Cold Weather Preparedness
Winter months hold the possibility of icy roads, downed power lines, and snow drifts. New Jersey residents should prepare now for emergencies that cold weather and winter storms can bring.
Simple steps to becoming disaster ready include getting an emergency supply kit, making a communication plan and listening to local instructions.
- An emergency supply kit includes, among other things, essential items to last at least three days such as a battery-powered radio and extra batteries, food, and water, flashlights, a first aid kit, blankets, and medications.
- Making a communication plan involves discussing the hazards and threats for your area and what your family would do during an actual emergency. As you create your plan, decide on a meeting place if your family cannot return home, designate an out-of-town friend or relative as a point-of-contact and plan for the specific needs of your household, such as an evacuation shelter for pets or transportation for medical equipment.
Before, during and after a disaster, it is critical that you listen for the most local, up-to-date information from emergency officials. Local media will convey instructions from local, state and federal government partners, such as details about evacuation orders, how to safely stay where you are and when the emergency has passed.
Limit Exposure to Extreme Cold
Exposure to extremely cold temperatures, even for short periods of time can be very dangerous especially for the very young, old or people with chronic medical conditions. The most serious cold-related illness is hypothermia, a drop in normal body temperature from 98.6 degrees to 95 or lower that requires emergency medical care.
At the earliest stages of hypothermia, violent shivering is the most noticeable symptom. As the body temperature continues to drop, symptoms will change. Shivering decreases and stops; speech is distorted or slurred; behavior is irrational; drowsiness or numbness occurs; pulse weakens and there is shortness of breath and unconsciousness. Hypothermia can be fatal if not treated. If you notice signs of hypothermia in someone, seek medical attention immediately. While waiting for assistance, you can:
- Prevent further heat loss by moving the person from the cold area
- Remove wet or damp clothing and replace it with dry clothing
- Slowly give the person warm liquids if (s)he is conscious
- Do not warm the person further. If the arms and legs are warmed before the chest and abdomen, the person could go into shock
Avoiding Cold-Related Illness and Injury
- Dress in layers while outdoors and remember to wear a hat to help retain body heat
- If you get wet, either from heavy sweating while working or from rain or snow, change into dry clothes as soon as possible
- Eat well and drink adequate fluids during periods of cold stress
- Avoid drinking alcohol since it can accelerate the loss of body heat
- If you will be outdoors in the sun for an extended period, remember to use sunscreen and sunglasses, particularly if you are at higher altitudes
- Make sure that outdoor pets have adequate shelter, unfrozen water, and food.
- For special safety tips regarding children’s winter activities, click here.
- Learn more winter safety tips.
Winter Fire Safety Tips
- Plug space heaters directly into wall sockets and keep them at least three feet from other objects. Do not leave them unattended.
- Install a smoke detector in every bedroom and one on every level of your home. Check the batteries monthly and replace them annually.
- Clean out dryer vents and be sure they are not blocked.
- If you lose power for a prolonged time, evacuate your home instead of trying to heat it by unconventional methods such as turning on stoves powered by natural gas.
Winter Travel Tips
Proper preparation for safe winter travel starts with a well-equipped car: All cars should be equipped with road maps, a cell phone, a shovel, a windshield scraper, a towrope, booster cables, and a brightly colored cloth to use as a distress signal, and an emergency supply kit (see above). A bag of sand or non-clumping cat litter to spread under tires if stuck in snow is also recommended.
Proper Travel Notification: Drivers should inform someone that they are taking a trip, where they are going, the routes that will be traveled and when they are expected to return. Upon reaching their destination, drivers should call to report arrival. If traveling a long distance, please remember to fill up on fuel prior to making your trip. While traveling, stop frequently to refill the fuel tank.
On the Road: Always follow the rules of the road and adhere to the following guidelines:
Learn more about winter safety from the winter weather safety guide which can be found on the official New Jersey Office of Emergency Management website where you can access, download, and print out valuable winter storm-related information from the state's foremost emergency management site free of charge and available anytime day or night. Sign up for the NJ OEM Twitter and Facebook pages, by logging onto their Home Page and clicking on Social Media. You can also sign up for the emergency alert notifications by visiting the individual county OEM page.
Winter Weather Vehicle Safety Tips
- Always buckle your seat belt.
- Brake properly to avoid skidding. If driving on snow or ice, start slowly and brake gently. Begin braking early when approaching an intersection.
- If the vehicle starts to slide, ease off the gas pedal or brakes. Steer into the direction of the skid until regaining traction, and then straighten the vehicle. For vehicles with antilock brakes, apply steady pressure.
- Driving is most dangerous when the temperature is at or under 32° F. If the road is wet, ice is likely, especially on bridges, ramps, and overpasses.
- Even when roads have been treated with salt and/or sand, drivers should reduce their speed and leave a safe driving distance between themselves and other vehicles on the road.
- Visibility and speed:
- In fog, drive with headlights set on dim or use fog lights.
- In rain, fog, snow or sleet, stay within the limits of your vision. If it is too difficult to see, pull off the road and stop.
- Drive slowly and increase following distance. Vehicle speed should adjust for conditions and match the flow of traffic.
- Watch for slick spots. Be physically and mentally prepared to react.
Current Road Conditions
During the winter months, generally starting in December and finishing by the end of March, New Jersey county officials will call a Code Blue when winter conditions pose a threat of serious harm or death to homeless individuals without shelter.
Often, a Code Blue will be called when the National Weather Bureau predicts a wind chill temperature of 20 or 25 degrees Fahrenheit or below or precipitation with temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Once called, county shelters that are able will offer additional beds for homeless individuals seeking shelter from the severe weather and warming centers may be opened to provide a temporary reprieve from the cold. As we are notified of these conditions and receive shelter resources they will be posted here.
No Heat Complaints
If you are a renter, you have rights that protect you from the cold. Learn more.