Preparing for a Winter Storm

Snow-covered roof with icicles all along the edge and snow falling

During extremely cold weather or winter storms, staying warm and safe can be a challenge. Winter storms can bring cold temperatures, power failures, loss of communication services, and icy roads. To keep yourself and your loved ones safe, you should know how to prepare your home and your car before a winter storm hits.

Make a Plan

Be prepared before a winter storm hits by planning ahead. If you are in an area prone to winter weather, be sure to create a communication and disaster plan for your family ahead of time.

Prepare Your Home and Car
Weatherproof your home.
  • Insulate any water lines that run along exterior walls so your water supply will be less likely to freeze.
  • Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows.
  • Insulate walls and attic.
  • Install storm or thermal-pane windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside.
  • Repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on your home or other structure during a storm.
Have your chimney or flue inspected each year.

If you plan to use a fireplace or wood stove for emergency heating, have your chimney or flue inspected each year. Ask your local fire department to recommend an inspector or find one online.

Featured Resource
Cover of infographic: Be Ready! Winter Weather

Check out our infographic, Be Ready! Winter Weather for tips on getting your family, home, and car ready for a winter storm.

Install a smoke detector and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector.
  • If you’ll be using a fireplace, wood stove, or kerosene heater, install a smoke detector and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector near the area to be heated. Test them monthly and replace batteries twice a year.
  • Keep a multipurpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher nearby.
  • All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside.
  • Each winter season have your furnace system and vent checked by a qualified technician to ensure they are functioning properly.
For older adults, keep an easy-to-read thermometer inside your home.

If you or a loved one are over 65 years old, place an easy-to-read thermometer in an indoor location where you will see it frequently. Our ability to feel a change in temperature decreases with age. Older adults are more susceptible to health problems caused by cold. Check the temperature of your home often during the winter months.

Create an emergency car kit.

It is best to avoid traveling, but if travel is necessary, keep the following in your carExternal:

  • Cell phone, portable charger, and extra batteries
  • Items to stay warm such as extra hats, coats, mittens, and blankets
  • Windshield scraper
  • Shovel
  • Battery-powered radio with extra batteries
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Water and snack food
  • First aid kit with any necessary medications and a pocket knife
  • Tow chains or rope
  • Tire chains
  • Canned compressed air with sealant for emergency tire repair
  • Cat litter or sand to help tires get traction, or road salt to melt ice
  • Booster cables with fully charged battery or jumper cables
  • Hazard or other reflectors
  • Bright colored flag or help signs, emergency distress flag, and/or emergency flares
  • Road maps
  • Waterproof matches and a can to melt snow for water
Steps to Take Before the Storm Hits
Listen to weather forecasts, and check your supplies.

Listen to weather forecasts regularly and check your emergency supplies, including your emergency food and water supply, whenever you are expecting a winter storm or extreme cold. Even though we can’t always predict extreme cold in advance, weather forecasts can sometimes give you several days of notice to prepare.

Bring your pets indoors.

If you have pets, bring them indoors. If you cannot bring them inside, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure they have access to unfrozen water.

Get your car ready.

Have maintenance service on your vehicle as often as the manufacturer recommends. In addition, every fall, do the following:

  • Have the radiator system serviced or check the antifreeze level yourself with an antifreeze tester. Add antifreeze as needed.
  • Replace windshield-wiper fluid with a wintertime mixture.
  • Make sure the tires on your car have adequate tread and air pressure. Replace any worn tires and fill low tires with air to the proper pressure recommended for your car (typically between 30-35 psi).
  • Keep the gas tank near full to help avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
  • Keep your car in good working order. Be sure to check the following: heater, defroster, brakes, brake fluid, ignition, emergency flashers, exhaust, oil, and battery.
cover of infographic: Is your vehicle winter ready?
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