Emergency Preparedness and Response: Extreme Cold

Prepare and Act

It’s important to prepare for extreme cold and to also remain safe during cold weather and possibly related winter weather. This section provides information on what to do before and during cold weather events.

Energy, Weatherization, and Funding Resources

There are often resources available to help low-income consumers and families weatherize homes and pay for increased energy costs:

  • The LIHEAP program will provide assistance with energy bills, allowing families to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
  • Local weatherization programs provide free services to improve homes and make them more energy efficient. Utilities may also provide these services.

These resources may be helpful to anyone struggling with energy needs, not just those affected by extreme cold. For more information on this and other resources, see our Policy Levers and Actions page.

Before Cold Weather

CDC’s guidance, Preparing for a Winter Storm [disponible en español: Cómo prepararse para una tormenta invernal] suggests approaching storm preparation in three steps:

  1. Planning.
  2. Preparing your home and car.
  3. Steps to take before the storm.

Planning

According to the CDC, people living in areas that are especially at risk of winter weather should ensure that they have a disaster plan in place.

Plan Ahead
Although it’s common for families to prepare supplies for an emergency, they are much less likely to have an emergency action plan. This CDC webpage lists some common and helpful contacts and items to help you get started on creating your emergency action plan. [url; CDC]

Preparing Your Home and Car

Prepare a kit: Disaster supply kits should contain enough food, water, and supplies to last for multiple days.

When preparing a healthy home for cold weather, consider the following precautions:

  • Weatherproof your home.
  • Have your chimney or flue inspected.
  • Install a smoke and CO detector.

Build a Kit
Ready.gov has compiled some basic and additional emergency supplies that can help you create your kit. This page is available in several languages, listed below. [url; Ready.gov]

Arabic | Español | Français | Haitian Creole | Japanese | Korean |
Russian | Tagalog | Vietnamese | Chinese, Simplified

Prepare for Cold Weather
The National Weather Service highlights the importance of preparing a winter car survival kit that includes food, fuel, and supplies. Learn more about some basic items to include in your kit. [url; NWS]

Be Prepared for a Winter Storm
A general overview of preparing for and staying safe during winter storms and responding to cold-related health concerns is covered in this information sheet, published by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). [pdf; FEMA]

Steps to Take Before the Storm

Being aware of when to expect a winter storm or extreme cold conditions can help you prepare and plan. It is important to know the differences between various notices issued by weather services and it is also important to stay updated with any weather developments.

Understand the differences between winter storm warnings, watches, and advisories.

  • Warnings: Issued 12-24 hours before a weather event and provides information on when the weather event will most likely occur.
  • Watches: Issued 12-48 hours before a weather event. Its purpose is to alert public about the possibility of the weather event.
  • Advisories: Issued to inform the public of weather conditions that may create hazards.

National Weather Service Alerts
Keep updated with the weather in your area. The National Weather Service issues and posts various weather-related alerts for different regions of the country. Select a location on the map to zoom in and see more local weather advisories. [url; NWS]

During a Storm or Cold Weather

Extreme cold shelters: If your home is unable to keep you warm during extreme cold events or if you lack access to a house, relocate to a community extreme weather winter shelter/warming center immediately. Availability of these centers differs by state and locality. Generally, local government websites or state 2-1-1 resources will provide information on finding and visiting warming centers.

Check in on others, especially those who are elderly: According to the CDC, older adults’ generally slower metabolism and reduced physical activity can make them more susceptible to hypothermia. Checking in with others during extreme weather events is a good practice to improve safety for everyone.

Traveling during extreme cold weather events: Guidance from the CDC suggests dressing appropriately and warmly if you plan to go out in cold weather; however, you should remove layers as you sweat since perspiration can lower body temperature. When traveling during winter weather, avoid ice on walkways, roads, bridges, and overpasses. Inform others of where you will be before leaving for outdoor activities.

Stay Safe During and After a Winter Storm
This page from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website offers helpful information about staying safe both indoors and outdoors during extreme winter weather, including tips for indoor safety related to heating, lighting, and powering your home safely, conserving heat, keeping everyone warm, and eating balanced meals. Going outside is discouraged; but if you must, CDC suggests that you dress appropriately, know of cold-related health issues, and prioritize safety in all outdoor activities. [url; CDC]

Portable Heater Fire Safety
The U.S. Fire Administration, under FEMA, provides clear tips for preventing fires while using portable air heaters. [pdf; USFA/FEMA]

Heating Your Home Safely
This flyer, published by the U.S. Fire Administration, provides best practices for preventing fires while heating your home in the winter. [pdf; FEMA]

[Esp] Manténgase seguro durante y después de una tormenta invernal
Esta página del sitio web de los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC, por sus siglas en inglés) ofrece información útil sobre cómo mantenerse seguro tanto en interiores como en exteriores durante el clima invernal extremo, incluidos consejos para la seguridad en interiores relacionados con la calefacción, la iluminación y la alimentación segura de su hogar, la conservación del calor, el mantenimiento de todos abrigados y comiendo comidas balanceadas. Se desaconseja salir a la calle; pero si es necesario, los CDC sugieren que se vista apropiadamente, conozca los problemas de salud relacionados con el resfriado y priorice la seguridad en todas las actividades al aire libre. [url; CDC]

[Esp] Cómo calentar su hogar de manera seguraly
Este folleto, publicado por la Administración de Incendios de EE. UU., brinda las mejores prácticas para prevenir incendios mientras calienta su hogar en el invierno. [pdf; USFA/FEMA]

 

Latest page update: May 18, 2022.