Winter Weather Safety

Keep Your Family Warm & Safe

Safely Use Space Heaters

Heating devices cause more than 100 fires in the City of Houston each year, resulting in numerous injuries and possible death. Citizens should always keep in mind that: Space Heaters Need Space!

The Houston Fire Department recommends the following safety tips when using supplemental heating sources:

  • Make sure you have a working smoke alarm.
  • Never leave children unattended in a room with a space heater – Children knock over space heaters, especially if they are placed on top of wobbly tables or stools and near where the children play. Children may also stick paper or toys in the grates of the space heaters especially gas space heaters. The city had two reported fires in 2004 caused by children playing with space heaters.
  • Keep all combustible materials, including yourself, at least three feet from the heater.
  • Open face heaters should have a screen.
  • Provide ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

Electric Heaters Tips

  • Never overload outlets or breakers.
  • Don’t use extension cords for the heater. If the cord is hot to the touch, turn off the heater and unplug it!
  • Electric heaters permanently installed in the wall or ceiling should have lint and dust removed regularly. Lint and dust will burn!
  • For additional information on safely using space heaters, visit houstonfire.org.

Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that kills without warning. It claims the lives of hundreds of people every year and makes thousands more ill. Many household items including gas- and oil-burning furnaces, portable generators, and charcoal grills produce this poison gas. Following these important steps can keep your family safe.

CO Detectors

  • Install battery-operated or battery back-up CO detectors near every sleeping area in your home.
  • Check CO detectors regularly to be sure they are functioning properly.

Oil & Gas Furnaces

  • Have your furnace inspected every year.

Portable Generators

  • Never use a generator inside your home or garage, even if doors and
    windows are open.
  • Only use generators outside, more than 20 feet away from your home, doors, and windows.

Visit CDC’s website for more information on Carbon Monoxide.

Winter Weather Terms

Watches: Be Prepared

  • Winter Storm Watch: Issued for the possibility of severe life-threatening winter weather conditions including heavy snow, heavy ice and/or near blizzard conditions. Forecasters are typically 50 percent confident that severe winter weather will materialize when a watch is issued.

Warnings: Take Action

  • Winter Storm Warning: Issued for a combination of heavy snow and/or ice, of which, at least one exceeds or meets warning criteria. Winter weather is expected to cause life-threatening public impact for a combination of winter hazards including heavy snow, ice, near blizzard conditions, blowing and drifting snow and/or dangerous wind chills.
  • Ice Storm Warning: Issued for a 1/4 inch or more of ice accumulation which causes damage to power lines and trees. Ice Storm Warnings are issued when there is a high degree of confidence that the entire event is expected to be ice.

Advisories: Be Aware

  • Winter Weather Advisory: Issued for when hazardous conditions of snow, sleet, ice or a combination of any of these, which neither meets nor exceeds warning criteria. Issued for winter weather that will cause significant inconveniences or could be life-threatening if the proper precautions are not taken.
  • Freezing Rain Advisory: Any accumulation of freezing rain that can make roads slippery. Expect a glaze on roads resulting in hazardous travel. Freezing rain advisories will only be issued when there is a high degree of confidence that the entire event will be freezing rain only.

Visit NWS’s website for more information on winter weather.

Protect the 4 P’S

4 P’s – People, Pets, Pipes, and Plants 

When temperatures drop, it’s important to remember to protect the 4 Ps (People, Pets, Pipes and Plants) during cold temperatures.

  • People should dress warmly, in layers, to avoid hypothermia (abnormally low body temperature).
  • Pets should be brought indoors or provided with a warm place to sleep.
  • Pipes that run outside or under a house should be wrapped in pipe insulation to avoid cracks due to water freezing in them.
  • Plants may need to be covered or brought inside to avoid frost damage.

Driving Conditions

As with any type of precipitation, such as rain, sleet or snow, residents who are driving vehicles should take steps to protect themselves, including:

  • Give themselves extra stopping distance. Wet conditions mean it takes longer for vehicles to come to a complete stop.
  • