FEMA Winter Preparedness Bulletin

U.S. Department of Homeland Security | Federal Emergency Management Agency

Prepare for Winter Power Outages, Escaping from Fires and Shoveling Snow

January 19, 2017

Winter Power Outage Prep 

Winter storms can bring freezing temperatures, mountains of snow and dangerous travel conditions, but they can also result in downed trees and power lines causing power outages.

Before the power goes out in your winter hideaway, follow these preparedness tips from Ready.gov:

  • Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit, including a flashlight, batteries, water, food, prescription medication, cash, first aid supplies, and extra clothing, blankets or sleeping bags to stay warm.
  • Make sure you have alternative charging methods for your phone or any device that requires power. For more information visit, Get Tech Ready.
  • If you rely on anything that is battery-operated or power dependent like a medical device, determine a back-up plan. For more planning information tips visit, the Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities and Others with Access and Functional Needs pages.
  • Know where the manual release lever of your electric garage door opener is located and how to operate it.
  • Keep your car’s gas tank full. Gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps. 
  • If you use your car to re-charge devices, do NOT keep the car running in a garage, or close to your home, this can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Be prepared to close off unused rooms to consolidate and retain heat.
  • If the power may be out for a prolonged period, plan to go to another location (the home of a relative or friend, or a public facility) that has heat to keep warm.
  • Only use generators outside, away from your home and NEVER run a generator inside a home or garage, or connect it to your home's electrical system. For more information about generators visit, the Generator Safety page of the Department of Energy.

Visit Ready.gov for more tips on how to prepare for a Winter Power Outage.

Plan Your Fire Escape

You have less than three minutes to get out of your home in a fire. Are you ready?   

Talk to your family about what to do in a fire. If you use a wheelchair or a cane, make sure you can get to it easily and get out quickly. If you wear hearing aids or eyeglasses, put them next to your bed while you’re sleeping. Practice how you will escape by holding a fire drill twice a year and develop a fire escape plan with these tips from the U.S. Fire Administration:  

  • Have two ways out of each room. 
  • Know to crawl low to the floor when escaping to avoid toxic smoke. 
  • Know that once you’re out, stay out.
  • Know where to meet after the escape. 
  • Your meeting place should be near the front of your home, so firefighters know you are out. 
  • Practice your fire escape plan.

Learn more about preventing and preparing for home fires by visiting the U.S. Fire Administration.



Hazards of Shoveling Snow

Snow shoveling can be a chore and it can also be hazardous. 

According to the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, more than 10,000 people visit emergency rooms each year due to overexertion and injury while nearly 100 people die every year from heart attacks brought on by shoveling snow. Stay healthy and safe by taking these precautions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart. If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s advice about shoveling snow or performing other hard work in the cold.
  • Dress warmly and work slowly. Your body is already working hard just to stay warm, so don’t overdo it. Take breaks every few minutes and stretch by standing up straight.
  • Push the snow. Don’t lift. If you must lift, use your legs not your back.
  • Stay dry. Wet clothing chills the body rapidly. Excess perspiration will increase heat loss, so remove extra layers of clothing whenever you feel too warm. 
  • Many cold-weather injuries result from falls on ice-covered sidewalks, steps, driveways, and porches. Keep your steps and walkways as clear of ice as possible by using rock salt or another chemical de-icing compound. Sand may also be used on walkways to reduce the risk of slipping.
  • When shoveling, remember to keep snow and ice three feet from fire hydrants so firefighters can quickly access them in case of fire.

Find more winter safety information in the America’s PrepareAthon! How to Prepare for a Winter Storm guide.