OEM OFFERS COLD WEATHER AND WINTER STORM SAFETY TIPS
Prepare for Winter's Arrival
Make sure your household disaster plan is ready and all members of your household are familiar with how to contact one another in an emergency.
Winterize your Go Bag by adding warm, dry outerwear and waterproof footwear.
Your emergency supply kit should be fully-stocked to allow you to sustain yourself for up to three days without power, or in the event you are unable to travel far from home. You may wish to include additional items such as extra blankets, additional warm clothing and a battery-operated NOAA Radio to monitor weather conditions during a storm.
Winterize Your Home
- Install storm shutters, doors and windows, clean out gutters, repair any roof leaks, and have a contractor check the stability of your roof in the event of a large accumulation of snow.
- Insulate walls and attic. Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows. Install storm windows, or cover windows with plastic from the inside.
- Have safe emergency heating equipment available. For residences with functioning fireplaces, keep an ample supply of wood. Utilize portable electric space heaters. Keep a fire extinguisher on hand.
- Install and check batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Make sure you have sufficient heating fuel; you may have difficulty obtaining fuel in the immediate aftermath of a bad storm.
- Service snow removal equipment, and have rock salt on hand to melt ice on walkways. Kitty litter can be used to generate temporary traction.
Winterize Your Car
Before winter sets in, have a mechanic check the following items on your vehicle:
- Windshield wipers and washer fluid
- Ignition system
- Lights (headlamps and hazard lights)
- Exhaust system, heater, brakes, defroster
- Oil level (if necessary, replace oil with a winter oil or SAE 10w/30 variety)
Install good winter tires that have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some jurisdictions require vehicles to be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.
Assemble an Emergency Supply Kit for your vehicle, and consider adding the following items for winter conditions:
- Blankets, sleeping bags, extra newspapers for insulation
- Plastic bags (for sanitation)
- Extra mittens, socks, scarves and hat, raingear and extra clothes
- Sack of sand or kitty litter for gaining traction under wheels, small shovel
- Set of tire chains or traction mats
- Working jack and lug wrench, spare tire
- Windshield scraper, broom
- Small tools (pliers, wrench, screwdriver)
- Booster cables
- Brightly colored cloth to use as a flag, flares or reflective triangles
Tips for Staying Warm
Exposure to cold can cause life-threatening health conditions. Avoid serious conditions such as frostbite and hypothermia, by keeping warm.
- Wear a hat, hood or scarf, as most heat is lost through the head.
- Wear layers, as they provide better insulation and warmth.
- Keep clothing dry; if a layer becomes wet, remove it.
Safe Home Heating Tips
Improper use of portable heating equipment can lead to fire or dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Take precautions to ensure you are heating your home safely.
- Use only portable heating equipment that is approved for indoor use.
- Keep combustible materials, including furniture, drapes, and carpeting at least three feet away from the heat source. NEVER drape clothes over a space heater to dry.
- Always keep an eye on heating equipment. Never leave children alone in the room where a space heater is running. Turn it off when you are unable to closely monitor it.
- Be careful not to overload electrical circuits.
- Make sure you have a working smoke detector in every room. Check and change batteries often.
Carbon Monoxide Safety
- Make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector. Test all detectors at least once a month. Replace batteries twice a year, in the spring and in the fall when clocks are changed for daylight savings time.
- As of November 1, 2004, all residential buildings in New York City are required by law to have carbon monoxide detectors. For rental apartments, installation must be completed by the owner, while maintenance is the responsibility of the tenant.
- Make sure your heating system is kept clean and properly vented; have worn or defective parts replaced.
- Have your fireplace, chimney and flue cleaned every year to remove soot deposits, leaves, etc.
- Kerosene heaters are dangerous and illegal in New York City.
- Don't heat your home with a gas stove or oven.
- Do not use any gas-powered appliance, such as a generator, indoors.
- Never use a charcoal grill or a hibachi inside your home.
- Automobile exhaust contains carbon monoxide. Open your garage door before starting your car and do not leave the motor running in an enclosed area. Clear exhaust pipes before starting a car or truck after it snows.
- Recognize signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. The most common symptom is headache. However, symptoms may also include dizziness, chest pain, nausea and vomiting. In severe cases, people can become increasingly irritable, agitated and confused, eventually becoming lethargic and lapsing into unconsciousness.
- If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, call 911, and get the victim to fresh air immediately, and open windows.
What to Do If You Lose Heat
Every resident is entitled to heat and hot water. Tenants without adequate heat or hot water should first speak with the building owner, manager, or superintendent. If the problem is not corrected, tenants should call 311. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) will attempt to contact your building's owner to get heat or hot water service restored.
If service has not been restored, HPD will send an inspector to your building to verify the complaint and issue a violation. If your landlord does not live up to his or her legal obligation, HPD will call in emergency contractors to fix the boiler or do whatever is required to get your heat and hot water working again.
If you lose heat, take measures to trap existing warm air, and safely stay warm until heat returns:
- Insulate your home as much as possible. Hang blankets over windows and doorways and stay in a well-insulated room while power is out.
- Dress warmly. Wear hats, scarves, gloves and layered clothing.
- If you have a working fireplace, use it for heat and light, but be sure to keep the damper open for ventilation.
- If the cold persists and your heat is not restored, call family, neighbors or friends to see if you can stay with them.
