Cold Weather Health & Safety
The City urges residents to take precautions as temperatures drop below freezing. The 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. Individuals should limit the time they spend outdoors and wear the appropriate warm clothing that covers exposed skin, including fingers, nose and ears.
During cold weather, stay aware of the symptoms of 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-threating, and occurs when the body temperature drops too low, causing shivering, drowsiness, clumsiness and confusion. Both require immediate medical treatment.
Remember to check on family members and friends who may be at-risk for injuries or illness, especially the elderly and those with certain medical conditions. Also, be sure to limit the amount of time children and pets spend outdoors.
More health and safety tips from the Milwaukee Health Department
Shelter from the Cold
Please know there are services available to anyone seeking a warm and safe place to shelter from the cold. Individuals should call 2-1-1 for information and support. As the lead agency for the Milwaukee Continuum of Care, the City of Milwaukee partners with Community Advocates, the Milwaukee County Housing Division, Pathfinders and Outreach Community Health Centers to proactively shelter individuals from the cold.
Learn more about IMPACT 2-1-1, a central access point for people in need
Winter Fire Safety
The high cost of home heating fuels and utilities have caused many Americans to search for alternate sources of home heating, such as wood burning stoves, space heaters and fireplaces.
Take precaution when using these items:
- Never use a range or oven as a supplemental heating device. Not only is it a safety hazard, it can be a source of potentially toxic fumes.
- Never use a space heater in your home that is powered by fuels, only electric options.
- Do not overload circuits and avoid placing space heaters in areas like the bathroom where they can come in contact with water.
- Never burn charcoal indoors to avoid releasing lethal amounts of carbon monoxide.
- Have your furnace inspected by a qualified specialist to be sure it is in good working condition.
- Clear your nearby fire hydrant of snow for quick access to water in the case of a fire.
- Be sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector in your home to alert you of carbon monoxide’s presence and when it is at its most lethal.
- Ensure you have a working smoke detector. Call the Smoke Detector Hotline at 286-8980 for a free installation.
More winter fire safety tips from the Milwaukee Fire Department
Snow and Ice Control Operations
Sidewalks must be clear of snow and ice 24 hours after snow has stopped falling. Residents SHOULD NOT shovel, blow or plow snow back into the streets.
Sidewalk snow enforcement requests can be made online or by calling 414-286-CITY, however please do not make requests until the snow has stopped for 24 hours.
Ways you can help during a snow operation:
- Park legally and follow alternate side parking rules. Following winter parking regulations allows the trucks to get through your street.
- Sign up for Parking text alerts.
- DO NOT shovel, blow or plow snow back into the streets.
- Shovel your sidewalk within 24 hours after the snow has stopped falling and assist neighbors who are elderly or disabled.
- Clear snow and ice around and on top of your garbage and recycling carts.
- Adjust your driving for conditions by slowing down and providing more space for braking.
- Give our trucks space and stay at least 200 feet back from the trucks salting or brining streets to ensure the product hits the streets instead of your car.
- Plan your route to stay on main transportation routes as much as possible during snow and ice events.
What is a Snow Emergency?
A Snow Emergency is declared whenever snow fall during any period of 24 hours or less is determined and declared by the Commissioner of Public Works to constitute a serious public hazard impairing transportation, the movement of food and fuel supplies, medical care, fire, health, and police protection, and other vital facilities of the City.
Such an emergency is declared to continue for a period of 72 hours or until such earlier times as snow plowing operations have been declared completed by the Commissioner of Public Works. In addition to the following parking regulations below, "Temporary No Parking" signs may be posted by the City to assist in clean-up after major snowfalls.
Winter Parking Regulations
- Remember, there is no parking on through highways and bus routes December 1 - March 1 from 2 am – 6 am and during Snow Emergencies from 10 pm – 6 am.
- During a Snow Emergency, alternate-side parking is required from 10 pm – 6 am, unless otherwise posted.
- Escalating fines for Snow Emergency parking violations exist during the winter season:
- 1st violation - $50
- 2nd violation - $100
- 3+ violations - $150 and tow eligible
Use Salt Wisely this Winter
Once you put salt down, it doesn’t go away. Instead, it travels into our lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands, putting our aquatic life at risk and endangering our freshwater resources. It only takes one teaspoon of salt to pollute up to 5 gallons of water to a level that is toxic to freshwater organisms. Every year, more than 525,000 tons of salt is dumped into our state’s surfaces, enough to pollute over 400 billion gallons of Wisconsin’s water.
Do your part for our waterways:
- Shovel: Use a scraper, shovel or broom to clear walkways before the snow turns to ice. The more snow you can remove manually, the less salt you will have to use and the more effective it will be.
- Scatter: Scatter salt so that there is space between grains. A hand spreader can help. A 12 oz. cup of salt is enough to treat a 20-foot driveway or 10 sidewalk squares.
- Switch: Regular salt won’t work when temperatures drop below 15 degrees. Use sand for traction or a different deicer that works at colder temperatures.
- Sweep: Sweep up excess salt after ice has melted so it doesn’t wash into storm drains and into our local waterways.
Source: Wisconsin Salt Wise
Frozen Water Pipes and Meters
Water pipes and water meters can freeze within hours if exposed to cold air, which can result in a cut off of water to the household. It can be expensive to repair or replace burst pipes. Residents should take simple steps to prevent damage, such as always keeping inside temperatures above 32 degrees, wrapping pipes with insulation or heat tape or allowing a trickle of water to run from a faucet to keep water moving and prevent freezing. If you have damaged water pipes in your home, please call a licensed plumber for assistance.
More helpful tips to prevent frozen pipes
If you have no water, call the Milwaukee Water Works Customer Service Center at (414) 286-2830, Monday-Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. After 5 p.m. and on weekends, call the Control Center at (414) 286-3710. TDD (414) 286-8801.
If you have a frozen or damaged water meter, call Meter Services at (414) 286-8000, Monday-Saturday from 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. After 4:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and at any time on Sunday, call (414) 286-3710. TDD (414) 286-8801. Email Milwaukee Water Works for non-emergencies.