Tips to Help You Be Prepared

Protect Yourself and Your Family

"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." (www.cdc.gov)

  • Keep warm, stay inside if possible.

  • If you need to go out, dress in layers and wear hats, gloves and an appropriate coat.

  • Avoid overexertion, as cold weather puts added strain on your body.

  • Observe heater safety: never place a space heater on top of furniture or near water; keep heat sources at least three (3) feet away from furniture and drapes.

  • Never leave children unattended near a space heater.

  • Protect yourself from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning by installing a battery-operated CO detector and never using generators, grills, camp stoves, or similar devices indoors.

Create an emergency car kit
  • It is best to avoid traveling, but if travel is necessary, keep the following in your car:

  • 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

Protect Your Pipes

  • Wrap exposed faucets and pipes, including those outside the house or in unheated crawl spaces, attics, garages and other areas. If you don't have the foam pipe coverings, a towel or rag and duct tape will do the trick.

  • Unhook your water hose from the spigot and drain it. Insulate the spigot with a towel or foam cover, available at your local hardware store. 

  • Let your indoor faucets drip.

  • Open cabinets below sinks to allow the heat to circulate around the water pipes.

  • Insulate your outdoor water meter box and be sure its lid is on tight.

  • Cover any vents around your home's foundation.

  • Protect outdoor electrical pumps.

  • Drain swimming pool circulation systems or keep the pump motor running. (Run the pump motor only in a short freeze. Running the motor for long periods could damage it.)

  • Drain water sprinkler supply lines.

  • Make sure you know where your home's shut-off valve is and how to turn it on and off.

  • If you leave town, consider turning off your water at the shut-off valve while faucets are running to drain your pipes. Make sure you turn the faucets off before you turn the shut-off valve back on.

  • If you drain your pipes, contact your electric or gas utility company for instructions on protecting your water heater.

If they freeze....

  • If a pipe bursts and floods your home, turn the water off at the shut-off valve (locate this before you have an emergency). Call a plumber for help if you can't find the broken pipe or if it's inaccessible. Don't turn the water back on until the pipe has been repaired.

  • If the pipe hasn't burst, thaw it out with an electric heating pad, hair dryer, portable space heater, or towel soaked with hot water. Apply heat by slowly moving the heat source toward the coldest spot on the pipe. Never concentrate heat in one spot because cracking ice can shatter a pipe. Turn the faucet on and let it run until the pipe is thawed and water pressure returns to normal.

  • Don't use a blowtorch or other open-flame device. They are fire risks and carbon monoxide exposure risks.

Protect Your Pets

  • Provide proper shelter for your pet whether they live indoors or outdoors. Indoor pets should have their bed or crate placed in a safe and warm place that is away from drafts.

  • Outdoor pets should have a well insulated house that is wind and waterproof resistant and elevated off the ground so wind and moisture can't seep inside. Install a door flap to protect against drafts and gusts of wind. Extra blankets and straw will also help to increase your pet's warmth.

  • Room and floor heaters should be kept away from your pet as they are an obvious fire hazard and can cause serious injuries as well.

Food & Water

  • Make sure to provide fresh, clean water for your pet every day. Outdoor pets need to consume 25 to 50 percent more calories than usual because the cold weather tends to deplete their energy. Make sure to talk to your veterinarian about what is right for your pet.

Cats & Cars

  • Keep your cats indoors during the winter. Not only can outdoor cats freeze, they sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars to stay warm. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. Give an outdoor cat a chance to escape by banging loudly on the car hood before starting your car.

  • A car can act as refrigerator in the winter. Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during the winter months as they will freeze to death.


  • If you have a short-haired breed of dog, consider getting him / her a sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly to keep them warm.

  • Never shave your dog down to the skin in the winter months as a longer coat will provide more warmth.


  • Dogs and cats are attracted to the sweet smell and taste of antifreeze which contains ethylene glycol. A tiny lick can kill your dog or cat so make sure to check your car for leaks on your driveway or gutter.

  • Keep containers tightly closed and clean up spills immediately.

  • Check your local retailer for "pet safe" antifreeze.


  • Rat and mouse poisons are commonly used during the winter months. Place them out of reach as they can cause fatal bleeding or kidney failure in your pet.

Protect your Plants

  • Bring potted plants inside or store in garage near interior wall to provide extra warmth and protection from wind.

  • For cold-sensitive outdoor plants, put down extra mulch and consider covering with a cloth fabric of some kind to shield the plants from wind and frost. Don't use plastic because when the sun comes out, it could "bake" your plants.

  • Water plants before freeze hits to keep them from going into stress.

Protect your Car

  • Take time to have your battery's charge and cold cranking amps checked. Check your batteries for corrosion.

  • Do Not use wiper blades to clear ice or frost as this damages the blades. Use a scraper or can de-icer. Make sure all windows are clear for best visibility.

  • Do Not pour hot or warm water on your windshield to remove ice. It will crack!

  • Do Not warm up your car in a closed garage, carbon monoxide poisoning is possible.

Common Household Items for Quick Fixes

  • To wrap plants, experts say look no further than the linen closet, but stick with cloth, a plastic tarp cause problems. You can also use non-LED Christmas lights. As long as they are not LED lights, they generate heat, just enough for most plants.

