Emergency Preparedness

Winter Weather Preparedness Guide & Safety Tips

Icy, snowy and wet conditions pose a number of hazards for professional tradespeople and facility managers. Learn how to protect yourself and your crew from winter injuries and illness, as well as prevent damage to your building from extreme temperatures, with our winter weather preparedness guide.

Winter weather tips for preparing buildings

Before the temperatures drop is the best time to take steps to protect your property. Burst pipes, collapsed roofs and falls on slick surfaces are a lot more dangerous, expensive and time-consuming than preventing structural damage beforehand.

Save money and headaches with details on winter weather preparedness for your building in each button below.

Overworked heating units can lead not only to inflated utility costs but even failure of the entire system. Improperly sealed ducts or a dust-clogged system has to work harder to do the same job. Before it’s time to turn on your building’s heating system, hire an HVAC professional to inspect the unit and perform maintenance.

For seasonal maintenance, inspect the system for worn components, replace air filters, and clean and seal air ducts.

Freezing precipitation and strong winds can cause moisture damage and annoying drafts when they work into the building’s siding and insulation. Mend any small gaps before they turn into expensive repairs later. Check doors and windows, and caulk and seal where necessary.

Dangerous icicles and slippery patches place building occupants and workers at risk of injury. These often form when gutters are clogged or have holes.

Make sure to clean out your building’s gutters regularly before and throughout the season. This gives you a chance to inspect them for gaps or worn components and repair them.

Take the extra step of ensuring drains are pointed away from sidewalks and paths so water doesn’t pool and freeze.

As snow accumulates, small problems with a roof can become much bigger, even causing a collapse. Inspect the roof and make sure it’s properly insulated—this also goes a long way toward preventing icicles and ice dams from forming.

Take the time to repair or replace any damaged shingles. If you notice water pooling on a flat roof, address structural issues before the temperatures drop.

Protect your property from burst pipes and costly water damage by inspecting your building’s plumbing. Where pipe enters the building, insulate and caulk. Disconnect and drain hoses as well as irrigation and lawn sprinkler systems.

When it gets to freezing or below, advise residents or building occupants to open cabinets under the sink and drip faucets.

Winter weather safety tips for preventing injury and illness

Working outside in low temperatures for extended periods of time puts workers at risk of cold-related illnesses and injuries that range from mild to serious. Read winter weather safety tips about prevention and treatment for common winter injuries and illnesses below and protect yourself and your crew.

Cold temperatures can damage the skin’s blood vessels and cause chilblains. These itchy red bumps form on extremities, particularly the fingers, nose and toes. While symptoms are typically mild, prevention is critical—the permanent damage means chilblains will recur every time the skin is exposed to the cold.

Make sure you and your crew take regular breaks to warm up, and cover exposed skin with gloves, hats and ski masks. If you develop chilblains, ease itching with hydrocortisone cream. If symptoms persist, seek medical treatment.

Trench foot is a serious condition—foot tissue starts to die and become gangrenous after being enclosed in cold and wet shoes for too long. If you notice leg cramps, swelling, blisters, or skin displaying a gray or purple color, avoid walking and seek medical attention right away.

Prevent trench foot by wearing clean socks and waterproof footwear to keep feet warm and dry.

Although it’s more common than it should be, frostbite is a serious condition where body tissue freezes, stopping blood circulation and causing skin to become gangrenous. As with chilblains, frostbite often occurs on the fingers, nose and toes. Numb, tingling and bluish skin are all symptoms of frostbite.

To help your crew avoid frostbite, incorporate breaks to warm up when you’re working in cold temperatures for long periods of time. Gloves, hats and heated clothing can help prevent frostbite.

If frostbite occurs, go immediately to a warm area and submerge affected extremities in warm water. Make sure it is not hot, which can cause more damage to skin tissue. The numbing that occurs with frostbite can make it difficult to tell if water temperature is hot enough to cause burns. Immediately seek medical attention.

A serious condition, hypothermia occurs when body temperature drops below 95°F and the body can no longer produce heat. Avoid the risk by taking frequent breaks, wearing multiple layers of clothing, and drinking hot beverages and plenty of water.

If you notice one of your crew members shivering intensely, becoming confused or extremely fatigued, they could be in the early stages of hypothermia.

When shivering ceases, pupils dilate, the heart rate drops or the person becomes unconscious, they may be in the late stages of hypothermia.

As soon as you notice these symptoms, move the person to a warm area, remove any wet clothing and heat them with an emergency blanket. Call emergency services. If the person has fallen unconscious, perform CPR.

Winter weather tips to prepare your work van or truck

Trade professionals who rely on a work van or truck to run their business know to be especially mindful of vehicle safety during the colder months. On average, more than 1.2 million vehicle crashes each year are related to poor weather, and 47% of these accidents are due to snow, sleet, ice and slush.

In addition, snowy roads can slow down or stop traffic, stranding drivers without food, water or ways to stay warm. To make sure your work van or truck is ready for whatever the season brings, check out the details in the winter weather safety tips for your vehicle below.

Set your tires to the tire manufacturer’s recommended PSI for the season. Cold air shrinks, which can cause tires to deflate to unsafe levels. If temperatures fluctuate throughout the winter, check tires again—it takes less than a minute to confirm your work van is road-ready.

Clear snow from your work van or truck’s tailpipe prior to starting it up. Exhaust can build up inside of the cab and lead to fatal carbon monoxide poisoning, even while the vehicle is warming up.

Make sure your work van has the essentials in case you have an accident or traffic jams you up, including:

  • Batteries

  • Flashlights

  • Emergency blankets

  • Kitty litter or a bag of ice melt

  • Water

  • Protein bars or other snacks with a long shelf life

Need help cutting the clutter? Check out tips on organizing your work van.

Winter weather safety tips: recovering from the storm

After the snow has fallen and the temperatures have dropped, follow these winter weather tips to help you stay safe while cleaning up after a storm. Learn details below about dealing with common hazards after a winter storm.

Don’t attempt to clear fallen tree limbs from power lines yourself. Instead, call the utility company.

Clear icicles from overhead areas, and lay down mats in front of entryways to increase traction. Distribute ice melt on walkways and sidewalks.

Deadly carbon monoxide fumes can drift into buildings. Make sure to run gas-powered generators and snow blowers outside and away from doors and windows.

Look for signs of wear and tear on your extension cords. If there are signs of damage, discontinue use and replace. Never overload or daisy-chain power strips.

Shoveling lots of snow can increase the risk of heart attack. Take frequent breaks from shoveling, and never shovel snow immediately after eating or while smoking. Stop shoveling immediately and rest if you feel faint or exhausted.

Bonus tip: The shovel pan size should be proportional to the size of the person using it. A smaller person should use a shovel with a smaller pan to avoid injury while shoveling snow.

Ferguson can help with winter weather preparedness

Whether you’re getting items for last-minute prep for a winter storm or following a routine seasonal checklist, Ferguson has a wide inventory of winter preparedness products backed by knowledgeable associates.

Partner with Ferguson to get ready before disaster strikes. Explore our preparedness guides to help protect you and your crew in every situation, including tornados, wildfires and hurricanes.