Stay Safe When Your Area is a Winter Wonderland

Severe Weather
The American Red Cross wants you to be ready when those white flakes start falling.

Do you know what to do if snow is predicted for your area, or what the difference is between a winter storm watch and warning? The American Red Cross wants you to be ready when those white flakes start falling.

A winter storm watch means a winter storm is possible in your area. A winter storm warning means the winter storm is on its way. A blizzard warning means your area is headed for blinding, wind-driven snow, heavy winds, and dangerous wind chills and you should seek shelter immediately.

If a storm watch is issued, watch for changing weather conditions and avoid unnecessary travel. When a storm warning is issued, stay indoors. Follow these tips to stay safe and warm during the storm:

Protect Yourself at Home:

  • Do not use candles for lighting if the power goes out. Use flashlights only.
  • Inspect fireplaces and wood stoves yearly - use a sturdy fire screen with lit fires. Burn only wood - never burn paper or pine boughs.
  • Use generators correctly –never operate a generator inside your home, including the basement or garage. Do not hook up a generator directly to your home's wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.
  • Prevent frozen pipes - when the weather is very cold outside, open cabinet doors to let warm air circulate around water pipes. Let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to a consistent temperature.
  • Check smoke alarms once a month by pressing the test button and replace batteries as necessary.
  • Don’t overload your electrical outlets.
  • Don’t forget your pets – bring them indoors. If you can’t bring them inside, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure they can get to unfrozen water.
  • If you plan on using an alternate heating source, never use a stove or oven to heat your home. Keep a glass or metal fire screen around the fireplace and never leave a fireplace fire unattended. If using a space heater, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to safely use the heater. Place it on a level, hard, nonflammable surface. Turn the space heater off when you leave the room or go to sleep. Keep children and pets away from your space heater and do not use it to dry wet clothing.
  • If You Venture Outside:

  • If you must go outside, layered lightweight clothing will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat. Gloves (or mittens) and a hat will prevent loss of body heat. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs.
  • Wear waterproof, insulated boots to keep your feet warm and dry and to maintain your footing in ice and snow.
  • Understand the hazards of wind chill, which combines the cooling effect of wind and cold temperatures on exposed skin.
  • Seek medical attention immediately if you have symptoms of hypothermia including confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering.
  • Also seek immediate medical attention if you have symptoms of frostbite including numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin.
  • Walk carefully on snowy, icy, sidewalks.
  • After the storm, if you shovel snow, be extremely careful. Take frequent breaks and stay hydrated. Avoid overexertion.
  • Avoid traveling by car in a storm, but if you must ...
  • Carry a Disaster Supplies Kit in the trunk.
  • Keep your car's gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
  • More information on how to stay safe this winter is available on this web site

    About the American Red Cross:
    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.