Guidance for Health and Safety during Severe Winter Weather

As severe winter weather moves into our area, the Alexandria Health Department urges everyone to prepare for extreme weather and snow, and offers tips to stay safe during cleanup activities following the storm.

Page archived as of February 14, 2016

Prepare Your Home for Winter Weather

  • Listen to weather forecasts
  • Check your emergency supplies 
  • Check the batteries in your smoke detectors and battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors
  • Bring your pets indoors during the storm

Prepare Your Car for Winter Weather

  • Avoid dangerous winter travel problems by listening to weather and road reports 
  • Check the antifreeze level
  • Keep the gas tank near full to help avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines 

Wear Protective Gear

  • Wear cold weather appropriate clothing like gloves, heavy coat and snow boots
  • Wear earplugs or protective headphones to reduce risk from equipment noise. Equipment noise from chain saws, backhoes and snow blowers may cause ringing in the ears and subsequent hearing damage
  • Wear eye goggles while removing or cleaning up debris to prevent eye injuries

Prevent Muscle and Bone Injury

  • Use teams of two or more to move bulky objects
  • Avoid lifting any material that weighs more than 50 pounds
  • Use proper automated-assist lifting devices
  • Use caution or seek professional assistance when removing fallen trees, cleaning up debris or using equipment, such as chain saws 

Avoid Exertion

Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart. If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s advice about shoveling snow or performing other hard work in the cold. Otherwise, if you have to do heavy outdoor chores, dress warmly and work slowly. Remember, your body is already working hard just to stay warm, so don’t overdo it!

Reduce Risk of Cold Temperature Injuries

While cleaning up after the snowstorm, you are at risk for developing health problems from working in cold environments. To minimize the risk of cold temperature injuries: 

  • Wear water-resistant boots
  • Ensure that clothing and boots have adequate insulation
  • Dress in layers to help keep body heat in
  • Take frequent breaks out of the snow/water
  • Change into dry clothing when possible

Avoid Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that is poisonous to breathe. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build up when the exhaust from generators is not properly vented. During snow cleanup, operate all gasoline-powered devices such as generators outdoors and never bring them indoors. This will help to ensure your safety from carbon monoxide poisoning. 

If you suspect that you are experiencing CO poisoning:

  • Get fresh air immediately.
  • Leave the home immediately and seek medical attention.
  • The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion

Beware of Electrical Hazards

  • If snow/water is present anywhere near electrical circuits and electrical equipment, turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel. Do not turn the power back on until electrical equipment has been inspected by a qualified electrician.
  • Never touch electrical equipment if the ground is wet, unless you are certain that the power is off
  • Never touch a downed power line
  • When using gasoline and diesel generators to supply power to a building, switch the main breaker or fuse on the service panel to the off position prior to starting the generator
  • If clearing or other work must be performed near a downed power line, contact the utility company to discuss de-energizing and grounding or shielding of power lines
  • Extreme caution is necessary when moving ladders and other equipment near overhead power lines to avoid inadvertent contact 

Food Safety Precautions

  • Perishable foods including meats, dairy products and eggs that have not been refrigerated for more than two hours should be discarded because they are no longer safe to consume. Just remember: “When in doubt, throw it out!”
  • Foods that have been contaminated by flooding should also be discarded
  • Be particularly careful to thoroughly disinfect surfaces that may come in contact with food, such as counter tops, pantry shelves, pots and pans, dishes, inside refrigerators, etc. 

Interested in more information?