OSHA Winter Storm Preparedness Tips & Guidelines


Introduction Preparedness Response/Recovery Additional Resources

It is important to monitor weather sources to be informed when a winter storm is possible and to be familiar with the terms used to describe the likelihood, immediacy, and conditions of a potential storm.  The box below provides information on the types of winter storm watches and warnings.

Winter storm watch: Be alert, a storm is likely.

Winter weather advisory: Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous, especially to motorists.

Frost/freeze warning: Below freezing temperatures are expected and may cause damage to plants, crops, or fruit trees.

Winter storm warning: Take action, the storm is in or entering the area.

Blizzard warning: Snow and strong winds combined will produce blinding snow, near zero visibility, deep drifts, and life-threatening wind chill–seek refuge immediately.

Wind chill: Wind chill is an estimation of how cold it feels outside when the effects of temperature and wind speed are combined.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides multiple ways to stay informed about winter storms.

NOAA Weather Radio is a network of radio stations that continuously broadcast weather information from the nearest National Weather Service office. The NOAAWatch website also provides information on the weather outlook.

If you are notified of a winter storm watch, advisory or warning, follow instructions from your local authorities.

Preparing your vehicle for the winter season

If you must drive during a winter storm, it is important to prepare your vehicle to reduce the chances of a weather-related incident and to prepare an emergency kit.

During the winter season, it is advisable to maintain at least a half tank of gas in the vehicle.  Inspect the vehicle to ensure the following systems are operating properly:

  • Brakes: Brakes should provide even and balanced braking. Also check that brake fluid is at the proper level.
  • Cooling System: Ensure a proper mixture of 50/50 antifreeze and water in the cooling system at the proper level.
  • Electrical System: Check the ignition system and make sure that the battery is fully charged and that the connections are clean. Check that the alternator belt is in good condition with proper tension.
  • Engine: Inspect all engine systems.
  • Exhaust System: Check exhaust for leaks and that all clamps and hangers are snug.
  • Tires: Check for proper tread depth and no signs of damage or uneven wear. Check for proper tire inflation.
  • Oil: Check that oil is at proper level.
  • Visibility Systems: Inspect all exterior lights, defrosters (windshield and rear window), and wipers. Install winter windshield wipers.

Also carry an emergency kit in the vehicle with the following items:

  • Blankets/sleeping bags
  • Cellular telephone or two-way radio
  • Windshield scraper
  • Snow brush
  • Flashlight with fresh/extra batteries
  • Extra winter clothes
  • Shovel
  • Tow chain
  • Matches
  • Traction aids (bag of sand or cat litter)
  • Emergency flares
  • Jumper cables
  • Snacks
  • Water
  • Road maps

For more information, see the National Safety Council Winter Information for you and your car!


Courtesy of OSHA®

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