Cold Weather Plan

Cold Weather Planning
for People, Pets, Plants, and Homes


Tips For People

  1. Keep your gas tank at least half full. Road closures can cause unexpected traffic diversions and gasoline shortages can happen quickly.
  2. Be aware of weather reports.
    • Sign up for weather alerts through your county, state, and the National WeatherService.
    • Weather warnings are also provided through:; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio; and the Emergency Alert System.
    • Before driving, check road conditions through the National Weather Service Forecast.
  3. If you are driving and get stuck, it may be wise to stay in your vehicle and call for help. Reduced visibility, frostbite and hypothermia can happen quickly during winter storms and freezes.
  4. Prepare a roadside emergency kit. Your kit can include: self-powered jumper cables, blankets, a sleeping bag, non-perishable food, water, flashlights, batteries, cell phone chargers, a first aid kit, extra coat, gloves, socks, emergency contact numbers, pet ID cards, and tools (pliers, wrench, screwdrivers; and tire changing supplies).
  5. Winter clothes should include non-cotton base layers, top layers, coats, socks, gloves, and winter shoes (a size larger to accommodate winter socks).
  6. In case your power goes out, have extra light sources available. Resist the temptation to use your cell phone for light; you may need to preserve your battery charge. Flashlights, flameless candles, candles in protective containers, and solar powered lanterns are good options.
  7. Stock-up on non-perishable, balanced food items. If your power goes out, you can store cooked food inside sealed food containers in snow.
  8. Eat a balanced diet and stay hydrated. Food and water help regulate your body temperature, support your immune system, and supply energy.
  9. Prepare for a city order to boil municipal water. If you do not have electricity or a gas-powered stove to boil water, you may wish to invest in a portable camping stove kit or a water filter and iodine tablets to purify your water.
  10. Have collection containers for storing snow. For long-term use, don’t use your bathtub (unless you use a liner in your tub); since snow melts slowly, it can seep down the drain.
  11. Be careful not to eat snow in large quantities. Eating melting ice can cause an upset stomach. Also, snow might contain bacteria or contaminants that can cause illness.
  12. Please check-in with your neighbors, especially the elderly, to make sure they have food, water, and supplies that meet their special needs.


Tips For Pets

  1. Carry pet ID cards in your wallet.  This card should contain your pet’s name, type of animal, special care instructions, location, and contact information for someone who can get access to your pet.  If emergency personnel are called, they will recognize that an animal is relying on your return and may take measures to locate and provide care for your pet.  
  2. Post pet identification stickers on entrances to your home.  Signage about pets can warm EMS, police, or inspectors that pets are inside.  You also can have emergency contact stickers on the inside of your house to provide information to emergency workers about neighbors familiar with your pets, emergency caregivers, pet sitters, and your vet.
  3. Stock-up on extra food, cat litter, medications, and other necessary pet supplies.
  4. Have a shelter and evacuation plan in place for your family that includes your pets.  
  5. Have an emergency preparedness kit ready.  Your kit should include but not be limited to emergency contact numbers, pet ID cards with special needs listed, kennels (with room for small water bowls and litter boxes), non-perishable food, a can-opener, water, medications, wipes, a flashlight, batteries, a whistle, blankets, and cell phone chargers.
  6. If using a space heater, place space heaters where pets cannot access them.  Use heaters that automatically shut off if overheating or tipping-over occurs. 
  7. Keep antifreeze away from animals and clean up antifreeze spills.  Antifreeze can leak from cars into your garage or into water puddles outside.  Antifreeze is poisonous.  If an animal ingests antifreeze it can be fatal; immediately contact an emergency animal clinic.
  8. If using ice melt products near pets, don’t choose road salts or products with sodium and chloride.  These ingredients can irritate pet paws and if ingested, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, or death.  Wipe your dog’s paws after walking in case they are tracking ice melt products. 
  9. For pets who are reluctant to go outside to eliminate:
    • have a shovel ready to carve a path in the snow, 
    • put puppy pee pads near the door, and 
    • have extra bedding in case your pet eliminates in their bed.
  10. Pets tolerate cold weather differently depending upon their breed, health, and acclimation.  If your pets are outside longer than a typical walk or elimination, they will need warm shelter they are used to accessing.  Provide an insulated shelter that is raised off the ground by a few inches and has a door flap and dry bedding.  Have water available in plastic bowls.  Your veterinarian can advise you about your pet’s specific needs. 
  11. For feral cats, Styrofoam coolers can be used as shelters.  Cut two entrances 6 inch in diameter, diagonally from each other at the long sides.  Secure the lid down. The shelters should be weighed down.  Don’t use bedding made of cotton fibers because it can freeze when wet.  
  12. Cats might seek warmth inside the engine compartment of vehicles.  Before starting your car engine, look under your car and knock on your hood.  
  13. Put out fresh water for the wildlife you care for.  Double layering bowls will delay water from freezing.  You may choose to purchase a solar-powered, heated bowl.
  14. Wildlife you care for will appreciate extra food since they may not be able to forage in the snow. 
  15. Wash dogs before winter.  If your power goes out, you may want to tuck them into bed with you to generate warmth.

