Winter in Massachusetts almost always includes periods of extreme cold weather. Exposure to cold can cause frostbite or hypothermia and has the potential to become life-threatening. Although anyone can suffer from cold-related health issues, some people are at greater risk than others, such as older adults, young children, those who are sick, and those without adequate shelter. To reduce the risks of extreme cold conditions, take the proper safety precautions to protect yourself and your family.
Minimize outdoor activities for the whole family, including pets
If you must be outside, dress in several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing instead of a single heavy layer. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Wear a hat, mittens (not gloves), and sturdy waterproof boots to protect your extremities. Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.
Have an emergency kit in your home and your car that includes supplies like blankets, flashlights and a radio.
Check that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working and have fresh batteries.
Prepare in advance for extreme cold by ensuring you have sufficient heating fuel and safe backup heating options like fireplaces, wood stoves, or a generator in case you lose electricity.
Take recommended safety precautions when using space heaters, a fireplace, or a woodstove to heat your home. Keep a fire extinguisher handy.
If you lose heating, move into a single room. Seal off unused areas by stuffing towels against the cracks under the doors, and at night, cover windows with extra blankets or sheets.
Wrap pipes in insulation or layers of newspapers covered in plastic to prevent them from freezing. Let a trickle of warm water run from a faucet to keep water moving through your pipes.
If your pipes freeze, remove any insulation, pour hot water over them or wrap them with towels soaked in hot water, and completely open all faucets. You can also use a hair dryer, with caution, to thaw pipes. Never use an open flame to thaw pipes.
See medical attention if you are concerned about frostbite or hypothermia.
Be a good neighbor. Check on family, friends, and neighbors, especially the elderly, those who live alone, those with medical conditions, and those who may need additional assistance.
During the day, consider visiting libraries, shopping malls or public buildings to stay warm.
As always, reserve 911 calls for true emergencies.
For non-emergency, cold-weather related needs, call 617-796-2100 for assistance.
Additional cold weather related resources are available at www.mass.gov/mema