Emergency Preparedness

Winter Preparedness

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Getting to and from campus during severe winter conditions can be challenging. The safest choice is to avoid traveling until the threat has passed. If you don’t have that option, or if you simply choose to travel despite the winter weather, listen to forecasts, road reports, and storm warnings. Allow extra time for your trip. A few links to weather-related sites are provided below.

Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a winter storm hazard:

  • Freezing Rain—Rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees, and power lines.
  • Sleet—Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes moisture on roads to freeze and become slippery.
  • Winter Storm Watch—A winter storm is possible in your area. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for more information.
  • Winter Storm Warning—A winter storm is occurring or will soon occur in your area.
  • Blizzard Warning—Sustained winds or frequent gusts to 35 miles per hour or greater and considerable amounts of falling or blowing snow (reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile) are expected to prevail for a period of three hours or longer.
  • Frost/Freeze Warning—Below freezing temperatures are expected

Be prepared

Check battery-powered equipment (radio, lights, and cooking equipment), food stock (items that do not require cooking or refrigeration), first aid kit, medications, and other supplies. Be cautious of fire. Overheated stoves, heater, furnaces, and fireplaces can cause fires.

Dress for the season

Layers of protective clothes are more effective and efficient than single layers of thick clothing. Mittens are warmer than gloves. Hoods should cover mouth to protect lungs from extremely cold air.

If you are outdoors

Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow. Overexertion can bring on a heart attack—a major cause of death in the winter. If you must shovel snow, stretch before going outside.

Cover your mouth. Protect your lungs from extremely cold air by covering your mouth when outdoors. Try not to speak unless absolutely necessary.

Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.

Watch for signs of frostbite. These include loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, and the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately.

Watch for signs of hypothermia. These include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion. If symptoms of hypothermia are detected:

  • get the victim to a warm location
  • remove wet clothing
  • put the person in dry clothing and wrap their entire body in a blanket
  • warm the center of the body first
  • give warm, non-alcoholic or non-caffeinated beverages if the victim is conscious
  • get medical help as soon as possible.

If you are driving

Travel in the day, don’t travel alone, and keep others informed of your schedule. Stay on main roads; avoid back road shortcuts.

Warning lights (hazard flashers) should only be used if your vehicle is disabled or if you are driving in "unfavorable atmospheric conditions" in order to enhance the visibility of your vehicle. (Ohio Revised Code 4513.17)

If trapped by a blizzard while traveling

Pull off the highway. Turn on hazard lights and hang a red flag (or whatever is available) from the radio antenna or window.

Remain in your vehicle where rescuers are most likely to find you. Do not set out on foot unless you can see a building close by where you know you can take shelter. Be careful; distances are distorted by blowing snow. A building may seem close, but be too far to walk to in deep snow.

Run the engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm. When the engine is running, open a downwind window slightly for ventilation and periodically clear snow from the exhaust pipe. This will protect you from possible carbon monoxide poisoning.

Exercise to maintain body heat, but avoid overexertion. In extreme cold, use road maps, seat covers, and floor mats for insulation. Huddle with passengers and use your coat for a blanket.

Take turns sleeping. One person should be awake at all times to look for rescue crews.

Drink fluids to avoid dehydration.

Be careful not to waste battery power. Balance electrical energy needs—the use of lights, heat, and radio—with available battery supply.

Turn on the inside light at night so work crews or rescuers can see you.

Leave the car and proceed on foot—if necessary—once the blizzard passes.