- Open your faucets to a steady drip so pipes do not freeze.
If your service line, pipes or water meters freeze:
- Open a faucet near the frozen point to release vapor from melting ice.
- Direct a hair dryer or heat lamp at the frozen section, or put a small space heater nearby.
- NEVER thaw a frozen pipe or meter with an open flame; this could lead to fire or cause a steam explosion.
- If your meter is damaged or your pipes burst, call 311.
If you lose power, call your power provider immediately to report the outage. Extra crews are on standby during periods of extremely cold weather.
Con Edison 24-hour hotline: 1-800-75-CONED (752-6633)
- KeySpan 24-hour hotline: 1-718-643-4050
If You Need Emergency Heating Assistance
The Human Resources Administration (HRA) administers the federal Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), which provides low-income people with emergency heating assistance. Eligible residents will receive a payment for fuel delivery, or HRA will arrange for fuel delivery or boiler repair. Emergency assistance is given to those who qualify only once per heating season. Call 311 for more information.
Winter Storm Driving
Whenever possible, avoid driving during a winter storm and instead utilize public transportation.
If you must drive, observe the following tips:
- Avoid traveling alone, but if you do so, let someone know your destination, route and when you expect to arrive.
- Dress warmly. Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in layers.
- Listen to the radio or call the state highway patrol for the latest road conditions.
- Use major streets or highways for travel whenever possible; these roadways will be cleared first.
- Drive slowly. Posted speed limits are for ideal weather conditions. Vehicles take longer to stop on snow and ice than on dry pavement.
- Four-wheel drive vehicles may make it easier to drive on snow-covered roads, but they do not stop quicker than other vehicles.
- If you skid, steer in the direction you want the car to go and straighten the wheel when the car moves in the desired direction.
- Know your vehicle's braking system. Vehicles with antilock brakes require a different braking technique than vehicles without antilock brakes in icy or snowy conditions.
- Try to keep your vehicle's gas tank as full as possible.
If you become stuck on the road:
- Stay with your car. Do not try to walk to safety unless help is visible within 100 yards. You could become disoriented quickly in blowing snow.
- Display a trouble sign if you need help; tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna and raise the hood to alert rescuers.
- Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow to avoid the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Leave the overhead light on when the car is running so you can be seen.
- Move your arms and legs to keep blood circulating and to stay warm.
- Keep one window slightly open to let in fresh air. Use a window that is opposite the direction the wind is blowing.
Snow Removal Safety Tips
- Stretch before you go out. If you go out to shovel snow, do a few stretching exercises to warm up your body. This may prevent injury.
- Cover your mouth. Protect your lungs from extremely cold air by covering your mouth when outdoors. Try not to speak unless absolutely necessary.
- Avoid overexertion. Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Unfamiliar exercise, such as shoveling snow or pushing a car can bring on a heart attack or make other medical conditions worse. Take frequent rest breaks, and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
- Keep dry. Change wet clothes frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.
- Stay safe. Walk carefully on snowy or icy sidewalks. If using a snow blower, NEVER use your hands to unclog the machine.
- Maintain an awareness of utilities when shoveling snow. Do not cover fire hydrants with snow when clearing sidewalks and driveways. Do not shovel snow into manholes and catch basins.
- Help those who may require special assistance, including infants, the elderly and infirm, and people with disabilities.
After a Storm
- Check in on relatives, friends, and neighbors who may need assistance after a storm.
- Check for physical damage to your property. Remove ice and snow from tree limbs, roofs and other structures. Hire a professional if large amounts of snow have accumulated on flat roofs of your home.
- Make sure water pipes are functioning properly. If a pipe has burst, turn off water valves and call DEP.
- After an ice storm, power lines may freeze, causing them to sag or fall, which can pose a significant risk of electrocution and loss of power. Report downed power lines and broken gas lines immediately.
- Remove ice and snow from sidewalks and steps. Fresh snow is much easier to remove if it is done quickly than if it is allowed to remain, especially overnight, when it can freeze and harden. Rock salt can be used to melt ice, and kitty litter can be applied to snow to provide temporary traction.
How to Help Others
- Infants and the elderly are at increased risk of hypothermia and frostbite. Check on vulnerable friends, relatives and neighbors to ensure they are adequately protected from the cold.
- Community members that identify someone on the street they believe needs assistance should call 311 and ask for the Mobile Outreach Response Team. The Department of Homeless Services will send an outreach team to the location to assess the individual's condition and take appropriate action
- Recognize symptoms of cold weather illnesses such as frostbite and hypothermia.
- Hypothermia symptoms include slurred speech, sluggishness, confusion, dizziness, shallow breathing, unusual behavior, and slow, irregular heartbeat.
- Frostbite symptoms include gray, white or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, and waxy feeling skin.
- If you suspect a person is suffering from frostbite or hypothermia, bring him or her someplace warm and seek medical help immediately or call 911.
- If medical help is unavailable, re-warm the person, starting at the core of their body. Warming arms and legs first can increase circulation of cold blood to the heart, which can lead to heart failure. Use a blanket, or if necessary, your own body heat to warm the person.
- Do not give a person suffering frostbite or hypothermia alcohol or caffeine, both of which can worsen the condition. Instead, give the patient a cup of warm broth.
NYC Office of Emergency Management
This page last updated: April 8, 2015