Take steps to be safe during winter storms and extreme cold.
- Stay indoors during the storm.
- Conserve fuel by keeping your residence cooler than normal. Temporarily close off heat to some rooms.
- Dress for the weather:
- Wear a hat, hood, or scarf, as most heat is lost through the head.
- Wear layers, as they provide better insulation and warmth.
- Keep fingertips, earlobes, and noses covered if you go outside.
- Keep clothing dry; if a layer becomes wet, remove it.
- Recognize the signs and symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia:
- Hypothermia: symptoms include slurred speech, sluggishness, confusion, dizziness, shallow breathing, unusual behavior, and slow, irregular heartbeat.
- Frostbite: symptoms include gray, white or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, and waxy feeling skin.
How to Help Others
- Infants, seniors, and people with paralysis or neuropathy are at increased risk of hypothermia and frostbite. Check on friends, relatives, and neighbors who may need assistance to ensure they are adequately protected from the cold.
- Community members that identify someone on the street they believe needs assistance should call the non-emergency dispatch number (719) 444-7000. Call 9-1-1 for a life threatening emergency. The Colorado Springs Police Department can dispatch someone from its Homeless Outreach Team to the location to assess the individual's condition and take appropriate action.
- If you suspect a person is suffering from frostbite or hypothermia, bring him or her someplace warm and seek medical help immediately or call 911.
- If medical help is unavailable, re-warm the person, starting at the core of their body. Warming arms and legs first can increase circulation of cold blood to the heart, which can lead to heart failure. Use a blanket, or if necessary, your own body heat to warm the person.
- Do not give a person suffering frostbite or hypothermia alcohol or caffeine, both of which can worsen the condition. Instead, give the patient a cup of warm broth.
- Be a good neighbor and shovel your sidewalk!
Safe Home Heating Tips
Improper use of portable heating equipment can lead to fire or dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Take precautions to ensure you are heating your home safely.
Fire Safety Tips
- Use only portable heating equipment that is approved for indoor use.
- Keep combustible materials, including furniture, drapes, and carpeting at least three feet away from the heat source. NEVER drape clothes over a space heater to dry.
- Always keep an eye on heating equipment. Never leave children alone in the room where a space heater is running. Turn it off when you are unable to closely monitor it.
- Be careful not to overload electrical circuits.
Make sure you have a working smoke detector in every room. Check and change batteries often.
Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips
- Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home and check it regularly to make sure the battery is working.
- Make sure your heating system is kept clean and properly vented; have worn or defective parts replaced.
- Have your fireplace, chimney, and flue cleaned every year to remove soot deposits, leaves, etc.
- Kerosene heaters are dangerous and illegal in the City of Colorado Springs.
- Don't heat your home with a gas stove or oven.
- Do not use any gas-powered appliance, such as a generator, indoors.
- Never use a charcoal grill or a hibachi indoors.
- Automobile exhaust contains carbon monoxide. Open your garage door before starting your car and do not leave the motor running in an enclosed area. Clear exhaust pipes before starting a car or truck after it snows.
- The most common symptom of carbon monoxide poisoning is headache. However, symptoms may also include dizziness, chest pain, nausea, and vomiting. In severe cases, people can become increasingly irritable, agitated and confused, eventually becoming lethargic and lapsing into unconsciousness.
- If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, call 911, and get the victim to fresh air immediately, and open windows.
For more information on safe home heating, watch our CityTalk segment about it here.
What to Do If You Lose Heat
If you lose heat, take measures to trap existing warm air, and safely stay warm until heat returns:
- Insulate your home as much as possible. Hang blankets over windows and doorways and stay in a well-insulated room while power is out.
- Dress warmly. Wear hats, scarves, gloves, and layered clothing.
- If you have a working fireplace, use it for heat and light, but be sure to keep the damper open for ventilation.
- Open your faucets to a steady drip so pipes do not freeze.
- Eat. Food provides your body with needed energy to produce its own heat and drinking helps your body avoid dehydration.
- If the cold persists and your heat is not restored, call family, neighbors, or friends to see if you can stay with them.
