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Plan & Prepare

Winter Weather Preparedness: Safety Outdoors

Know the symptoms of hypothermia

  • Hypothermia and frost bite are serious health risks.  Act immediately if you or your children show the following symptoms:
    • Bouts of shivering and fatigue (signs of hypothermia)
    • Numbness or paleness of the nose, fingers, toes or earlobes (signs of frostbite)
  • Teach your children the signs of hypothermia and frostbite. Reinforce the need to tell an adult immediately if they or anyone with them experience any symptoms

Physical exertion for adults

  • Winter storm conditions and cold waves are the deadliest types of weather for adults.Cold puts an extra strain on your heart. Heavy exertion, such as shoveling snow, clearing debris or pushing a car, can increase the risk of a heart attack.Winter sports can be dangerous for the same reasons.
  • Stay warm, dress warm and slow down when working outdoors.
  • Take frequent rest breaks to avoid overexertion whether you are working or enjoying winter sports.
  • If you feel chest pain, experience heavy sweating and/or have shortness of breath, stop and seek help immediately. Women can experience cardiac pain in their backs.
  • Learn about frostbite and hypothermia at NJOEM Winter Weather Threats.

Shoveling tips

  • Use a small shovel to decrease physical strain.
  • Be sure shovel is not damaged. A damaged tool will make you work harder.
  • Move snow just enough to clear a path. Efforts to throw snow long distances are an extra strain on the body.
  • Take frequent rest breaks

Safety for children

  • Enjoy skiing, skating and sledding while following these safety tips:

    • Keep children inside during a snowstorm. Long periods of exposure to severe cold increase the risk of frostbite or hypothermia.
    • Dress children in layers when they go out to play after a storm. Wear a hat, mittens or gloves, and a scarf to cover your mouth.
      • Many layers of thin clothing are better than a single layer of thick clothing. Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellant and hooded.
      • Always wear a hat to protect ears and slow heat loss from body.
      • Mittens are better than gloves, because fingers maintain more warmth when they touch each other.
      • A scarf worn over your mouth will protect your lungs from extreme cold.
    • Bring children inside often for warm-up breaks.
    • Learn the rules below for "Physical Exertion" and "Winter Sports."
    • For more information see: "Caring for Kids: Winter Safety" from the Canadian Paediatric Society

Winter Sports Safety

  • Always use the proper equipment. Check to make sure everything is in proper working condition.
  • Wear a helmet specifically designed for the activity you are going to enjoy. Winter sports are as risky for head injuries as bicycling.
  • Check the weather forecast but be prepared for anything.
  • Focus 100 percent of your attention on the activity and the terrain you are on. 
  • Restwhen you are tired.
  • Skiing and snowboarding:
    • Stay on runs that are appropriate for your level of ability.
    • Stay in control at all times and be able to stop to avoid people or objects.
    • Obey all posted signs and warnings.
  • Sledding:
    • Never use streets or roads unless they are blocked off from traffic.
    • Never sled on icy hills.
    • Avoid snow bumps or anything that can cause a sled to become airborne.
  • Skating:  
    • Never skate alone.
    • Children must always be supervised by adults
    • Skate in areas that have been approved and posted for ice-skating.
    • Remember that ice thickness is never even on lakes and ponds. Always beware of thin areas.
    • Always avoid cracks, seams, pressure ridges, slushy areas and darker areas that mean thinner ice.
    • Never skate after dark.

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New Jersey Office of Emergency Management
P. O. Box 7068
Trenton, NJ 08628


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