Winter Weather Safety Tips

While the first day of winter is not until December 21st, the threat for winter weather begins now. In fact, winter has already reared its ugly head in the form of a November snow and ice storm. As our calendar year ends, the days and nights turn colder and the potential for dangerous weather conditions begins. Winter is a killer, and while dangerous road conditions are one of the deadliest hazards during winter, it’s not the only threat you may encounter. Other winter hazards include brutal cold, heavy snow and ice, dangerous flooding, extreme wind, and treacherous fog.

The advent of winter also means many of us will be participating in holiday events. Between cooking a holiday dinner, decorating our homes, shopping online, and traveling to and from family and friends, it’s important to recognize the hazards that lie beneath the merriment. To keep our holidays festive and fun, we need to be careful, even when performing the most routine of holiday tasks like frying a turkey, decorating a tree, or buying a gift online.


  • Before winter approaches, add the following supplies to your emergency kit:

o   Rock salt or more environmentally safe products to melt ice on walkways.

o   Sand to improve traction.

o   Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment.

o   Sufficient heating fuel. You may become isolated in your home and regular fuel sources may be cut off. Store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove.

o   Adequate clothing and blankets to keep you warm.

  • Check the weather forecast before heading out for the day and plan accordingly.
  • Stay off the road during and after a winter storm.
  • If you are having trouble seeing due to weather conditions, pull over to the side of the road and stop your car until visibility improves. Turn off your lights and use your parking break when stopped so that another car won’t mistakenly follow your tail/brake lights and end up hitting you.
  • Black ice is patchy ice on roadways that cannot easily be seen. Even if roadways have been cleared of snow following a storm, any water left on the roadways may freeze, resulting in a clear sheet of ice, also known as black ice. It is most dangerous in the early morning due to below freezing nighttime temperatures.
  • Potholes are a common road hazard following winter precipitation and can be difficult to see and can cause serious damage to your vehicle. Be sure to report potholes to your county or local Department of Transportation.
  •  You should never run a generator in an enclosed space
  • Make sure your carbon dioxide detector is working and that the outside vent is clear of leaves and debris. During or after a storm, make sure it is cleared of snow. Never use your grill, or any other fuel-burning appliance indoors. You could risk carbon monoxide poisoning!
  • Bring pets/companion animals inside during winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas with non-frozen drinking water.

Winterize Your Vehicle

 Check, or have a mechanic check, the following items on your car:

o   Antifreeze levels – ensure they are sufficient to avoid freezing.

o   Battery and ignition system – should be in top condition and battery terminals should be clean.

o   Brakes – check for wear and fluid levels.

o   Exhaust system – check for leaks and crimped pipes and repair or replace as necessary. Carbon monoxide is deadly and usually gives no warning.

o   Fuel and air filters – replace and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.

o   Heater and defroster – ensure they work properly.

o   Lights and flashing hazard lights – check for serviceability.

o   Oil – check for level and weight. Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.

o   Thermostat – ensure it works properly.

o   Windshield wiper equipment – Repair any problems and maintain proper washer fluid levels.

o   Install good winter tires – make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some jurisdictions require that to drive on their roads, vehicles must be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.

Holiday Safety:

  • Stay off the road during and after a winter storm.
  • Keep candles at least 12 inches away from flammable materials.
  • Keep an eye on food when cooking.
  • Turn off holiday lights at night.
  • Keep your tree watered, don’t let your holiday tree dry out.
  • Shop securely online over the holidays.
  • Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken sockets, and excessive kinking. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
  • Do not link more than three light strands to an electrical outlet, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the socket. Make sure to periodically check the wires; they should not be warm to the touch.
  • Never put wrapping paper in a fireplace. It can throw off dangerous sparks and produce a chemical buildup that could cause an explosion.
  • Adult party goers should establish and reward a designated driver.