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During Winter Storms and Extreme Cold

1. Stay indoors during the storm.

2. Walk carefully on snowy, icy, walkways.

3. Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow. Overexertion can bring on a heart attack—a major cause of death in the winter. If you must shovel snow, stretch before going outside.

4. Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.

5. Watch for signs of frostbite. These include loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, and the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately.

6. Watch for signs of hypothermia. These include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion. If symptoms of hypothermia are detected, get the victim to a warm location, remove wet clothing, warm the center of the body first and give warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the victim is conscious. Get medical help as soon as possible.

7. Drive only if it is absolutely necessary. If you must drive: travel in the day; don’t travel alone; keep others informed of your schedule; stay on main roads and avoid back road shortcuts.

8. 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.

9. If the pipes freeze, remove any insulation or layers of newspapers and wrap pipes in rags. Completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they were most exposed to the cold (or where the cold was most likely to penetrate).

10. Maintain ventilation when using kerosene heaters to avoid build-up of toxic fumes. Refuel kerosene heaters outside and keep them at least three feet from flammable objects.

11. Conserve fuel, if necessary, by keeping your residence cooler than normal. Temporarily close off heat to some rooms.

12. If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55ºF.

Home Fires

Each year more than 2,500 people die and 12,600 are injured in home fires in the United States, with direct property loss due to home fires estimated at $7.3 billion annually. Home fires can be prevented!

To protect yourself, it is important to understand the basic characteristics of fire. Fire spreads quickly; there is no time to gather valuables or make a phone call. In just two minutes, a fire can become life-threatening. In five minutes, a residence can be engulfed in flames.

Heat and smoke from fire can be more dangerous than the flames. Inhaling the super-hot air can sear your lungs. Fire produces poisonous gases that make you disoriented and drowsy. Instead of being awakened by a fire, you may fall into a deeper sleep. Asphyxiation is the leading cause of fire deaths, exceeding burns by a three-to-one ratio.

Every day Americans experience the horror of fire but most people don't understand fire.

Before a Fire:

Create and Practice a Fire Escape Plan

  • In the event of a fire, remember that every second counts, so you and your family must always be prepared. Escape plans help you get out of your home quickly.
  • Twice each year, practice your home fire escape plan. Some tips to consider when preparing this plan include:
  • Find two ways to get out of each room.
  • If the primary way is blocked by fire or smoke, you will need a second way out. A secondary route might be a window onto a neighboring roof or a collapsible ladder for escape from upper story windows.
  • Only purchase collapsible ladders evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL).
  • Make sure that windows are not stuck, screens can be taken out quickly, and that security bars can be properly opened.
  • Practice feeling your way out of the house in the dark or with your eyes closed.
  • Windows and doors with security bars must have quick release devices to allow them to be opened immediately in an emergency. Make sure everyone in the family understands and practices how to properly operate and open locked or barred doors and windows.
  • Teach children not to hide from firefighters.

Fire is FAST!

There is little time! In less than 30 seconds a small flame can get completely out of control and turn into a major fire. It only takes minutes for thick black smoke to fill a house or for it to be engulfed in flames. Most deadly fires occur in the home when people are asleep. If you wake up to a fire, you won't have time to grab valuables because fire spreads too quickly and the smoke is too thick. There is only time to escape.

Fire is HOT!

Heat is more threatening than flames. A fire's heat alone can kill. Room temperatures in a fire can be 100 degrees at floor level and rise to 600 degrees at eye level. Inhaling this super-hot air will scorch your lungs. This heat can melt clothes to your skin. In five minutes, a room can get so hot that everything in it ignites at once: this is called flashover.

Fire is DARK!

Fire isn't bright, it's pitch black. Fire starts bright, but quickly produces black smoke and complete darkness. If you wake up to a fire you may be blinded, disoriented and unable to find your way around the home you've lived in for years.

Fire is DEADLY!

Smoke and toxic gases kill more people than flames do. Fire uses up the oxygen you need and produces smoke and poisonous gases that kill. Breathing even small amounts of smoke and toxic gases can make you drowsy, disoriented and short of breath. The odorless, colorless fumes can lull you into a deep sleep before the flames reach your door. You may not wake up in time to escape.

Only when we know the true nature of fire can we prepare our families and ourselves.

Do you have a smoke detector?

The single most important thing is to have a working smoke detector. Working smoke alarms can double your chances of survival. Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home. Test it monthly, keep it free of dust, and replace the battery at least once a year. Smoke alarms themselves should be replaced after 10 years of service, or as recommended by the manufacturer. Note: Consider installing a carbon monoxide detector if your dwelling has:

• Liquid-fueled space heaters (kerosene or propane).

• An attached garage.

• Gas appliances (furnace, stove, fireplace, clothes dryer, or hot water heater).

• Oil heat.

• A wood stove.

If you live in an all-electric single family residence without any combustion-type appliances or an attached garage, you may not need a residential carbon monoxide detector. 

