Winter Storm Information and Safety
Oakland County, MichiganHomeland SecurityWinter Storm Information and Safety

Winter Storm Information and Safety

The National Weather Service defines winter storms as:

Winter Storm Watch: A storm has formed and is approaching the area. People in the alerted area should keep listening for the latest advisories over radio and television and begin to take precautionary measures.
Winter Storm Warning: A storm is imminent and immediate action should be taken to protect life and property.

Preparing for a Winter Storm:

Winter Storms - The Deceptive Killers.pdf

Winter Storms Fact Sheet.pdf

At home:

  • Keep handy a battery-powered or crank operated flashlight and radio, extra food (canned or dried food is best), can opener and bottled water (at least 3 gallons per person).
  • Make sure each member of the household has a warm coat, gloves, hat and water-resistant boots.
  • Ensure that extra blankets and heavy clothes are available.
  • Keep on hand items for infant, elderly or disabled family members. 
  • Be aware of potential fire and carbon monoxide hazards if you plan to use an emergency heating source such as a fireplace, wood stove or space heater.

In a vehicle: 

  • Have the following emergency supplies in your auto:  shovel, blankets, windshield scraper, container of sand, battery booster cables, tow chain or rope, flashlight, battery-operated or crank operated radio, first-aid kit and high energy snacks (i.e., nuts, raisins).


  • Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a car or walking in deep snow.  Sweating could lead to chill and hypothermia. Cold weather also puts extra strain on the heart, so the elderly and those with heart conditions should be especially cautious when out in the cold.
  • Walk carefully on snowy, icy sidewalks. 
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight warm clothing in layers, with a waterproof outer layer.  Wear wool hat and mittens.
  • Keep your clothes dry.  Change wet socks and clothing quickly to prevent loss of body heat. 
  • Understand the hazards of wind chill.  As wind speed increases, heat is carried away from a person's body more rapidly.  
  • Do not stay outside for lengthy periods. Frostbite or cold exposure may result (such as numbness, white skin, etc.).  If this does occur, seek medical attention immediately.

Winterize your home:

  • Cover windows with plastic
  • Caulk and weather strip doors
  • Chimney and/or furnace inspected
  • Wrap water pipes with special pipe insulation

Winterize your car:

  • Ignition system
  • Battery
  • Lights
  • Tire Tread
  • Cooling system
  • Fuel system
  • Lubrication
  • Exhaust system
  • Heater
  • Brakes
  • Wiper Blades
  • Defroster
  • Snow tires
  • Chains
  • Antifreeze
  • Winter-grade oil
  • Keep water out of your fuel by maintaining a FULL tank of gas.

During a Winter Storm:

At home:

  • To save heat, close off unneeded rooms, cover windows at night and stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors.
  • Maintain adequate food and water intake.  Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat.
  • Letting faucets drip a little may prevent freezing damage.
  • If a power failure occurs: turn off most light switches, your furnace switch, and unplug the freezer and refrigerator. The surge of returning electrical power can damage the motors of appliances.
  • Use food from the refrigerator first, leaving the freezer door closed. (Partially thawed foods can be safely refrozen only if they still contain ice crystals.) After power is restored, examine food for signs of spoilage before refreezing.

If you must travel (Do not travel during bad weather unless it is an emergency):

  • Don't travel alone.
  • Tell someone where you are going.
  • If the storm exceeds or even tests your limitations, seek available shelter immediately.

If stranded in a vehicle:

  • Attach a bright cloth to your antenna to attract attention and then remain in the vehicle.
  • Run the motor about 10 minutes each hour for heat.  However, open the window slightly for fresh air and make sure that the exhaust pipe isn't blocked.
  • Get attention by turning on the dome light and emergency flashers when running the engine.
  • Exercise by moving arms, legs, fingers and toes to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.

If Stranded outside:

  • Try to stay dry and cover all exposed parts of the body.
  • Prepare a windbreak or snow cave for protection from the wind.  Build a fire for heat and to attract attention.
  • Do not eat snow.  It will lower your body temperature.  Melt it first.

Listen to All-Hazards NOAA Weather Radio or local radio, television and cable stations for the latest updates on hazardous winter weather.

To make sure you have uninterrupted weather information, make sure the NOAA Weather Radio or another radio or television has a battery-operated back up and fresh batteries or crank operated.

For All-Hazard NOAA Weather Radio information, including a station near you, see the NOAA Weather Radio page on the internet at or contact your National Weather Service office.

Updated 12/16/15