Get Ready

Preparing for Extreme Cold

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Frost or Freeze warnings pose a significant health risk, particularly to the elderly, young children, the unsheltered and those with chronic illness. When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. To keep yourself and your loved ones safe, you should know how to prepare before a cold front or winter storm hits.

Make a plan

Be prepared before a cold front hits by planning ahead. Be sure to create a communication and disaster plan for your family ahead of time. You can find a number of resources for guidance on planning in advance and building an evacuation deadline.

Prepare your home and car

Weatherproof your home

  • Insulate any water lines that run along exterior walls so your water supply will be less likely to freeze.
  • Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows.
  • Insulate walls and attic.
  • Install storm or thermal-pane windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside.
  • Repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on your home or other structure during a storm.

Have your chimney or flue inspected each year

If you plan to use a fireplace or wood stove for emergency heating, have your chimney or flue inspected each year.

Install a smoke detector and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector

  • If you’ll be using a fireplace, wood stove, or kerosene heater, install a smoke detector and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector near the area to be heated. Test them monthly and replace batteries twice a year.
  • Keep a multipurpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher nearby.
  • All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside.
  • Each winter season have your furnace system and vent checked by a qualified technician to ensure they are functioning properly.

For older adults, keep an easy-to-read thermometer inside your home

If you or a loved one are over 65 years old, place an easy-to-read thermometer in an indoor location where you will see it frequently. Our ability to feel a change in temperature decreases with age. Older adults are more susceptible to health problems caused by cold. Check the temperature of your home often during the winter months.

Create an emergency car kit

It is best to avoid traveling, but if travel is necessary, build a preparedness kit to keep in your car.

Before the cold hits

Listen to weather forecasts, and check your supplies

Listen to weather forecasts regularly and check your emergency supplies, including your emergency food and water supply, whenever you are expecting a winter storm or extreme cold. Even though we can’t always predict extreme cold in advance, weather forecasts can sometimes give you several days of notice to prepare.

Bring your pets indoors

If you have pets, bring them indoors. If you cannot bring them inside, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm, dry and make sure they have access to unfrozen water.

Get your car ready

Have maintenance service on your vehicle as often as the manufacturer recommends. In addition, every fall, do the following:

  • Have the radiator system serviced or check the antifreeze level yourself with an antifreeze tester. Add antifreeze as needed.
  • Replace windshield-wiper fluid with a wintertime mixture.
  • Make sure the tires on your car have adequate tread and air pressure. Replace any worn tires and fill low tires with air to the proper pressure recommended for your car (typically between 30-35 psi).
  • Keep the gas tank near full to help avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
  • Keep your car in good working order. Be sure to check the following: heater, defroster, brakes, brake fluid, ignition, emergency flashers, exhaust, oil, and battery.