Extreme Cold Weather
When temperatures drop significantly below normal, staying warm and safe can be a challenge. Learn how to protect yourself and prepare for winter storms.
Get notified of Declared Snow Emergencies, or check the radio, television, or City website to get updates about weather conditions.
- Stay inside. When possible, stay indoors.
- Dress in layers. If you have to go outside, dress in several loose-fitting layers. Wear a hat, mittens, and snow boots. Use a scarf to cover your mouth and face.
- Check on your friends, family, and neighbors. Cold is more likely to harm the elderly, babies, people who spend a lot of time outside (the homeless, hunters), and people who drink alcohol or use drugs.
- Limit outdoor time for pets. Extreme cold is dangerous for animals too.
- Know the signs of hypothermia. Warning signs include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, and slurred speech. Symptoms may look like intoxication. Call 911 if you see someone experiencing these symptoms. Learn about preventing and treating hypothermia.
- Know the signs of frostbite. Warning signs include white or grayish-yellow skin, skin that feels firm or waxy, or numbness. Call 911 if you see someone experiencing these symptoms. Learn about preventing and treating frostbite.
Resources for Homeless Residents
On designated Cold Weather Nights, homeless individuals are welcome at Madison homeless shelters regardless of usual capacity and shelter night limits.
View Cold Weather Night announcements, or find a shelter.
Prepare Your Car
- Fuel your car. Keep your gas tank at least half-full.
- Stock a winter kit for your car. Your car kit should include:
- Snacks and water
- Cell phone car charger
- First aid kit
- A shovel
- Jumper cables
- Sand or cat litter (to provide traction)
Prepare Your Home
- Stock a home emergency kit. Your home kit should include:
- Food and water
- Cell phone and charger
- Flashlight and batteries
- First aid kit
- Important medications
- A weather radio
- A change of clothes
- Keep your home sealed. Make sure all windows are fully closed, and close your curtains, especially at night. If you have a fireplace, make sure you close the flue if you are not using it.
- Make sure you have working carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors. You can buy detectors at most hardware stores for $20-50.
- Run generators at least 20 feet from the home. Never run a generator in the home or garage, or right next to windows or doors.
Furnace & Heating
- Be safe when using electric space heaters. Do not use space heaters in bathrooms or other areas near water. Do not overload outlets or extension cords, and do not run extension cords under rugs or across walking areas.
- Never run a gasoline or propane heater or a grill inside your home or garage. Any heating system that burns fuel produces carbon monoxide. Use a battery-powered detector where you have fuel-burning devices but no electric outlets, such as in tents, cabins, and RVs.
- Do not use your oven for space heating.
- Make sure your furnace is well maintained. Check and replace your furnace filter if it is dirty. Make sure the heat ducts and cold air returns are clear to aid air movement. If you have plastic furnace vents on the side of the house, keep them clear of snow and ice.
Water & Plumbing
- Keep your home heated to at least 65°F.
- Keep kitchen sink and similar cabinet doors open.
- Run a small stream of water if your water temperature is near 35°F at a faucet.
- Know the location of your water shut off valve.
- Do not use open flame (torches) to thaw frozen pipes.
- If a pipe bursts and you cannot shut your water off, contact Water Utility. After-hours emergency number: (608) 266‑4665.
- Winter Weather Health & Safety, Wisconsin Department of Health Services
- Stay Safe During Extreme Cold, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention