What's new?

Preparing for Nemo: What to do when a severe winter storm hits

With the winter superstorm Nemo rapidly approaching the Northeast with expected impact in major hubs like Boston and New York City, here are some last minute tips on what to do when it strikes:

What to do when a severe winter storm hits

Response inside a building:

  • Stay inside the building.
  • Ensure there is proper ventilation for any alternative heat sources being used.
  • If there is no heat, close off unneeded rooms and stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors.
  • Have plenty to eat and drink. Food provides the body with energy to produce its own heat. Drinking plenty of fluids prevents dehydration.
  • Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing. Remove layers to avoid overheating, perspiration, and subsequent chill.

Response outside

  • Find shelter immediately.
  • Try to stay dry and cover all exposed parts of your body.
  • If you cannot find shelter, prepare a lean-to, wind-break or snow cave for protection from the wind. Build a fire for heat and place rocks around it to absorb and reflect heat.
  • Do not eat unmelted snow; it will lower your body temperature. Melt it first.

Response in a car

  • Stay inside the car. Disorientation occurs quickly in wind-driven snow and cold.
  • Run the motor about ten minutes each hour for heat. Make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked and the window is opened a little for fresh air.
  • Make yourself visible to rescuers by turning on the dome light at night when running the engine, tying a colored cloth (preferably red) to your antenna or door and raising the hood after the snow stops falling.
  • Exercise from time to time by vigorously moving arms, legs, fingers, and toes to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.

Winter Storm Links

The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction page provides current severe weather information from NOAA.

The National Climatic Data Center provides weather data from NOAA.

The Extreme Weather Sourcebook describes the economic and societal aspects of severe weather from the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

United Nations Office of Disaster Risk Management’s Prevention Web provides a global outlook on preparing for cold weather hazards in several languages.

American Red Cross’ Winter Storm Safety Checklist provides information on proper storm preparedness.

Federal Emergency Management System (FEMA) lists safety guidelines for before, during and after a winter weather emergency.   

To prepare your workplace

  • Winterize your workplace by clearing rain gutters to avoid clogging and flooding, cutting away tree branches that could fall on the building during a storm and applying insulation to pipes to prevent freezing.
  • Install a generator for emergency power and test it regularly.
  • Make sure your site has a designated shelter-in-place location and all associates are aware of where it is.

Prepare a winter storm kit with the following

  • Flashlights and extra batteries.
  • Battery-powered NOAA Weather Radios and portable radios to receive emergency information. These may be your only links to the outside.
  • Extra food and water. High-energy food, such as dried fruit or candy, and food requiring no cooking or refrigeration is best.
  • First-aid supplies.
  • Heating fuel. Fuel carriers may not reach you for days after a severe winter storm.
  • Emergency heating sources such as space heaters. Learn to use properly to prevent a fire.
  • Keep approved, maintained and regularly tested fire extinguishers present.

As part of your emergency response training, train associates so that they know what to do in the event of a severe winter storm.