Stay Warm Outdoors
- Watch for signs of frostbite such as loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in fingers, toes, ear lobes, and the tip of the nose.
- Watch for signs of hypothermia including uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion.
- To assist a hypothermia victim
- Move the victim to a warm location.
- Remove wet clothing.
- Put the person in dry clothing and wrap his/her 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.
Snow Removal Safety Tips
- Stretch before you go out. If you go out to shovel snow, do a few stretching exercises to warm up your body. This may prevent injury.
- Cover your mouth. Protect your lungs from extremely cold air by covering your mouth when outdoors.
- Avoid overexertion. Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Unfamiliar exercise, such as shoveling snow or pushing a car, can bring on a heart attack or make other medical conditions worse. Take frequent rest breaks, and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
- Keep dry. Change wet clothes frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.
- Stay safe. Walk carefully on snowy or icy sidewalks. If using a snow blower, NEVER use your hands to unclog the machine.
- Maintain an awareness of utilities when shoveling snow. Do not cover fire hydrants with snow when clearing sidewalks and driveways. Do not shovel snow into manholes and catch basins.
- Offer to help individuals who require special assistance, including seniors and people with disabilities.
Whenever possible, avoid driving in a winter storm. If you must go out, it is safer to travel in the day. However, if you must drive or get caught in a storm, heed the following tips:
- Avoid traveling alone, but if you do so, let someone know your destination, route and when you expect to arrive.
- Dress warmly. Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in layers.
- Listen to the radio or call the state highway patrol for the latest road conditions.
- Use major streets or highways for travel whenever possible; these roadways will be cleared first.
- Drive slowly. Posted speed limits are for ideal weather conditions. Vehicles take longer to stop on snow and ice than on dry pavement.
- Four-wheel drive vehicles may make it easier to drive on snow-covered roads, but they do not stop quicker than other vehicles.
- If you skid, steer in the direction you want the car to go and straighten the wheel when the car moves in the desired direction.
- Know your vehicle's braking system. Vehicles with anti-lock brakes require a different braking technique than vehicles without antilock brakes in icy or snowy conditions.
- Try to keep your vehicle's gas tank as full as possible.
- Travel during daylight hours.
If you become trapped or stranded in a vehicle:
- Try to move the vehicle to the side of the road if possible.
- Turn on hazard lights and hang a distress flag from the radio antenna or window.
- Remain in your vehicle where rescuers are most likely to find you. Do not try to walk to safety unless help is visible within 100 yards. You could become disoriented in blowing snow.
- Run the engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm.
- Protect yourself from possible carbon monoxide poisoning by opening a downwind window slightly while your vehicle is running. Periodically clear snow from the exhaust pipe.
- Exercise to maintain body heat, but avoid overexertion.
- Huddle with passengers and use your coat, blanket, road maps, seat covers, and floor mats for warmth.
- Take turns sleeping. One person should be awake at all times to look for rescue crews.
- Drink fluids to avoid dehydration.
- Conserve car battery power by balancing the use of lights, heat, and radio with supply.
- Call attention by tying a brightly colored cloth to the antenna and raise the hood to alert rescuers. Turn on vehicle light at night.
- Keep one window slightly open to let in fresh air. Use a window that is opposite the direction the wind is blowing.
During a power outage
- Use a flashlight whenever possible rather than candles or kerosene lanterns, which are a fire hazard.
- Do not use your range or oven to heat your home as this can cause a fire or fatal gas leak.
- Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.
- Treat each signal as a four-way stop if traffic signals are not working
- Do not call 911 to ask about the power outage.
After a power outage
- In the event of a major storm, the status of your utilities may be monitored through the Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) web page at www.csu.org.
- Look for damage to an outside metal pipe or tube called a “mast,” that feeds electricity from overhead lines into the meter on your house.
- This mast is the responsibility of the homeowner and is typically located at the roofline or the side of a home, coming out of the meter.
- The mast should not be touched – customers can inspect the mast from a safe distance and call a licensed electrician for repairs if it is damaged.
- Once the mast is repaired by an electrician, CSU can restore power to the home.
For additional information on power outages and other utility disruptions, see the Colorado Springs Utilities website at www.csu.org.