Situation Room Hazards Weather EM ToolsmyDisasters Bookmark and Share
Hazards - Cold Weather


Do You know the 5 P's Of Cold Weather Preparedness?

  • Protect People
  • Protect Plants
  • Protect Pets
  • Protect Exposed Pipes
  • Practice Fire Safety

NWS Winter Awareness Page

During Cold Weather

If indoors:

  • Stay indoors and dress warmly.
  • Conserve fuel.
  • Lower the thermostat to 65 degrees during the day and 55 degrees at night. Close off unused rooms.
  • If the pipes freeze, remove any insulation or layers of newspapers and wrap pipes in rags.
  • Completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they were most exposed to the cold (or where the cold was most likely to penetrate).
  • Listen to the radio or television to get the latest information.
  • Residents need to be extra careful when using supplemental heating units. Make sure that all-combustible materials such as drapes or chairs are at least three feet away from any heating unit. Avoid using flammable liquids to start fireplaces and do not leave a fireplace unattended. Most importantly, check your smoke detector to make sure it is working properly.

If outdoors:

  • Dress warmly.
  • Wear loose-fitting, layered, lightweight clothing. Layers can be removed to prevent perspiration and chill. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellant. Mittens are warmer than gloves because fingers generate warmth when they touch each other.
  • Keep dry.
  • Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.

Frostbite and Hypothermia

Frostbite is a severe reaction to cold exposure that can permanently damage its victims. A loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in fingers, toes, or nose and ear lobes are symptoms of frostbite. While rare in Florida, individuals who will spend much time outside during extreme cold can develop frostbite to exposed skin. Hypothermia is a condition brought on when the body temperature drops to less than 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, slow speech, memory lapses, frequent stumbling, drowsiness, and exhaustion. In Florida, the elderly, very young, and sick are at greatest risk of developing hypothermia. Remember to check on your neighbors who may require special assistance- infants, elderly people, and people with disabilities.

If hypothermia is suspected, begin warming the person slowly and seek immediate medical assistance. Warm the person's trunk first. Use your own body heat to help. Arms and legs should be warmed last because stimulation of the limbs can drive cold blood toward the heart and lead to heart failure. Put person in dry clothing and wrap their entire body in a blanket.

Never give a hypothermia victim something with caffeine in it (like coffee or tea) or alcohol. Caffeine, a stimulant, can cause the heart to beat faster and hasten the effects the cold has on the body. Alcohol, a depressant, can slow the heart and also hasten the ill effects of cold body temperatures.

 Safety Tips for Carbon Monoxide

  • Install UL approved carbon monoxide detectors
  • Have appliances using combustible fuels installed by a professional and checked at least once a year for proper ventilation
  • Never run your car in the garage with the garage door closed
  • Check your vehicles for exhaust leaks
  • Never use a gas range to heat your home
  • Never burn charcoal in an unventilated area
  • Never adjust your own pilot light
  • Check chimneys and flues for proper ventilation
  • Never use an unvented combustion heater indoors
  • Avoid smoking indoors

Wind Chill

Wind Chill Chart. PDF version available below. One of the gravest dangers of winter weather is wind chill. The wind chill is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin by combined effects of wind and cold. As the wind increases, heat is carried away from the body at an accelerated rate, driving down the body temperature. Animals are also effected by wind chill.  


Winter Storm Warning: Issued when a combination of heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet is expected. Winter Storm Warnings are usually issued six to 24 hours before the event is expected to begin.

Winter Storm Watch: Alerts the public to the possibility of a blizzard, heavy snow, freezing rain, or heavy sleet. Winter Storm Watches are usually issued 12 to 36 hours before the beginning of a Winter Storm.

Winter Storm Outlook: Issued prior to a Winter Storm Watch. The Outlook is given when forecasters believe winter storm conditions are possible and are usually issued 48 to 60 hours in advance of a winter storm.

Blizzard Warning: Issued for sustained or gusty winds of 35 mph or more, and falling or blowing snow creating visibilities at or below 1/4 mile; these conditions should persist for at least three hours.

Lake Effect Snow Warning: Issued when lake effect snow is expected to occur. A Lake Effect Snow Advisory also cautions for the possibility of snow.

Wind Chill Warning: Issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be less than 34 degrees below zero.

Wind Chill Advisory: Issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be between 20 below and 34 degrees below zero.

Winter Weather Advisories: Issued for accumulations of snow, freezing rain, freezing drizzle, and sleet which will cause significant inconvenience and moderately dangerous conditions.

Dense Fog Advisory: Issued when fog will reduce visibility to 1/8 mile or less over a widespread area.

Snow Flurries: Light snow falling for short durations. No accumulation or light dusting is all that is expected.

Snow Showers: Snow falling at varying intensities for brief periods of time. Some accumulation is possible.

Snow Squalls: Brief, intense snow showers accompanied by strong, gusty winds. Accumulation may be significant. Snow squalls are best known in the Great Lakes region.

Blowing Snow: Wind-driven snow that reduces visibility and causes significant drifting. Blowing snow may be snow that is falling and/or loose snow on the ground picked up by the wind.

Sleet: Rain drops that freeze into ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet usually bounces when hitting a surface and does not stick to objects. However, it can accumulate like snow and cause a hazard to motorists.

Freezing Rain: Rain that falls onto a surface with a temperature below freezing. This causes it to freeze to surfaces, such as trees, cars, and roads, forming a coating or glaze of ice. Even small accumulations of ice can cause a significant hazard.

Heating Bills Too High? Energy Concerns?


When dressing for cold weather, remember C.O.L.D:
Keep it------Clean
Avoid --------------- Overheating
Wear it------------------Loose in layers
Keep ----Dry



Weather Data

USA Weather Threats Assessment 

Winter Weather Forecasts

Winter Storm Watch/Warning/Advisory (WSW)

Non-Precipitation Watch/Warning/Advisory (NPW)

More Weather

US Wind Chill Contour
Current Temp. Map

Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN)


[Home][Table of Contents] [EM Organizations] [About Disastersrus] [Preparedness] [Hazards] [Weather] [EMToolkit]