Cook County Offers Winter Weather Safety Tips
To view current weather conditions and alerts, please visit the National Weather Service's website.
The Cook County Department of Emergency Management and Regional Security has partnered with the Department of Transportation and Highways, Cook County Health as well as Animal and Rabies Control to offer the following tips to keep residents and their pets safe during prolonged winter weather.
- Winter weather can increase transportation times, reduce visibility and create a higher chance of being involved in an accident. Build in extra travel time if you need to commute.
- Create an emergency supply kit for each of your cars that includes jumper cables, sand, a flashlight, necessary medication, warm clothes, blankets, bottled water and non-perishable food items.
- Keep the gas tank full in case of evacuation or power outages. A full tank will also keep the fuel line from freezing.
Outdoor Exposure & Shoveling
- Wear multiple layers including a hat and gloves or mittens. Layers are the best way to keep your body warm because the air in between the layers acts as extra insulation.
- Continued cold exposure can lead to frostnip or frostbite. Carefully rewarm exposed areas with a warm, wet wash cloth. See a doctor if cold, hard, blotchy skin appears or if the area becomes painful, swollen or a fever occurs.
- Frostnip is a mild form of frostbite and may feel like tingling or pain as the skin warms.
- Frostbite can set in within 30 minutes. Symptoms can start as a pins and needles or a tingly feeling. The skin may also become a different color including red, white, blue, purple or grayish depending on the severity.
- Older individuals or those who are relatively inactive should take caution while shoveling snow. Sudden exertion combined with cold weather can increase the heart rate and blood pressure, resulting in a deadly combination. If you are active and healthy, help your neighbors clear snow.
- Know the signs of hypothermia. Seek emergency help if someone is experiencing intense shivering, slurred speech and drowsiness as well as loss of coordination. Hypothermia is when the body loses heat faster than it can be produced.
- Seek medical care when you need it. Don’t put your life at risk by not getting the care you need. This can be a deadly decision.
- Bring all pets indoors: All dogs and cats, whether they are acclimated to outdoor living or not, must be brought indoors during sub-zero weather. As the responsible caregiver of a pet, you should provide an indoor heated shelter for your animal.
- Salt and ice: Both salt and ice can irritate your dog’s footpads. If your dog will tolerate them, foot coverings are advised. If your dog will not tolerate foot coverings, avoid the salt when possible and wash the dog’s paws with warm water when you return home.
- Frostbite: Dogs and cats may have fur coats but they also have exposed areas that are susceptible to frostbite. Limit their time outdoors for waste elimination only. Walks should not exceed 10 minutes in sub-zero temperatures. Check their pads when you get home and wash with warm (not hot) moist towels. If you suspect frostbite on any extremity, including the nose or the tips of the ears, contact your veterinarian.
- Properly secure potentially poisonous material, such as antifreeze: Antifreeze is extremely toxic to all living creatures. Keep antifreeze bottles out of the reach of animals and clean up all antifreeze spills immediately.
- Be prepared: Winter brings extreme weather that can cause power outages. Have an emergency plan and make sure it includes your pets. Have an emergency kit with enough food, water and medication to last your pets at least five days. You may never need it, but if you do, you will be thankful you planned.
Safety at Home
- Never use your oven for heat.
- Never bring charcoal or gas grills indoors (they are a carbon monoxide hazard).
- Make sure all portable heaters are unplugged when not in use.
- Use electric space heaters with extreme caution – avoid placing them near curtains or other flammable materials and turn them off before going to bed.
- Keep heat at adequate levels or leave faucets open with a slight drip to prevent pipes from freezing.
- Keep moving. Your body generates its own heat when you engage in physical activities.
Municipalities and townships across Cook County operate warming centers for residents. Residents who do not have adequate heating in their homes are encouraged to visit a warming center to ensure they remain safe.
To receive the latest messages through AlertCook, the County’s text alert system, text “alertcook” to 888-777.