  • Another quick fix, water the plants well -- that will help insulate the roots.


*This information was obtained from various public sources.

US Dept of Agriculture.jpg

USDA Ready to Assist Farmers, Ranchers and Communities Affected by Winter Storms


WASHINGTON, Feb. 17, 2021 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds rural communities, farmers and ranchers, families and small businesses affected by the recent winter storms that USDA has programs that provide assistance. USDA staff in the regional, state and county offices are prepared with a variety of program flexibilities and other assistance to residents, agricultural producers and impacted communities.


"USDA is committed to getting help to producers and rural Americans impacted by the severe weather in many parts of the country. As severe weather and natural disasters continue to threaten the livelihoods of thousands of our farming families, we want you and your communities to know that USDA stands with you,” said Kevin Shea, acting Secretary of Agriculture. “Visit farmers.gov or your local USDA Service Center to inquire about assistance."


Risk management and disaster assistance for agricultural operations:


USDA offers several risk management and disaster assistance options to help producers recover after they are impacted by severe weather, including those impacted by winter storms and extreme cold.


Even before disasters strike, USDA provides tools for producers to manage their risk through the Federal Crop Insurance Program, a public-private partnership between USDA’s Risk Management Agency and private companies and agents. For crops that do not have crop insurance available, the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) is available through the local Farm Service Agency. This risk protection includes crop production loss and tree loss for certain crop insurance products. It is recommended that producers reach out to their crop insurance agent or local FSA office for more information.


Producers that signed up for Federal Crop Insurance or NAP who suffer losses are asked to report crop damage to their crop insurance agent or local FSA office, respectively, within 72 hours of damage discovery and follow up in writing within 15 days.


Livestock and perennial crop producers often have more limited risk management options available, so there are several disaster programs for them. Key programs include:


  • The Livestock Indemnity Program and the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybee and Farm-raised Fish Program reimburses producers for a portion of the value of livestock, poultry and other animals that were killed or severely injured by a natural disaster or loss of feed.

  • The Tree Assistance Program provides cost share assistance to rehabilitate or replant and clean-up damage to orchards and vineyards that kill or damage the tree, vines or shrubs. NAP or Federal Crop Insurance often only covers the crop and not the plant.


USDA reminds producers that it’s critical to keep accurate records to document the losses and illnesses following this devastating cold weather event. Livestock producers are advised to document beginning livestock numbers by taking photos or videos of any losses.


Other common documentation options include:


  • Purchase records

  • Production records

  • Vaccination records

  • Bank or other loan documents

  • Third-party certification


Additionally, USDA can provide financial resources through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program to help with immediate needs and long-term support to help recover from natural disasters and conserve water resources. Assistance may also be available for emergency animal mortality disposal from natural disasters and other causes.


The Farm Service Agency (FSA) also has a variety of loans available including emergency loans that are triggered by disaster declarations and operating loans that can assist producers with credit needs.


Ensure food safety:


USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is helping ensure affected households and communities are taking the proper steps to reduce the risk of foodborne illness during severe weather and power outages. Food safety tips for before, during and after a weather emergency are available on the FSIS website.


During a power outage, a refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened, and a full freezer will hold a safe temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full and the door remains closed). During a snowstorm, do not place perishable food out in the snow. Outside temperatures can vary and food can be exposed to unsanitary conditions and animals.


Care for livestock and pets:


USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is helping to meet the emergency needs of pets and their owners, as inspectors coordinate closely with zoos, breeders and other licensed facilities to ensure animals in their care remain safe.


On the livestock front, APHIS veterinarians are ready to work alongside partners to conduct on-site assessments to document the needs of affected producers. More information about protecting livestock is available on APHIS’ Protecting Livestock During a Disaster page. Information about protecting household pets and service animals can be found on APHIS’ Animal Care Emergency Programs webpage.


APHIS has additional staff on stand-by to provide support should the situation escalate in severity or the number of affected livestock operations increase. Should it be necessary, APHIS has the expertise to assist with carcass removal and disposal as well.


APHIS’ Animal Care (AC) program is also prepared to respond. The Animal Care Program oversees the welfare of certain animals that are exhibited to the public, bred for commercial sale and used in medical research. In addition to providing technical assistance to regulated facilities, AC inspectors may be checking affected facilities to assess damage and ensure the welfare of their animals.


For more information about APHIS’ response efforts and how to protect pets and service animals in disasters, follow APHIS on Twitter at @USDA_APHIS.


Helping individuals recover:


USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) works with state, local and nongovernmental organizations to provide emergency nutrition assistance, including food packages and infant formula, to households, shelters and mass feeding sites serving people in need. FNS also provides emergency flexibilities in administering nutrition assistance programs at the request of states and works with local authorities to provide benefits. Emergency nutrition assistance and flexibilities requested by states and approved by FNS are posted to the FNS Disaster Assistance website.


Visit USDA's disaster resources website to learn more about USDA disaster preparedness and response. For more information on USDA disaster assistance programs, contact your local USDA Service Center.

Department of Agriculture | 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, DC 20250