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Winter WeatherBlizzards Create a Winter Storm PlanGet ready for winter with these useful tips.Avalanche FAQsLearn the basics about avalanches. For more details go to PBS - NOVA Online and USFS National Avalanche Center.Winter Weather Advisories and WarningsWhen winter weather approaches, be safe, be smart! Stay alert to weather signs when the following advisories, watches or warnings are issued.Blizzard FAQsBe ready for blizzards with information from the National Weather Service.Thawing Frozen PipesIf you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Here's advice from the Red Cross on what to do to make the water run again.Getting Your Family Ready for WinterWhen winter hits, sometimes it hits hard! Listen to your local weather forecaster and read through the following tips to keep your family warm in winter weather.Ice Dams Prevention and RemovalWater dripping into your house in the middle of winter could be assign that you've got an ice dam. Here is what you need to know and do, courtesy of the University of Minnesota.Hypothermia and FrostbiteHypothermia (body's temperature below 95 degrees Fahrenheit) and frostbite (severe reaction to cold exposure that can cause permanent damage) are real dangers in cold weather. Here’s how to avoid both and what to do if they occur.When a Winter Storm Watch or Warning Is IssuedThreatening winter weather expected? Be safe, be smart and tune to your local radio or television stations for information and instructions. Then follow these tips.

Blizzards — Create a Winter Storm Plan

Get ready for winter with these useful tips.

Learn about the signs - Winter Weather Advisories and Warnings [WHN page link TK]

Be Prepared

Prepare a Home Grab-and-Go Kit with cash, copies of important documents and records, photos and contact information.

Have extra blankets on hand and make sure that each member of your household has a warm coat, gloves or mittens, hat, and water-resistant boots.

Always have extra cash on hand (at least $100 or so) because ATMs and credit card machines won't work when there's no electricity.

Store flashlights, matches and firewood, in case of a power failure. Gather extras if a winter storm is on its way.

WHN Tip: Flashlights.
If possible, use flashlights instead of candles. Flames are quite dangerous and could ignite gases. Store a flashlight in each bedroom and other common areas around your home. Make sure each family member knows where they are located.

The Family Emergency Plan

Create a Home Emergency Exit Plan for your home.(Click on the link for instructions.)

WHN Tip: Plan ahead — if the snow is too deep, you might not be able to push open the door.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Have a monthly practice drill using all exits from every room.

Can windows and screens be opened? Are any doors stuck?

How long does it take:

  • At night when family members are sleeping?
  • When everyone is blindfolded?

Know Where To Go

Options for evacuation:

  • A relative's home
  • A hotel
  • An emergency shelter

WHN Tip: Contact your local emergency management office or the American Red Cross for information on designated public shelters.

Know the emergency response plan for your workplace, your children's school or child care center, as well as other places where your family spends time (i.e. church, gym, rec center).

Go to our WHN Contact List. Print copies of the Emergency Contact List and keep it by your phones for easy access.

WHN Tip: Ask an out-of-state friend to be your "family contact." After a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance.

Meet with neighbors either informally or through a neighborhood group to create a neighborhood preparedness plan. Learn what neighbors or relatives may require extra assistance.

Emergency Preparedness Items

Prepare a readily available and fully stocked Home Disaster Preparedness Kit.

Prepare your home for a natural disaster (Click the link for tips.)

WHN TIP: Disaster Kit Drill
Pick a night when everyone is home. Turn off the TV and lights, don't use the faucets, fridge or the stove. Check and see what items are missing (special needs for family members, can opener, etc.). Make a list and add these items to your kit.

Have a car emergency kit. Include water, first aid, and a way to signal need for help, flashlight & batteries, warm blankets, a shovel, and a battery-operated radio.

WHN Tip: Add a NOAA Weather Radio to your home and car emergency kits. If there is a severe warning in your area, a NOAA Weather Radio automatically turns on and alerts you with beeps and sirens. It even alerts you if the power is out (the radios have battery back-up). Look for NOAA radios with "SAME" feature (Specific Area Message Encoding) which means the receiver is capable of turning itself on from a silent mode.

Consider enrolling yourself and/or family members in first aid and emergency preparedness courses. Responsible family members should also know CPR, how to help someone who is choking and first aid for severe bleeding and shock. The American Red Cross offers basic training of this nature.

WHN Tip: In Case of Emergency (ICE)
In the event of an emergency or after an accident, emergency personnel use your cell phone to look for "ICE": who to contact In Case of an Emergency.

Buy extra fire extinguishers and teach each family member how to use them. Store them in a central place.

Your Home and Property

Winter storms bring with them the very real possibility of high winds, freezing rain, hail, flooding and significant snow accumulation.

WHN TIP: Check The Codes.
Before you prepare for the effects of a blizzard, contact your local building official so you know what codes are required. They can provide assistance so you make improvements properly the first time.

See our Emergency and Disaster Services section for additional resources.

Winter Indoor Precautions

Consider buying a setback thermostat that will allow you to set temperatures lower when sleeping or when you're away from home. Have a backup thermometer in case the first one fails.

WHN Tip: Temperatures inside your house should be at least 55 degrees to keep pipes from freezing, according to the American Red Cross. Factors include how well insulated your home is and where the pipes are in the house.