In the Event of an Emergency are YOU Ready? Make a Plan and Disaster Kit

Your family may not be together when a disaster strikes so it is important to plan in advance: how you will get to a safe place; how you will contact one another; how you will get back together; and what you will do in different situations. Read more about Family Communication during an emergency. has made it simple for you to make a family emergency plan. Download the Family Emergency Plan (FEP) (PDF - 508 Kb) and fill out the sections before printing it or emailing it to your family and friends.

You should also inquire about emergency plans at places where your family spends time: work, daycare and school, faith organizations, sports events and commuting. If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create one. Talk to community leaders, your colleagues, neighbors and members of faith or civic organizations about how you can work together in the event of an emergency. You will be better prepared to safely reunite your family and loved ones during an emergency if you think ahead and communicate with others in advance. Read more about school and workplace plans.

Basic Disaster Supplies Kit

A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

Recommended Supplies List (PDF)

Recommended Supplies List (Text)

Once you have gathered the supplies for a basic emergency kit, you may want to consider adding the following items:

  • Prescription medications and glasses
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Cash or traveler's checks and change
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container. You can use the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK) (PDF - 977Kb) developed by Operation Hope, FEMA and Citizen Corps to help you organize your information.
  • Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or free information from this web site. (See Publications)
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
  • Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted, nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

In any emergency a family member or you yourself may suffer an injury. If you have these basic first aid supplies you are better prepared to help your loved ones when they are hurt.

Knowing how to treat minor injuries can make a difference in an emergency. You may consider taking a first aid class, but simply having the following things can help you stop bleeding, prevent infection and assist in decontamination.

  • Two pairs of Latex or other sterile gloves if you are allergic to Latex
  • Sterile dressings to stop bleeding
  • Cleansing agent/soap and antibiotic towelettes
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Burn ointment
  • Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes
  • Eye wash solution to flush the eyes or as general decontaminant
  • Thermometer
  • Prescription medications you take every day such as insulin, heart medicine and asthma inhalers. You should periodically rotate medicines to account for expiration dates.
  • Prescribed medical supplies such as glucose and blood pressure monitoring equipment and supplies
Non-prescription drugs:
  • Aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • Antacid
  • Laxative
Other first aid supplies:
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricant

Readiness Quiz


Are you prepared for an emergency? Quiz yourself on the questions below to see just how prepared you

are. If you don’t know the answer to some of the questions, visit or your local Office of

Emergency Management for tips and resources that can help make sure you, your family, and your

community are Ready.

• Does your local government have an emergency or disaster plan for your community? If so, do

you know what it is?

• Do you know how to find the emergency broadcasting channel on the radio?

• Does your city/county have an emergency alert system? Is so, are you signed up to get alerts?

• Do you know your local evacuation routes? How would you get out of town from work? How

about from home?

• Does your city/county have a Citizen Corps Council? (If you don’t know, visit• In the last year, have you prepared or updated your Emergency Supply Kit with emergency In the last year, have you prepared a small kit with emergency supplies that you keep at home, inyour car or where you work to take with you if you had to leave quickly?

• In the last year, have you made a specific plan for how you and your family would communicate

in an emergency situation if you were separated?

• Are you prepared to help your neighbor? In most emergencies, the best way to get help quickly is

by working with your neighbors. Do you know anyone in your neighborhood who might need a

little extra help preparing for or responding to an emergency?

• Have you established a specific meeting place for your family to reunite in the event you and

your family cannot return home or are evacuated?

• In the last year, have you practiced or drilled on what to do in an emergency at home?

• In the last year, have you volunteered to help prepare for or respond to a major emergency?

• Have you taken first aid training such as CPR in the past five years?


1. What is NOT one of the four steps you can take to help your family be prepared for emergencies?

A. Eat your vegetables

B. Get a kit

C. Make a plan

D. Be Informed

E. Get Involved

2. What should a Family Communications Plan include?

A. Information about how we would get in touch with each other during an emergency

B. Where we would meet

C. How we would remain in contact

D. All of the above

3. How much water should you have in your Ready Kit?

A. One small water bottle for each person

B. One gallon for the whole family

C. One gallon of water per person per day

D. One gallon of water for the family per day

4. Which of the following is NOT an important part of a Kid’s Emergency Supply Kit?

A. Flashlight

B. Batteries

C. Water

D. Video Games

5. How quickly can a fire spread through a house?

A. 10 minutes

B. As little as five minutes

C. 30 minutes

D. 45 minutes

6. In an emergency, what number should you dial to contact the police and fire department?

A. 911

B. 111

C. 711

D. 311

7. In an emergency, what should you have available to hear news and official reports about what is occurring?

A. A hand-crank/battery-powered radio

B. A CD player

C. A board game

D. DVD player

Answers: 1.A, 2.D, 3.C, 4.D, 5.B, 6.A, 7.A

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