Cold Weather Preparedness Tips From The Chicago Dep. Of Public Health

The following cold-weather tips were prepared by the Chicago Department of Public Health:

Temperatures in Chicago are usually the coldest in January, when the average low is 16.5˚, but there are steps you can take ahead of time to make sure you’re prepared whenever extreme cold hits the city.  Taking preventative action is the best way to stay safe from the serious health risks associated with winter weather.  Here are some CDPH guidelines for cold weather preparedness:


  • Avoid unnecessary trips outside. If the task can wait until the weather gets warmer, let it wait.

  • If you go out into the cold, limit the time you stay outside. Break longer tasks into shorter ones, with indoor rest periods in between.  Do not let children play outside for long periods of time.

  • Wear several layers of loose, warm clothing.Pay special attention to keeping your head, ears, hands, and feet warm.  Wear a hat, scarf, gloves, thick socks, and winter boots.

  • Stay dry, because moisture from perspiration—or from melting snow—can damage the insulating effectiveness of clothes.  (This is because water conducts body heat faster than air).

  • Pay extra attention to your body’s daily needs. Get enough sleep.  Eat high energy foods. Drink warm beverages and soup to help your body stay warm. Avoid alcoholic beverages, which can impair your judgment. Alcohol also dilates blood vessels, which makes the body lose heat faster.

  • Take advantage of city warming centers, public park facilities and heated stores and malls.


  • Make sure your heat is in proper working order.

  • (From the CFD) Alternate heating sources: The Chicago Fire Department does not recommend using space heaters; however, if used, be sure they are UL certified and at least 3 feet from anything that can ignite. Use of a space heater in children’s rooms should be monitored closely as children sometimes move them close to or into the bed with tragic results. If extension cords are used, they should be rated at 15 amps minimum and never put cords under carpet. With the added demand on furnaces and boilers, the Chicago Fire Department also reminds residents that they are required by ordinance to have working carbon monoxide detectors to protect against carbon monoxide leaks from a heating system that could be fatal over time.

  • Keep at least three days’ worth of drinking water and canned/no-cook food on hand.

  • Put together an emergency kit that includes extra blankets, first aid and medication supplies, and a flashlight with spare batteries.


  • Keep a list of contact information for relatives, neighbors and friends, and identify both primary and alternate means of communicating with each other.

  • Check on them frequently, especially those who are elderly, disabled, and/or live alone.

  • Know where to locate, and how to contact emergency service providers such as police, fire department, EMS, and hospitals.

  • Monitor various outlets for updates about the weather (TV, Radio, Emergency Alert System).

  • Keep a spare battery and charger for mobile devices.


  • Make sure your vehicle is in good working condition before driving in extreme cold.

  • Keep water from leaking into your gas tank by keeping it as full as possible.

  • Drive with care and plan your trip.

  • Do not exceed yours or your car’s ability to operate in the cold weather. VFP

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