Wrap pipes in insulation or layers of old newspapers or heat tape (from hardware stores), then cover with plastic to keep out moisture and prevent freezing.

Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside for an extra layer of insulation and draft-prevention. Don't forget basement windows.

Check that the doors and windows shut tightly. Add or replace worn weather-stripping and add caulking around doors and windows. Don't forget basement and garage-entrance doors and windows.

Have your house insulation evaluated. Proper attic insulation keeps your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.

WHN Tip: Ask the staff at your local home improvement center how much insulation is recommended, then check your attic insulation to make sure it's adequate.

Heat Sources

Have your furnace checked by a heating professional before the onset of winter:

  1. Is the thermostat working properly?
  2. Is the pilot light is functioning?
  3. Does the furnace filter need replaced? (Follow the guidelines in the furnace manual.)

Do the heating ducts need cleaned and/or the vents or other heating elements vacuumed?

Does your chimney or flue need inspected? (Recommended annually by a qualified inspector.)

Is the chimney damper closed? (Open it before lighting a fire.)

WHN Tip: Click here for fireplace safety tips from U.S. Fire Administration.

Install a smoke detector and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector on each level of your home. Follow manufacturer's guidelines for location. Test them monthly, and replace batteries twice yearly.

Have propane or oil tanks filled.

Winter Outdoor Precautions

Trim tree limbs that are hanging over or touching the roof. Winter storms can bring high winds or heavy accumulation of ice that can snap limbs.

Clean drain gutters and point downspouts away from the house to keep melting snow running away from your home.

Add waterproof veneer to exterior walls and seal all openings, including doors to prevent water entry.

Put an additional coat of sealer on decks to help protect the wood.

Winterize your summer tools and appliances. Drain the gas from your lawnmower into an approved gas can and store in a safe location.

Drain garden hoses, roll them up, and store them inside.

Close and cover the swimming pool.

Cover outdoor furniture or store it inside.

Prepare a Home Inventory

Create a Home Inventory List to provide a record for you and the insurance company and make it easier to file an insurance claim. Keep the inventory off-premises in a safety deposit box or with an out-of-the area contact.

WHN Tip: Update your inventory every two to three years, with every major purchase, or if significant home or property renovations are made.

If a Disaster Occurs

Create a written and photographic record of all damaged items

Keep the items until an adjuster has seen them.

Provide your adjuster with your household inventory and/or family photographs as documentation

WHN Tip: Photo Op
Remember, relatives and friends may have taken photos of holidays, birthdays, etc. in your home.

Save all receipts for bills incurred after the winter storm: living expenses; repair, replacement or clean-up costs; rented equipment and contract labor; moving a mobile home out of a winter storm area.

Look Into Insurance

Insurance Information Institute
Here you can find answers on homeowner's insurance, filing a claim and general home security concerns. The mission of the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) is to improve public understanding of insurance -- what it does and how it works. The Insurance Information Institute is a nonprofit communications organization supported by the insurance industry.

National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters
NAPIA is the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters. Public Adjusters are experts on property loss adjustment who are retained by policy holders to assist in preparing, filing and adjusting insurance claims. NAPIA members across the United States have joined together for the purpose of professional education, certification, and promotion of a code of professional conduct.

See our Insurance section.

Additional Information

Avalanche Awareness
Learn more about avalanches and what precautions to take. The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) archives and distributes digital and analog snow and ice data.

Readiness U for Kids
Offers educational information on teaching children to be prepared for every emergency. A collaboration between FEAM and Ready.gov

Winter Storm Resource Center
An extensive resource site on winter preparedness, winter driving, snowstorms and more. Fun in the Snow has great activities to do when you're snowed in. The University of Illinois Extension provides education and information focused on addressing environmental, economic, and societal issues.

Thank you ...

A special thank you to the first responders, emergency workers, government officials, lawyers, insurance agents and people who gave us their time, insight and real-life advice.

Winter WeatherBlizzards Create a Winter Storm PlanGet ready for winter with these useful tips.Avalanche FAQsLearn the basics about avalanches. For more details go to PBS - NOVA Online and USFS National Avalanche Center.Winter Weather Advisories and WarningsWhen winter weather approaches, be safe, be smart! Stay alert to weather signs when the following advisories, watches or warnings are issued.Blizzard FAQsBe ready for blizzards with information from the National Weather Service.Thawing Frozen PipesIf you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Here's advice from the Red Cross on what to do to make the water run again.Getting Your Family Ready for WinterWhen winter hits, sometimes it hits hard! Listen to your local weather forecaster and read through the following tips to keep your family warm in winter weather.Ice Dams Prevention and RemovalWater dripping into your house in the middle of winter could be assign that you've got an ice dam. Here is what you need to know and do, courtesy of the University of Minnesota.Hypothermia and FrostbiteHypothermia (body's temperature below 95 degrees Fahrenheit) and frostbite (severe reaction to cold exposure that can cause permanent damage) are real dangers in cold weather. Here’s how to avoid both and what to do if they occur.When a Winter Storm Watch or Warning Is IssuedThreatening winter weather expected? Be safe, be smart and tune to your local radio or television stations for information and instructions. Then follow these tips.