Winter Weather Safety – Resources for Braving the Storm of 2014

NOAA Frostbite Poster

Central and eastern sections of the U.S. have experienced snowfall and in some areas record cold over the last day or so. In a few locations, the temperatures have been so low that it has become dangerous to even be outside. However many government workers who provide essential services like police, fire, and snow removal still must brave the cold. If your government is looking for resources to help educate your community about staying safe during extreme weather conditions or if you are looking for information to give your workers to help them stay safe, check out the following agency sites for some winter survival tips:


Extreme Cold: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety – this guide combines all of the key content of the CDC Winter Weather website into one downloadable, printable file. The CDC also has infographics, brochures, audiocasts, and other resources you can download and use in your public service messages. You can access this information through the sidebar at the link posted.



WINTER STORMS & EXTREME COLD site – here you can find many tips and advice for before, during, and after a winter storm

Winter Fire Safety – The US Fire Administration has some great resources to get the word out about fire safety during winter weather. They offer an infographic and social media messages and statistics you can post along with videos, audiocasts, and banners like the one at the bottom of this post.


NOAA: In addition to linking to NOAA's forecast page for your area, you can access and use the many resources NOAA offers on their site.


AAA: Tips for Safe Winter Driving Video – the video below was found on YouTube and can be embedded on websites or social media pages to offer citizens winter driving tips. You can also do a general search of YouTube to find other videos offering similar advice.


Additional Resources:

It's also useful to share the following types of information with the public. If you don't already have this information readily available, you can usually find it by searching on Google or Bing for the term and the name of your state or city and then offering the link for your local information. Also, some of this information may already be available from other departments at your city.


Warming Centers – It is common during winter storms to lose power. When that happens, you don't people wondering where they can go to keep warm. So it's useful to post this information ahead of time either on your website or on social media to remind people if they lose power, there are places they can go to avoid the cold. Here is the link to the one I found for our state by searching on Google for "warming centers" in Illinois: Keep Warm Illinois

Closings and Cancellations – extreme winter weather often results in closings and cancellations. If people can find out about these ahead of time, it might keep them from trying to head out in dangerous conditions. You can usually find a link to a site posting these by searching on Google or Bing and adding the name of your city or area in the search space. If your local radio or newspaper sites post a page with these, you can post a link to their page or you can always direct people to listen for closings and cancellations on a station if you know they announce them at regular times throughout the day. 

Pet Care Tips – The Humane Society offers tips and advice on how to take care of pets and wildlife during the winter. Providing a link to their site or to sites of similar organizations can help people keep their pets safe.

Frozen pipes or water meters – sometimes extreme cold can cause pipes or water meters to freeze. Because the process for dealing with this varies from agency to agency, you will need to prepare this information based on how your own area handles this type of issue. The typical type of advice to offer is:

  • How to find and turn off your main water valve in your home
  • Information about keeping drafts off pipes and other steps that can be taken to prevent frozen lines
  • Tips for thawing pipes
  • A number to call for help or information

Snow plowing updates – many communities now post regular updates on where plows are or which roads are open or closed and where there are parking bans. Again, this is highly localized information that is usually obtained by the public works department. Here are some examples of what other communities offer to keep citizens updated on road conditions and snow plowing operations:


Winter Storm Fire Safety


Winter Safety Game in Second Life

The other day my friend, LuAnn Strine Phillips, posted a link on Facebook to a project she's been working on: a winter safety game created in Second Life. (LuAnn said, "This virtual learning environment is sponsored by the Cooperative Extension through its eXtension Initiative.") Since cold weather safety is important to public works professionals, I visited her site to check it out. I landed in what looked to be a pine forest nestled under a thick blanket of snow. (For those of you in Second Life, you can check it out here:

Winter Survival Game by Extension


There was an abandoned car and information about winter scattered among the trees. I walked over to a tube with a sign directing me to slide down the tube to enter the game:

Winter Survival Game by Extension

I slid down the tube by clicking it and found myself in a room welcomed by the abominable snowman!

Winter Survival Game by Extension

Because it was not my first time in Second Life, I moved onto the next set of instructions. (But if I had been new, I could have gone through a new user orientation.) Next up was an explanation of the game objective – pick up a few relatives and drive them to a party! And after that was a map of the game site and further instructions:


Winter Survival Game by Extension

The game uses a heads up display or HUD to track points that can be earned by touching or collecting objects and answering questions related to safety. So after equipping my HUD, I was ready to begin the game and learn some important winter safety tips. My first stop was at my home in the game where I had to prepare for my trip. There is a lot of safety information to learn through interacting with the objects in this house. There's also a barn in the back with more information related to winter weather safety for animals and livestock.

Winter Survival Game by Extension

After completing all the preparation at my "home" I was able to drive off in the car. My first stop was to get gas and have my car checked at the service station down the road:

Winter Survival Game by Extension

After that, I needed to make several stops along the way. A few of these were to pick up more items and some were to pick up my relatives. Here's me at one of the stops where I took a few moments to fish and share a few words with one of the local residents. I had been a little worried walking across the ice to his shack, but fortunately the ice was thick, and I didn't fall in. And I did get a fishing pole out of the deal:

Winter Survival Game by Extension


Later on driving through the hills, I was so worried about the icy roads, I forgot to stop and pick up my Uncle. Fortunately I came back to get him because he was having some serious problems of his own and really needed my help. I won't put up more photos except for the one of the final destination because I want to encourage everyone to check out the game for themselves. LuAnn did a great job with this project. It looks beautiful, is informative, addresses an important topic, and is more fun than just reading about winter safety on a website. (If you've never visited Second Life, you can join for free here: – and if you would prefer joining with a guide, just email me at and I can arrange to meet you there your first time and give you some tips on getting started in a virtual world!)

Winter Survival Game by Extension




Plowing Au Gratin

Just when we were getting used to the idea of using beet juice for “salting” roads, someone has reached into the fridge and pulled out another food item as an alternative deicing chemical – CHEESE! Crews in Washington have determined that the salt water left over as a byproduct of the cheese production process can be sprayed on roads to get rid of ice.

Hard to believe? Click and read this incredible news for yourself at
DOT to salt roads with hint of cheese, molasses