weather conditions and responding to them effectively can reduce the dangers caused by winter storms.


  • Be familiar with winter storm warning messages.
  • Service snow removal equipment. Have rock salt on hand to melt ice on walkways. Purchase cat litter or sand to generate temporary traction.
  • Make sure you have sufficient heating fuel; regular fuel sources may be cut off.
  • Winterize your home.
    • Insulate walls and attic.
    • Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows.
    • Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside.
  • Have safe emergency heating equipment available.
    • Fireplace with ample supply of wood
    • Small, well-vented, wood, coal, or camp stove with fuel
    • Portable space heaters or kerosene heaters
  • Install and check smoke detectors.
  • Keep pipes from freezing.
    • Wrap pipes in insulation or layers of old newspapers.
    • Cover the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture.
    • Let faucets drip a little to avoid freezing.
    • Know how to shut off water valves.
  • Have disaster supplies on hand, in case the power goes out.
    • Flashlight and extra batteries
    • Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries
    • First-aid kit
    • One-week supply of food (include items that do not require refrigeration or cooking in case the power is shut off)
    • Fresh water supply or bottled water
    • Non-electric can opener
    • One-week supply of essential prescription medications
    • Extra blankets and sleeping bags
    • Fire extinguisher
  • Develop an emergency communication plan.
    • In case family members are separated from one another during a winter storm (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), have a plan for getting back together.
  • Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the “family contact.” After a disaster, it’s often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.
  • Make sure that all family members know how to respond after a severe winter storm. Teach children how and when to call 911, Police, or Fire Department, and which radio and television stations to tune to for emergency information.
  • Consider purchasing an NOAA Weather Radio, which is operated 24 hours a day by National Weather Service offices across the nation, including here at Sioux Falls. The broadcast consists of frequently updated weather information, such as current weather conditions, climatological data, and the forecast for the area. During threatening weather, live broadcasts are made of all winter weather warnings. Specially built receivers can be set to audibly alarm when one of these warnings is broadcast for your county. The tone-alert NOAA Weather Radios can be purchased at many local electronic stores for a reasonable price. For more information concerning NOAA Weather Radio, please contact the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls at (605) 330-4250.


If Indoors:

  • Stay indoors and dress warmly.
  • Conserve fuel.
    • Lower the thermostat to 65 degrees during the day and 55 degrees at night. Close off unused rooms.
    • If the pipes freeze, remove any insulation or layers of newspapers and wrap pipes in rags. Completelopen all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they were most exposed to the cold (or where the cold was most likely to penetrate).
  • Listen to the radio or television to receive the latest information.

If Outdoors:

  • Dress warmly.
    • Wear loose-fitting, layered, light-weight clothing. Layers can be removed to prevent perspiration and chill. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Mittens are warmer than gloves because fingers generate warmth when they touch each other.
  • Stretch before you go out.
    • If you go out to shovel snow, do a few stretching exercises to warm up your body. Also take frequent breaks.
  • Cover your mouth.
    • Protect your lungs from extremely cold air by covering your mouth when outdoors. Try not to speak unless absolutely necessary.
  • Avoid overexertion.
    • Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Unaccustomed exercise such as shoveling snow or pushing a car can bring on a heart attack or make other medical conditions worse. Be aware of symptoms of dehydration.
  • Keep dry.
    • Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.
  • Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance: infants, elderly people, and people with disabilities.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
    • Frostbite is a severe reaction to cold exposure that can permanently damage its victims. A loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in fingers, toes, or nose and ear lobes are symptoms of frostbite.
    • Hypothermia is a condition brought on when the body temperature drops to less than 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, slow speech, memory lapses, frequent stumbling, drowsiness, and exhaustion.
    • If frostbite or hypothermia is suspected, begin warming the person slowly and seek immediate medical assistance. Warm the person’s trunk first. Use your own body heat to help. Arms and legs should be warmed last because stimulation of the limbs can drive cold blood toward the heart and lead to heart failure. Put the person in dry clothing and wrap his or her entire body in a blanket.
    • Never give a frostbite or hypothermia victim something with caffeine in it (like coffee or tea) or alcohol. Caffeine, a stimulant, can cause the heart to beat faster and hasten the effects the cold has on the body. Alcohol, a depressant, can slow the heart and also hasten the ill effects of cold body temperatures.