Winter Hazards Awareness

Winter Preparedness Tips and Facts 

Winter Hazard Facts 

Automotive Safety 

Home Safety 

Outside Safety 

Traveling Safety 


Winter Hazard Facts 

What is wind chill? 

Wind chill is the perceived temperature resulting from the effect of wind, in combination with cold air, which increases the rate of heat loss from the human body.

What is frostbite and what can you do to treat it? 

Frostbite is damage to body tissue caused by that tissue being frozen.  Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, or the tip of the nose.  Frostbite varies in severity from frostnip to deep frostbite, depending on the length of exposure, temperature to which the skin is exposed and wind speed.  For frostnip, place firm, steady pressure from a warm hand against the area.  Also, blow on the surface holding the frostnipped area against the body.  Do not rub the area, apply snow or plunge it into very hot or cold water.  Victims of severe frostbite must receive prompt medical attention.

What is hypothermia and what are the warning signs? 

Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature drops to 95 degrees F. or lower.  It can develop whenever body heat loss exceeds heat gain.  Hypothermia is not exclusive to winter.  It can occur during the wind and rain of spring and summer.  Hypothermia is often mistaken for fatigue, irritability, or dehydration and may include some of these signs: abnormal decision making; improper response to cold; apathy, lethargy; decreased cooperation; slurred speech; disorientation; shivering; stumbling; and stiffness progressing to inability to move.

How do you treat hypothermia? 

  • For mild to moderate hypothermia (body temperature greater than 90 degrees F., conscious, shivering, able to walk)
    • Prevent further heat loss.  Dry, remove from cold and insulate.
    • Rewarm by warming the body core first.  Rehydrate with warm broth.
    • Seek medical attention. 
  • For severe hypothermia (body temperature less than 90 degree F., unconscious, not shivering).
    • Prevent further heat loss.
    • Seek immediate medical attention.

What are the various winter weather warnings and advisories? 

  • A winter storm watch indicates that severe winter weather conditions may affect your area in the next 12 to 48 hours.
  • A winter storm warning indicates that severe winter conditions are imminent.  There are a variety of warnings including, ice storm warning, lake effect snow warning, and winter storm warnings.
  • A winter storm warning for heavy snow generally indicates in the Lower Peninsula: 6 inches in 12 hours or 8 inches in a 24-hour period.  In the Upper Peninsula: snowfalls of at least 8 inches in 12 hours and 10 inches in a 24-hour period.
  • Blizzard warnings are issued when sustained wind speeds or frequent gusts of at least 35 miles per hour are accompanied by considerable falling and/or blowing snow, for a period of at least 3 hours.  Visibility is greatly reduced to near zero during a blizzard.
  • Winter Weather advisories are issued when snowfalls are expected to be hazardous, but less than warning criteria.  Generally, in the Lower Peninsula, 4 to 5 inches are expected in a 12-hour period.  In the Upper Peninsula, it would result when 4 to 7 inches of snow are anticipated in that same time period.

Automotive Safety 

  • Ensure that your vehicle is winterized by late fall. Winterizing your car includes checking the tire treads, topping off the windshield washing solution, having a proper mix of anti-freeze and water in the cooling system, and having a mechanic check the belts, hoses, tires, battery, and coolant.
  • During winter always keep the fuel tank near full. As, low fuel levels create condensation, that degrades fuel, and can possibly cause a fuel line freeze-up.
  • Lastly, keep a portable container in your vehicle equipped with the following items:
    • A Small Battery Powered Radio (AM is sufficient) and Extra Batteries
    • Flashlight with Extra Batteries
    • Windshield Scraper
    • Cellular Phone
    • Jumper Cables
    • Fire Extinguisher
    • Maps
    • Small Shovel
    • Blanket and Extra Clothes
    • Flares
    • Bottled Water and Nonperishable, High Energy Foods (i.e. granola bars, canned nuts, raisins, hard candy, peanut butter, or crackers)
    • First Aid Kit
    • Tire Repair Kit and Pump
    • Tow Chain or Rope
    • Phone Book and Phone List
    • De-Icer and Extra Antifreeze
    • "Call Police" or Other "Help" Sign

