Weather Health and Safety Tips
Winter in Wisconsin is generally enjoyable, but sometimes the conditions
can become dangerous. Winter storms can sweep through bringing high winds, large
amounts of accumulating and drifting snow, ice, and extreme cold temperatures. Being prepared ahead of a storm will help you get through it
Extreme Cold (Hypothermia)
| Winter Activity Safety Tips for Parents
Winter Safety Measures for Health Care Providers | Health
and Safety Tips
Warming sites in Wisconsin
Have furnaces checked annually for efficient and safe operation before
the heating season arrives, and be sure to change your filters
monthly. A winter weather service check-up for your vehicle by your
auto service technician is a good idea. Weather forecasts often provide ample warning to prepare for an impending
storm, blizzard, ice-storm, or extreme cold temperatures. If you know
of someone who may not be aware of weather warnings, such as a person
with a hearing loss, help by sharing the information. When a
winter storm warning is issued, prepare for it by gathering items you
may need if the power goes out in your home, such as:
- candles, matches
- hand cranked or battery operated flashlight
- hand cranked or battery operated radio
- cellular telephone (make sure that it is fully charged and keep it
charged throughout the storm in case of loss of power)
- extra batteries (for the flashlight, radio, cellular
telephone, hearing aids and for cochlear implants)
- blankets or sleeping bags
- extra clothing
- high-calorie non-perishable food (such as granola bars)
- extra food and water for your service animal or pets
- first aid kit and any medications you require
- tool kit
During a storm, you should stay inside. If you are using heat from a fireplace, wood stove or a space heater, be sure to
use the appropriate fire safeguards and properly ventilate the device to avoid carbon
monoxide poisoning. If you lose heat in your home, close off un-used rooms. Be sure to eat and
drink as food provides the energy your
body needs to produce its own heat. Wear layers of loose-fitting
clothing and remove layers when necessary to avoid overheating,
perspiration, and subsequent chill.
When spending time outdoors, everyone should dress warmly and stay dry. Layer clothing, preferably wind resistant, to reduce
loss of body-heat caused by the wind. Do not ignore shivering as it is an important first sign that the
body is losing heat. Persistent shivering is a signal to return
Learn more about Extreme Cold.
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Removing snow and ice from sidewalks after a snowfall is very important.
Snow-covered or icy sidewalks can be slippery which can cause people to fall
and injure themselves. Because of this, many municipalities have laws
stating that the snow must be removed from sidewalks within a certain amount
of time after the snow has stopped falling. Wearing sturdy, rubber-soled
boots and taking care where you step can go far in preventing slips and
When you do go outside after a storm to clear the sidewalks, be sure to
be properly dressed: wear layers of windproof and waterproof clothing,
and be sure to wear a hat and gloves. To prevent injuries while
shoveling, try pushing the snow with short strokes instead of lifting
it. Also, use your leg muscles and not your lower back to move the shovel. Take frequent rests, and again, be aware of the precautions to take
with extreme cold temperatures.
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If you must travel during a winter storm, try to plan ahead:
- Keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
- Tell relatives and friends where you are going and when you expect
to return. Agree to contact them when you arrive if heading to a different
location. If your plans change, be sure to update them. Make sure your
contacts know to keep track of the time, and if they have not heard from
you in a timely fashion, tell them to contact the appropriate
authorities on your behalf.
Before you leave, make a winter emergency kit and place it in your car.
The kit should include:
- Blankets / sleeping bags
- Flashlight with extra batteries or a hand crank flashlight
(preferably with a mobile phone adapter)
- First-aid kit
- Utility knife
- High-calorie, non-perishable food (for example: granola bars)
- Extra clothing to keep dry
- Sack of sand (or cat litter) for traction
- Windshield scraper and brush and extra windshield wiper fluid
- Tool kit
- Tow rope
- Booster (jumper) cables
- Water container
- Compass and road maps
- Candle, tin can, matches
- Extra batteries if you wear hearing aids or a cochlear implant
- Food and water for a service animal or pets if you are traveling
If you are caught in your vehicle during a winter storm:
- Stay in your car or truck: disorientation may occur quickly in
wind-driven snow and cold.
- Run the motor about ten minutes each hour for heat only after
ensuring that your exhaust pipe and radiator are not blocked by snow or other debris. Open the
window a little for fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Make yourself visible to rescuers. Turn on the dome light at
night when running the engine. Tie a bright colored cloth
(preferably red) to your antenna or door. After the snow stops
falling, raise the hood to
- Exercise from time to time by vigorously moving arms, legs, fingers
and toes to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.
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Winter Driving Information
All external hyperlinks are provided for your information
and for the benefit of the general public. The Department of Health Services does not testify to, sponsor, or endorse the accuracy of
the information provided on externally linked pages.
This information is from the Wisconsin
Department of Transportation.
Know What the Storm Warning Means
Winter weather advisory — When a significant winter storm or
hazardous winter weather is occurring, imminent, and is an inconvenience.
Winter storm watch — A significant winter weather event (i.e., heavy
snow, heavy sleet, significant freezing rain, or a combination of events) is
expected, but not imminent, for the watch area; provides 12 to 36 hours
notice of the possibility of severe winter weather.
Winter storm warning — A significant winter storm or hazardous
winter weather is occurring, imminent, or likely, and is a threat to life
Blizzard warning — Winds that are at least 35 mph or greater,
blowing snow that will frequently reduce visibility to 1/4 mile or less for
at least three hours, and dangerous wind chills are expected in the warning
Wind chill index — The calculation of temperature that takes into
consideration the effects of wind and temperature on the human body. This is
not the actual air temperature, but what it feels like to the average
person. This wind chill chart shows the difference between actual air
temperature and perceived temperature, and the amount of time until
For more information, contact your Local Public Health Department.
January 30, 2014