Winter brings cold temperatures, snow, freezing rain, and high winds. When rain freezes, ice weighs down trees and power lines, this can lead to power outages (see below for multi-language fact sheets).
During a winter storm
Washington Department of Health tips:
- Wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. Wear mittens rather than gloves. Wear a warm, woolen cap.
- Do not drive unnecessarily.
- Reduce the temperature in your home to conserve fuel.
- Heat only the areas of your home you are using. Close doors and curtains or cover windows and doors with blankets.
- Use alternative heat methods safely. Never use a gas or charcoal grill, hibachi or portable propane heater to cook indoors or heat your home.
- Never use a generator indoors or in a garage or carport.
- Be careful when shoveling snow. Do not overexert yourself.
- Be sure to eat regularly. Food provides calories that maintain body heat.
- Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia — slurred speech, disorientation, uncontrollable shivering, stumbling, drowsiness and body temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit or less.
- If you become trapped outside, get out of the wind and stay dry. Build a lean-to or snow cave if nothing else is available. Do not eat snow; it will make you too cold.
If in your vehicle
- Make sure someone knows where you are going. Stay on the main roads.
- If you must stop, remain inside the vehicle. Use a bright distress flag or your hazard lights to draw attention to your vehicle.
- If trapped in a blizzard, clear your tail pipe and run your engine and heater for 10 minutes every hour. Open your window slightly.
- During night hours, keep the dome light on in the car so rescue crews can see your vehicle.
- Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle. Include a three-day supply of water and non-perishable food that can be eaten without being cooked. Include a blanket or sleeping bag for each passenger, a flashlight, cell phone, shovel, sack of sand or kitty litter, booster cables, flare, coffee can with lid, and toilet paper.
PDF tip sheets in other languages: Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Somali, Ukrainian, Vietnamese
What should I do if I see damaged or downed power lines?
Department of Health Seattle & King County:
- Don’t get near any fallen or sagging power line!
- Call the utility company about the line
(Seattle area residents: 206-684-7400, other King County residents: 1-888-225-5773).
If you have a power outage, safe ways to stay warm
- Find places where you can go to get warm, such as the home of friends and family whose homes have power.
- Wear several layers of light weight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. Wear hats, mittens, and blankets indoors.
- Close curtains and cover windows and doors with blankets. Everyone should try to stay together in one room, with the door closed, to keep in body heat.
Prevent poisoning from carbon monoxide
- If you don’t have electricity, only use a generator outdoors and far from open windows and vents.
- NEVER use a generator indoors, in garages or carports
- NEVER cook or heat indoors with a charcoal or gas grill
- Warn others about carbon monoxide poisoning: PDF- Carbon monoxide facts in multiple languages – King County (fact sheet in 20+ languages)
- Check on family, friends, and neighbors, especially if they are elderly or if you think their power might be out.