Home Safety 

  • Keep handy a battery-powered flashlight, NOAA weather radio, and a portable radio, bottled water (at least three gallons per person), and extra food (canned or dried).
  • Make sure every member of the household has a warm coat, gloves, hat, and water resistant boots.
  • Ensure that extra blankets and heavy clothes are available.
  • Keep items for elderly, infants, or disabled family members handy.
  • Be aware of potential fire and carbon monoxide hazards.
  • To save heat during a winter storm close off unneeded rooms, cover windows at night and stuff towels or rags in the cracks under doors.
  • Maintain adequate food and water intake. Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat.
  • If using a Wood Stove: 
    • Carefully follow the manufacture's installation and maintenance instructions.
    • Check for cracks and inspects legs, hinges, and door seals for smooth joints and seams.
    • Use only seasonal wood for fuel, not green wood, artificial logs, or trash.
    • Inspect and clean your pipes monthly for damage or obstructions.
    • Keep combustible objects three feet away from wood stove.
  • If using an Electric Space Heater: 
    • Buy only heaters with the Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) safety listing.
    • Make sure the heater has a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over.
    • Heaters should not be used as dryers or tabletops; don't dry clothes or store objects on top of the heater.
    • Remember space heaters need space; keep combustibles at least three feet away and unplug if the heater is not in use.
  • If using a Kerosene Heater 
    • Buy only heaters with the Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) safety listing.
    • Never fill your heater with gasoline or camp stove fuel; both flare up easily. Only use crystal clear K-1 kerosene, and never overfill.
    • Only use in a well ventilated room.
  • If using a Fireplace: 
    • Fireplaces regularly build up creosote in their chimneys. Chimneys should be cleaned out frequently and should be inspected for obstructions and cracks to prevent deadly chimney and roof fires.
    • Always check to make sure the damper is open before starting any fire. Never burn trash, paper or green wood in your fireplace. These materials cause heavy creosote buildup and are difficult to control.
    • Use a screen heavy enough to stop rolling logs and big enough to cover the entire opening of the fireplace to catch flying sparks.
    •   Don't wear loose-fitting clothes near any open flame. 
    • Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the house or going to bed.
    •  Store cooled ashes in a tightly sealed metal container outside the home.

Outside Safety 

  • Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a car, or walking in deep snow.  Sweating could lead to chill and hypothermia.  Cold weather also puts extra strain on the heart, so the elderly and those with heart conditions should be especially cautious when out in the cold.
  • Walk carefully on snowy, icy sidewalks.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight warm clothing in layers, with a waterproof outer layer.
  • Wear wool hat and mittens.
  • Keep your clothes dry.  Change wet socks and clothing quickly to prevent loss of body heat.
  • Understand the hazards of wind chill.  As wind speed increases, heat is carried away from a person's body more rapidly.
  • If Stranded Outside: 
    • Try to stay dry and cover all exposed parts of the body.
    • Prepare a windbreak or snow cave for protection from the wind.
    • Build a fire for heat and to attract attention.
    • Do not eat snow.  It will lower your body temperature.  Melt it first.

Traveling Safety 

  • Inform someone of your destination and travel time. 
  • Take along a cell phone in case you must call for help.
  • Use extreme caution when driving. 
  • If A Power Outage Occurs: 
    • If traffic signals are out, treat each signal as a four-way yield - come to a complete stop at every intersection and look before you proceed.
    • Do not call 9-1-1 to ask about the power outage.  Listen to news radio stations for updates.
  • If Stranded in a Vehicle: 
    • Attach a bright cloth to your antenna to attract attention and then remain in the vehicle.
    • Run the motor about 10 minutes each hour for heat.  However, open the window slightly for fresh air and make sure that the exhaust pipe is not blocked. 
    • Get attention by turning on the dome light and emergency flashers when running the engine.
    • Exercise by moving arms, legs, fingers, and toes to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.