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Friday, September 29, 2023

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Stay safe during and after a winter storm

Winter storms are dangerous. Winter storms can bring cold temperatures, power outages, communication service outages, and icy streets and highways. This can make being outside dangerous, so you should limit the time you spend outside. While staying indoors as much as possible can help reduce your risk of car crashes and falls on ice, you may also face dangers inside your home.

Stay safe when you’re inside

Protect yourself and your loved ones during a winter storm. Take extra steps to ensure you heat your home safely by following the tips below.

Heat your home safely .

If you plan to use a wood stove, fireplace, or space heater, be extremely careful. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and remember these safety tips:

  • Turning on the stove (kitchen) for heating is not safe; have at least one of these heat sources in case there is a power outage:
    • Additional blankets, sleeping bags and thick winter jackets.
    • Fireplace that complies with current regulations, with plenty of dry wood or a gas fireplace.
    • Portable space heaters or kerosene heaters. Check with your local fire department to make sure kerosene heaters are legal in your area.
  • Use electric space heaters with automatic shut-off mechanisms and no glow elements. Be sure to keep them away from flammable materials like curtains or blankets.
  • Use fireplaces, wood stoves, or other combustion heaters only if they are properly vented to the outdoors and do not leak gases to the indoor environment.
  • Have a qualified technician check your heating system every year.
  • Don’t burn paper in a fireplace.
  • Make sure you have adequate ventilation if you have to use a kerosene heater.
  • Only use the type of fuel your heater requires (do not use substitutes).
  • Keep heat sources like space heaters at least 3 feet from curtains, furniture, or bedding. Never cover the space heater.
  • Never place a space heater on top of furniture or near water.
  • Never let children near a space heater without supervision.
  • Make sure there is no risk of tripping over the cord of the electric space heater, but do not run it under rugs or rugs.
  • Avoid using extension cords to plug in the heater.
  • If your heater has a damaged cord or sparks, do not use it.

Light up your house safely.
If there is a power outage:

Use generators and other electrical equipment safely.

  • Generators should be located at least 20 feet from any windows, doors, or vents, and in a location where rain and snow will not reach them.
  • Protect yourself from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning by installing a battery-powered CO detector.
  • Never use generators, gas or charcoal grills, camping stoves, or similar appliances inside your home, in basements, in garages, or near windows. Gases are deadly.
  • Use individual, heavy-duty, outdoor-grade extension cords to plug appliances into the generator.
  • Do not use generators or appliances if they are wet.
  • Do not store gasoline inside your home because the fumes could ignite.

Keep warm.

  • Some gas heaters, such as gas fireplaces without grates, require some ventilation. Otherwise, if you don’t need additional ventilation, try to keep the heat inside your house as much as possible.
  • Avoid opening windows and doors when not necessary.
  • Close the door to rooms not in use.
  • Fill the space under the doors with towels or rags.
  • Close the curtains or cover the windows with blankets at night.

Make sure babies and older adults stay warm.


Babies under one year old should never sleep in a cold room, as they lose body heat more easily than adults. Follow these tips to keep your baby safe and warm during extreme cold weather:

  • Remove all pillows or other soft bedding. They can increase the risk of suffocation and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Dress babies in warmer clothing, such as pajamas with foot covers, one-piece blankets to wrap them in, or sleeping bags.
  • Try to keep a warm temperature in your house. If you can’t keep your house warm, take temporary steps to stay somewhere else.
  • In an emergency, you can keep your baby warm using your own body heat. If you have to sleep, take precautions to prevent rolling over or suffocating the baby.

Older adults

Older adults generally produce less body heat due to a slower metabolism and less physical activity. Check on your older friends or neighbors to make sure their homes are adequately heated.

If you are over 65 years of age, check your home temperature frequently when temperatures are extremely cold.

Keep a supply of water.
Extreme cold can cause the water pipes in your home to freeze and sometimes break. When you are expecting very cold or below freezing temperatures:

  • Leave all faucets only slightly open so they drip constantly.
  • Keep a warm temperature inside your house.
  • Let the hot air reach the pipes. For example, open cabinet doors under the dishwasher or sink in the kitchen and bathroom.
  • If the pipes freeze, do not thaw them with fire. Thaw pipes slowly with hot air from an electric hair dryer.
    • If you can’t thaw the pipes or if they break, use bottled water or get water from a neighbor’s house.
  • As an emergency measure, if there is no other alternative, the snow can be melted and used as water. Boiling the water vigorously for a minute will kill most microbes, but it won’t remove chemicals that are sometimes found in snow.
  • For more information, see Keep Food and Water Safe After a Natural Disaster or Emergency. Eat a balanced diet and avoid alcoholic or caffeinated beverages.
    Eating a balanced diet will help keep you warm. Do not drink alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, as they make your body lose heat faster. Instead drink hot and sweet drinks or broths to help maintain body temperature. If you have dietary restrictions, talk to your doctor.


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