A winter storm can mean extended interruptions of power and heat in your home. Here are tips from Genesis emergency department physicians and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to stay safe and comfortable in severe winter weather.


Overexposure to cold temperatures or cold water can be deadly. Here are some tips for treating overexposure:

Warning signs:  Confusion or sleepiness; slowed, slurred speech, or shallow breathing; weak pulse or low blood pressure; a behavior change; severe shivering or no shivering; poor control over body movements or slow reactions.

What to do:  Get the victim into a warm room or shelter; remove clothes from the victim if they are wet; warm the center of the body first – chest, neck, head, groin – using an electric blanket if one is available; use skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels; give warm beverages; get medical attention as soon as possible; if the victim is unconscious, CPR may be necessary.


Signs: A white or grayish-yellow area on the skin; skin that feels unusually firm or “waxy’’; numbness.

What to do:  Get medical care; if there is no sign of hypothermia or medical care is not available, get the person into a warm room as soon as possible; do not walk or use frostbitten extremities; immerse injured area in warm water; warm injured area with body heat; don’t use a heating pad, heat lamp or heat of a stove, fireplace or radiator because injured areas can be quickly burned.

Carbon Monoxide danger

Warning signs of exposure: In low concentrations, fatigue in healthy people and chest pain in people with heart disease. At higher concentrations, impaired vision and coordination; headaches; dizziness; confusion; nausea. Flu-like symptoms that diminish with exposure to fresh air are a warning sign. Exposure to very high concentrations can be fatal.

Prevention: Keep gas appliances properly adjusted; use proper fuel in kerosene space heaters; open flues when fireplaces are in use; do not idle the car inside a garage; choose appropriately sized wood stoves that are certified to meet EPA emission standards; make sure that doors on all wood stoves fit tightly; have a trained professional inspect, clean and tune-up central heating systems; do not use outdoor grills for heat or cooking inside your home; do not run gas-powered generators in your home.

In your home

Plan an alternative heat source for your home during a power outage—secure dry wood for a fireplace or wood stove or kerosene for a kerosene heater. Do not use outdoor grills for heat or cooking inside your home.

Put together an emergency box. An emergency box should have blankets and sleeping bags; matches; dry-chemical fire extinguisher; first-aid kit and instruction manual; candles; flashlight or battery-powered lantern; battery-powered radio; battery-powered clock or watch; extra batteries; non-electric can opener; snow shovel; rock salt; games, playing cards, and books; special needs items (diapers, hearing aid batteries, medications); food items that do not require cooking or refrigeration, such as bread, crackers, cereal, canned foods; water stored in clean containers (at least five gallons per person).

In Your Vehicle

If you must drive, you can prepare your vehicle the same way you would prepare your home. Here are some tips:

Equip your car with these items: Blankets or a sleeping bag; First-Aid kit; a can and matches to use to melt snow for drinking water; windshield scraper; booster cables; road maps or GPS; mobile phone; compass; tool kit; paper towels; a bag of sand or cat litter (to pour on ice or snow for traction); tow rope; collapsible shovel; a container of water and high-calorie canned or dried food and a can opener; flashlight and extra batteries; canned, compressed air to fix a flat temporarily; brightly colored cloth to attach to the car to notify others you are there.

Additional tips

  • Tell someone where you are going if you leave the house during a storm, and tell them when you expect to return. Falls resulting in injuries are common on icy drives and streets.
  • Carry a whistle with you outside if you are at risk for falls. Your car keys can also provide an alert system by using the “panic button” for your car.
  • Check on older neighbors and family members frequently.
  • Seek alternative shelter if you believe conditions in your home are unhealthy or unsafe.
  • Use a battery-powered or crank-powered emergency radio to stay informed during a power outage.