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Healthy winters

Staying Safe this Winter

Mary Jo Katras, Program Leader — Family Resiliency, and Sharon E. Powell, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency

December 2012; reviewed January 2018 by Sharon E. Powell, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency.

English | español

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

Dressing for Wind Chill and Snow

Sledding, skiing, snowmobiling, and more — you can enjoy many healthy and fun outdoor winter activities. You will want to protect yourself and your family by dressing appropriately for the cold weather. You will also want to 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.

Cold Weather Safety for Older AdultsNational Institute on Aging — Learn why you need to stay warm when it’s cold.

FrostbiteCenters for Disease Control and Prevention — Reviews first-aid measures you can take to treat mild frostbite, or frostnip. English | español

HypothermiaCenters for Disease Control and Prevention — Learn to recognize the signs of hypothermia, and what to do in this emergency situation. English | español

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. Check your emergency kit before venturing out in poor conditions or longer trips and replace items as necessary. Include items like the following in your kit:
    • Water
    • Non-perishable high calorie food, such as nuts and dried fruit.
    • Warm clothes and blankets
    • Flashlight with extra batteries
    • Battery-powered radio
    • Shovel
    • Bag of sand or kitty litter
    • 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 app that can be as critical as a physical winter survival kit if you find yourself stuck or stranded in severe winter weather conditions.

Winter SafetyNational Weather Service — Tips for saying safe in a winter storm or in abnormally cold weather.

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

Winter Weather ChecklistsCenter for Disease Control and Prevention — Checklists to help prepare and stay safe during the winter. Includes checklists for communication, heating, cooking and lighting, food and safety, water, and car and emergency. English | español


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

National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office. (2013). Winter Weather: Staying Safe.

Kansas Department of Health and Environment. (2014). Winter Car Safety.

Related resources

Keep your home safe and warm during the winter — Tips and resources to avoid winter fires, home damage, and more. English | español

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

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.

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