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Active Living

Staying Safe This Winter

Mary Jo Katras, Extension Educator — Building Healthy and Strong Families and Sharon E. Powell, Extension Educator — Family Resource Management, December 2012

Reviewed December 2013 by authors.

Winter is a time of playing in the snow and sipping hot cocoa. It is also a time that families should take extra care to keep safe during months of unpredictable and sometimes dangerous weather. Knowing how to dress for snow and cold temperatures, avoid slips and falls, and staying safe while you travel will help ensure you enjoy these winter months.

Dressing for Wind Chill and Snow

Sledding, skiing, snowmobiling, and more — there are numerous healthy and fun outdoor winter activities. It’s important that you and your family protect yourselves by dressing appropriately for the cold weather. You also should know how to prevent and respond to cold-related emergencies, like frostbite and hypothermia. Here are some resources to help:

Winter Safety ReminderUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) Health — Tips for keeping infants and children warm, dressing for winter weather, and avoiding winter-related illness.

Stay Safe in Cold WeatherNational Institute on Aging — Learn why you need to stay warm when it’s cold.

Frostbite and HypothermiaAmerican Red Cross — How to recognize and respond to these cold-related emergencies.

Preventing Falls in the Winter

Falling on the ice is a common problem, particularly for older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of three adults age 65 and older falls each year. Take a look at these resources to find helpful suggestions for staying on your feet in wintry weather conditions:

Preventing Falls on IceABC News — Short video with tips for preventing falls on ice.

Avoid Slips and Falls in Icy ConditionsNorthern Ireland (NI) Direct Government Services — Simple steps can help ensure that you won’t fall on ice or get hurt if you do fall.

Staying Safe on the Go

Winter travel can be an adventure but also very dangerous. While traveling in the winter, a little preparation and precaution can help you avoid a dangerous situation.

  1. Get your vehicle winterized — checking tires, brakes, heating and fuel systems, battery, antifreeze levels, etc. — before the cold and snow arrives.
  2. Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle in case you become stranded or face a different emergency. Ensure it includes items like water, non-perishable high calorie food (nuts, dried fruit, etc.), warm clothes and blankets, a flashlight with extra batteries, a battery powered radio, a shovel, a bag of sand, flares, first aid kit, and an ice scraper. Check your emergency kit before venturing out in poor conditions or longer trips and replace items as necessary. Include items like the following:
    • water
    • non-perishable high calorie food (nuts, dried fruit)
    • warm clothes and blankets
    • flashlight with extra batteries
    • battery powered radio
    • shovel
    • bag of sand
    • flares
    • first aid kit
    • ice scraper
  3. Try to minimize your travel during a snowstorm, when there are slippery roads, or in when there are other poor weather-related driving conditions. If you need to travel when the weather is poor, make sure that you and your vehicle are prepared. Follow good winter driving techniques and only drive as fast as it is safe to do so.
  4. If you do become stranded, stay with your vehicle. Call for help, if possible, or try to signal to other drivers that you need help (turn on hazard lights or tie a scarf on your antennae). Keep your vehicle visible by using flares, turning on the interior lights, or raising the hood if it is not snowing.

Here are some additional resources that can help keep you safe on the go:

Winter Survival KitNorth Dakota State University Extension Service — Free Smartphone appĀ that can be as critical as a physical winter survival kit if you find yourself stuck or stranded in severe winter weather conditions.

Winter Safety TipsOhio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness — Comprehensive resource covers winterizing your vehicle, packing a vehicle emergency bag, driving in the winter, and what to do should you become stranded.

Winter Weather: Staying SafeNational Weather Service; Des Moines, Iowa Forecast Office — Ensure you have what you need in your home and car should bad weather strike.

Winter Car SafetyKansas Department of Health and Environment — Fact sheet on avoiding hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning when facing a winter car emergency.

Winter, Your Car, and YouNational Safety Council — Tips to make sure your vehicle is prepared to make it through the winter.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Falls Among Older Adults: An Overview. In Home and Recreational Safety.

Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness. (2013). Winter Safety Tips For the Vehicle. In Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness.

Other Resources

Winter Weather Tips for the Animals in Our Care — Get the facts on food, water, and shelter; environmental hazards; and hypothermia and frostbite.

Keep Your Home Safe and Warm During the Winter — Tips and resources to avoid winter fires, home damage, and more.

Winter Impacts — Resources for protecting your home and other property from winter damage.

Seven Steps to Cold Weather SafetyGovernment of Canada — Simple steps to make sure that you are ready for cold weather.

Winter StormAmerican Red Cross — Know the difference between different types of winter storms and how to be prepared and safe during them.

Winter Storm PreparednessAmerican Red Cross — Checklist for what to do before, during, and after a winter storm.

Power Outage ChecklistAmerican Red Cross — Checklist for preparing for a power outage, what to do during one, and what to do when the power comes back on.

A Guide to Food Storage for EmergenciesUtah State University Extension — Comprehensive guide for selecting food, storing food, and preparing food in light of a disaster.

See the related program: Families in Tough Times

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