Tips For Plants

  1. Plan for plants that must come inside.  If the temperature goes down to 32 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended period, some outdoor plants will die.  If the temperature drops to 28 degrees for an extended period, most plants will die.
  2. Designate indoor plant areas.  
    • Note what plants are harmful to pets and keep them in a separate room. 
    • Don’t block doorways or walkways so you can tend to your plants and personal business.  
    • Do not put plants near heaters or fireplaces.
    • Place plants a few inches from windows if possible.  
  3. For plants you can’t get near windows, you may want to use an LED grow light.  
  4. Use plastic pot liners under your plants to keep your floors free from dirt, moisture, and water.  Although most house plants go into winter hibernation and do not need as much water, some plants will require occasional watering. 
  5. Consider the following if you plan to move plants into your garage.
    • Don’t block your tools.
    • Leave a walkway opened.
    • Block outdoor drafts by securing moving blankets or towels at the door’s edg.
    • Place plants on a insulating surface such as cardboard or moving blankets to prevent cold cement floors from chilling your plants.
    • Turn the light on during the day if you don’t have garage windows.    
  6. For the plants you can’t bring inside, wrap them with a winter plant fabric or thick plastic covering.  Have plenty of heavy blocks to secure the covering from being lifted by winds.
  7. Be careful if using salt and ice-melt products.  When sodium and chloride dissolve, they can seep into the root systems of plants and trees and destroy them.

Tips For Homes

  1. Water expands when it freezes, which can cause pipes to crack.  To prevent pipes from cracking, take the following steps. 
    • Disconnect outside hoses and drip water from the hose faucets.  
    • Check the pipes periodically.  If the dripping stopped, hold a hairdryer to the faucet until the water drips again.  Then open the faucet more to increase the water flow.  
    • Wrap insulating foam or other insulating materials around all of your outdoor pipes including the outdoor spigots.  
    • Open indoor cabinet doors under your sink open to heat the pipes.
  2. If your pipes burst, you will need to turn your water supply off as soon as possible.
    • Before winter arrives, find your home water shut-off valve and practice turning your water supply off and on.  
    • If your home water shutoff valve cannot be turned off, you will need to close the city’s shutoff valve (called the curb valve).  The curb valve is usually located in a straight line from your home valve toward the street at the boundary line of your property.  You may need a special tool to close the curb valve.  Call your water company’s emergency contact line to notify them. 
    • If you have a leak in your toiletsinkor tub, shut-off the water source as close to the leak as possible.
  3. If your water supply is turned off by your municipality, below is a list of steps you can take when the water is turned off and after your water service is restored.  Please follow the instructions in order.  This is general advice; there are exceptions for solar water systems, geothermal systems, you may need to turn off recirculating systems, or other steps unique to your home.  Please consult your plumber for more information. 
    • First steps:
      • Turn off electricity or gas to your water heaters. 
      • Open your interior faucets. 
      • Shut off water at home shutoff valve (or curb valve) if you can do this safely. 
      • Drain your tankless water heater (TANKLESS ONLY).
    • Once your water service from the city is restored:
      • Close your interior faucets. Open an exterior water faucet.
      • Slowly turn on your water at the home shutoff valve or at the curb valve.
      • Let water run from your exterior faucet for a few minutes.
      • Slowly open interior hot and cold faucets until all the air runs out of the lines.
      • Once your water heater is full of water, and you have run all the air out of the hot water lines, turn on the power to your water heater. Light the pilot light if necessary. 
      • Check for leaks around your home. If you find one, turn the water back off at the meter or property owner’s shutoff valve as soon as possible to prevent flooding. 
      • To confirm that you have no leaks: make sure all your interior and exterior faucets are closed. Go look at the curb valve and look at the meter. If the red dial/black triangle (depending on what your meter looks like) is moving or spinning, you may have a leak. If it is not moving, you should be fine.
  4. In case of power outages, you may want to have a back-up power source for your phone, computer, medical devises, refrigerator, etc.  Goal Zero and EcoFlow make portable power stations and solar chargers.
  5. If you lose power, your vehicle might become a temporary charging station. You do not need to run the engine to charge your phone.
  6. Carbon monoxide inhalation can kill people and animals.  Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, odorless, invisible gas in the fumes of gasoline, wood, and coal.  Carbon monoxide can rapidly collect in enclosed areas from vehicles, small gasoline engines, stoves, gas ranges, grills, furnaces, water heaters, clothes dryers, and lanterns.
    • Do:
      • If you suspect high levels of carbon monoxide, immediately move everyone to fresh air and call for emergency assistance.  Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms could include: headache, short or rapid breathing, lethargy, dizziness, confusion, nausea, chest discomfort, or general sickness.
      • Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home near bedrooms and garages 
      • Buy tested and certified fuel-burning appliances and have them professionally installed and vent them to the outside. 
      • Before turning on your heater for the winter, have your heating system, flues, and chimneys professionally inspected and cleaned. 
      • Open the flue when you use a fireplace. 
      • If your vehicle idles outdoors, keep the windows slightly open. 
    • Do NOT:
      • Do not start your car inside your garage.
      • Do not leave your car running inside a garage.
      • Do not operate engines, generators, grills, hibachis, or outdoor equipment inside your home, even with windows open.
      • Do not heat your home by using an oven, gas stovetop or dryer.
  7. To prevent overheating or fire from space heaters, take the following precautions.
    • Make sure the space heater has a certification label from a respected independent testing organization, such as Underwriters Laboratories, Intertek or CSA Group. 
    • Plug space heaters directly into wall outlets.  Don’t run a space heater cord under a rug or furniture; don’t use extension cords; and don’t plug into power strips.  
    • Make sure you are in the same room as the space heater to keep an eye on it while it is on.To prevent tracking mud or snow inside, lay towels, mats, or cardboard at entrances.
  8. To generate and conserve heat, take the following steps.
    • Gather people in one main room. 
    • Close off the rooms you are not using and place towels at the bottom of the doors.
    • Open curtains in the east and south windows during the day and close them at night.
    • Weatherstrip doors and windows.
    • Add insulation to water heaters and hot water pipes.
  9. To prevent tracking mud or snow inside, lay towels, mats, or cardboard at entrances.