With winter’s chilly weather comes the need to stay warm and safe. Learn tips to help you keep you and your family safe during the winter. You will also learn ideas for what to put in an emergency kit for your home and car.

Around Your Home

  • Check all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they work properly.
  • If you use a space heater, use it as safely as possible. Keep space heaters away from water. Never use it near a sink or in a bathroom. Keep the space heater at least 3 feet (0.9 meters) away from curtains, furniture or anything that could catch fire. Watch your children and pets when a space heater is in use. Turn off the space heater when you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • Make an emergency kit in case you lose power. Store it somewhere you can reach it easily.
  • Check on older family members and neighbors. Make sure they’re okay, especially during bad weather.

In the Car

  • Make sure your car is ready for winter. Have your car checked by a mechanic.
  • Put snow tires on your car.
  • Check your gas tank, antifreeze and windshield washer fluid often. Keep them as full as possible.
  • Make an emergency kit. Store it in the backseat so you can reach it if your trunk freezes.

Going Outside

  • Always wear layers. Dress yourself and your children in layers, including coats, hats, mittens and waterproof boots.
  • Be careful crossing the street. Snowbanks can be hard to see around or can block sidewalks.
  • Always cover ice with ice melt, sand, salt or cat litter on your driveway or walkways. This will help prevent you and your family from slipping or falling.
  • Check your driveway, walkways and street for black ice. Black ice happens more often when ice or snow melts during the day and freezes again at night.
  • Use snow blowers carefully. Make sure the snow blower is off before putting in gas or unblocking a jam. Keep your hands away from moving parts.

Playing Outside with Your Children

  • Never walk or play on frozen ponds, lakes or rivers. Children, adults and pets can fall through the ice and get seriously hurt.
  • Watch your children closely during any winter activities. This includes sledding, skiing, snowboarding or snowmobiling.
  • Wear protection during winter activities. Wear a helmet and goggles.
  • Choose a safe sledding path. If your child is sledding, make sure the end of the path doesn’t lead to a street with cars, trees, buildings or other structures.
  • If your child uses a snowmobile, make sure he/she is old enough and knows how to use it properly. If your child is under 16, he/she shouldn’t drive a snowmobile. If your child is under 6, he/she shouldn’t ride a snowmobile with someone else driving.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia (low body temperature). Hypothermia is caused by being in a cold environment for long periods of time, like being outside in cold weather or falling into a frozen pond, lake or river. Go inside and warm up if you notice you or your child is shivering, tired, has pale or cold skin or has blue lips. Call the doctor or go to the hospital if you notice you or your child can’t stop shivering even after warming up, feels dizzy or breathes slower than usual.

Preparing for an Emergency

Below are ideas for what to include in a kit to keep at home and a kit for your car for emergencies.

Emergency Kit Supples for Your Home

Here is a list of supplies you should put in your emergency kit for your home:

  • Flashlights and battery-powered lamps with extra working batteries
  • Candles and matches
  • Battery-powered or crank radio
  • First aid kit. Make sure the supplies in the first aid kit aren’t expired. If they are expired, buy a new first aid kit.
  • Food that doesn’t spoil easily. This includes bread, packaged snacks, dried fruit, canned foods and baby food (if you have a baby).
  • Bottled water
  • Can opener you can use without electricity
  • Extra prescription medications
  • Extra pet food (if you have pets)
  • Blankets or sleeping bags
  • Warm clothes, like coats, socks, mittens and hats
  • Bag of ice melt, sand, salt or cat litter to put on ice in your driveway or walkways
  • Shovel and ice scraper
  • List of important phone numbers to call in case of an emergency. This can include family members, your local police and local fire department.

Emergency Kit for Your Car

It’s best to travel as little as possible during a storm, but sometimes you might need to travel. Here is a list of supplies you should put in your emergency kit for your car in case you need to travel or get stuck in a storm:

  • Cell phone charger and extra working batteries
  • Flashlights with extra working batteries
  • First aid kit. Make sure the supplies in the first aid kit aren’t expired. If they are expired, buy a new first aid kit.
  • Tool kit
  • Shovel and ice scraper
  • Battery-powered or crank radio
  • Brightly-colored flags or help signs
  • Food that doesn’t spoil easily. This includes bread, packaged snacks, dried fruit, canned foods and baby food (if you have a baby).
  • Bottled water
  • Paper towels
  • Blankets or sleeping bags
  • Warm clothes, like coats, socks, mittens and hats
  • Paper road map
  • Compass
  • Tire chains or rope
  • Booster cables
  • Bag of ice melt, sand, salt or cat litter to put on ice in your driveway, walkways or the road
  • List of important phone numbers to call in case of an emergency. This can include family members, your local police and local fire department.

Rev. 4/2020. MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions. Reviewed for plain language by the Blum Center and MGHfC Family Advisory Council.