Cold Weather Safety Tips
Travel Tips for Motorists
- If you must drive a vehicle, monitor weather and traffic reports for the latest road conditions.
- Use major streets or highways for travel whenever possible as these roadways will be cleared first.
- Drive slowly. Vehicles, including those with 4-wheel drive, take longer to stop on snow and ice than on dry pavement.
- Keep the name and phone number of at least one local towing service in your car in case you break down or become stuck in the snow.
- If you get stuck on the road stay with your car and contact a towing company.
Travel Tips for Pedestrians
- Exercise caution and avoid slippery surfaces.
- Wear layers including a hat, gloves and scarf to stay protected from the cold. And, keep clothes and shoes dry.
- Have heightened awareness of cars, particularly when approaching or crossing intersections.
Tips for Staying Warm
Exposure to cold can cause life-threatening health conditions. Avoid serious conditions such as frostbite and hypothermia, by keeping warm.
- Wear a hat, hood, or scarf, as most heat is lost through the head.
- Wear layers, as they provide better insulation and warmth.
- Keep fingertips, earlobes, and noses covered if you go outside.
- Keep clothing dry; if a layer becomes wet, remove it.
- Seniors, infants, the homeless, and those with chronic medical conditions are at increased risk. If you know of friends, neighbors, or family members who may be at risk check on them to make sure their heat is working and that they are OK.
Recognize the signs and symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite:
Hypothermia is a life-threatening condition where body temperature is abnormally low. Symptoms may include shivering, slurred speech, sluggishness, drowsiness, unusual behavior, confusion, dizziness, and shallow breathing.
Frostbite is a serious injury to a body part frozen from exposure to the cold. It most often affects extremities like fingers and toes or exposed areas such as ears or parts of the face. Redness and pain may be the first warning of frostbite. Other symptoms include numbness or skin that appears pale, firm, or waxy.
Provide first aid:
- If you suspect a person is suffering from frostbite or hypothermia, bring him or her someplace warm and call 911.
- If medical help is not immediately available, re-warm the person, by removing any damp clothing and covering them with warm blankets.
Influenza is a major preventable cause of illness and death during the wintertime. Urge your clients and staff to get vaccinated. They can call their doctor or 311 for more information for the nearest clinic.
What to Do if You Lose Heat or Hot Water at Home
Any New York City tenant without adequate heat or hot water should first speak with the building owner, manager, or superintendent. If the problem is not corrected, tenants should call 311. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) will take measures to ensure your heat and hot water is restored.
Safe Home Heating Tips
Improper use of portable heating equipment can lead to fire or dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Take precautions to ensure you are heating your home safely.
Fire Safety Tips:
- Use only portable heating equipment that is approved for indoor use.
- Keep combustible materials, including furniture, drapes, and carpeting at least three feet away from the heat source. NEVER drape clothes over a space heater to dry.
- Always keep an eye on heating equipment. Never leave children alone in the room where a space heater is running. Turn it off when you are unable to closely monitor it.
- Be careful not to overload electrical circuits.
- Make sure you have a working smoke detector in every room. Check and change batteries often.
Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips:
- Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home and check it regularly to make sure the battery is working. NYC law requires owners to provide and install at least one approved carbon monoxide alarm within 15 feet of the primary entrance to each sleeping room.
- Make sure your heating system is kept clean and properly vented; have worn or defective parts replaced.
- Kerosene heaters are dangerous and illegal in New York City.
- Don’t heat your home with a gas stove or oven.
- Do not use any gas-powered appliance, charcoal grill, or hibachi indoors.
- Open your garage door before starting your car and do not leave the motor running in an enclosed area. Clear exhaust pipes before starting a car or truck after it snows.
- The most common symptom of carbon monoxide poisoning is headache. However, symptoms may also include dizziness, chest pain, nausea, and vomiting. In severe cases, people can become increasingly irritable, agitated and confused, eventually becoming lethargic and lapsing into unconsciousness.
- If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, call 911, and get the victim to fresh air immediately, and open windows.
Snow Removal Safety Tips
- Stretch before you go out. If you go out to shovel snow, do a few stretching exercises to warm up your body. This may prevent injury.
- Cover your mouth. Protect your lungs from extremely cold air by covering your mouth when outdoors.
- Avoid overexertion. Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Unfamiliar exercise, such as shoveling snow or pushing a car, can bring on a heart attack or make other medical conditions worse. Take frequent rest breaks, and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
- Keep dry. Change wet clothes immediately to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.
- Stay safe. Walk carefully on snowy or icy sidewalks. If using a snow blower, NEVER use your hands to unclog the machine.
- Maintain an awareness of utilities when shoveling snow. Do not cover fire hydrants with snow when clearing sidewalks and driveways. Do not shovel snow into manholes and catch basins.
- Offer to help individuals who require special assistance, including seniors and people with disabilities.
For more information about cold weather safety and how you can prepare for emergencies, call 311 or visit www.nyc.gov/oem.