Cold weather

Cold Weather Safety

Cold temperatures can quickly become dangerous. The City of Milwaukee Health Department monitors extreme cold temperatures with the National Weather Service, and issues cold-weather health alerts and advisories. Being prepared ahead of cold weather can help you stay safe and healthy all winter.

Always check on elderly relatives and neighbors throughout the season, and especially during extreme temperature events. Colder weather can put the elderly at higher risk for health problems.

Stay safe all winter long by following these health and safety tips:

1. Be prepared

  • Have furnaces checked annually before winter to ensure they are working efficiently and safely.
  • Pay attention to local news and weather reports. If you know of someone who may not be aware of weather warnings, including individuals with hearing loss, share the information with them.
  • Create a cold-weather preparedness kit for your family that includes:
    • Candles and matches
    • Hand-cranked or battery-operated flashlight and radio
    • Cellular phone
    • Extra batteries
    • Blankets or sleeping bags
    • Extra clothing
    • High-calorie non-perishable food
    • Extra food and water for pets
    • First aid kits and any medications you require
    • Tool kit

2. Stay safe at home

  • Heat your home with devices approved for indoor use, and ensure they are properly vented to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning or fires. Never use wood-burning or coal-burning grills, camp stoves, or other outdoor devices indoors. Remember to keep flammable materials such as newspapers or clothing away from portable heaters.
  • Make sure that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly.
  • Be prepared for power outages in your neighborhood. This can be due to wind or ice. Have blankets and warm clothing on hand to keep you warm. A preparedness kit is good to have around.

3. Stay safe outdoors

  • When heading outdoors, let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.
  • Wear appropriate outdoor clothing and ensure that exposed skin is covered, including your fingers, nose, and ears. Keep children indoors.
  • Be aware of the symptoms of both frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite can occur within minutes when unprotected skin is exposed to very cold temperatures, causing the affected area to appear white or grayish-yellow in color and feel firm or waxy. Hypothermia is life-threatening, and occurs when the body temperature drops too low, causing shivering, drowsiness, clumsiness and confusion. Both require immediate medical treatment.
  • Do not touch metal surfaces with uncovered hands. Flesh can freeze instantly to a surface.
  • If you have pets, bring them inside and ensure trips outside are brief.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages. Alcohol causes the body to lose its heat more rapidly – even though one may feel warmer after drinking alcoholic beverages.

4. Stay safe when traveling

  • Make a car survival kit that includes blankets, sleeping bags, extra clothing and high-energy foods.
  • Ensure that your vehicle’s fuel tank is at least half-full and that the battery is charged

Milwaukee Area Warming Centers: CALL 211

Please call 211 for information about places to stay warm, including emergency shelter options that are available year-round.

Please note that 211 is the centralized referral number for those seeeking warming shelter access. 


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