The teeth-chattering cold we warned about in our winter forecast is officially here and it’s nothing to laugh about. Cold weather extremes can be dangerous. Follow these important cold weather safety tips for you, your family, and pets when the mercury and wind chills drop to sub-zero levels.
11 Must-Read Severe Cold Weather Safety Tips
- Minimize outside activities, particularly the elderly and very young.
- Dress in layers. Several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing will keep you warmer than a single layer of heavy clothing. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Invest in a good brand of thermal underwear and layer beneath a turtleneck, topped with a wool sweater, then a long coat or fleece-lined parka. Try runners’ tights to wear underneath your pants, which will keep you even warmer than thermal underwear.
- Wear the right gear. Our bodies prioritize keeping our organs warm, which means hands and feet are typically the first to feel the cold. Wear either wool-lined winter gloves or heavy mittens, and sturdy, waterproof boots, protecting your extremities. A hat is essential, preferably one that covers your ears. Cover your face and mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.
- Excessive exposure can lead to frostbite, which is damaging to body tissues. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, seek medical help immediately.
- Do not leave pets outside during cold weather extremes. They need adequate shelter. In sub-zero temperatures, their paws, noses and ears can succumb to frostbite—bring them inside. If you can’t bring them in your home, house them in a garage or basement with plenty of warm bedding.
- Know the warning signs of hypothermia: uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. If body temperature drops below 95 degrees, seek immediate medical care.
- Be safe with heat sources. When using alternate heating sources, such as your fireplace, wood stove or space heater, take the necessary safety precautions to ensure they are ventilating properly. Keep a fire extinguisher handy, and make sure everyone in the household knows how to use it. Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Seal off unused rooms by stuffing rolled-up towels in the cracks under the doors. At night, cover windows with extra blankets or sheets. Consider installing inexpensive insulating window film, which you can purchase at any hardware store.
- Save the food. If you lose power for an extended period of time, don’t let food go to waste! Use the outdoors as a makeshift freezer for food. Be sure to cover items to protect from wildlife.
- To keep pipes from freezing, wrap them in insulation or layers of newspapers, covering the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture. Allow a trickle of water to run from a faucet if your pipes have frozen in the past. This will keep the water moving so that it cannot freeze. Learn how to shut off your water if a pipe should burst.
- Be a good neighbor. Check in with elderly or disabled relatives and neighbors to ensure they are safe.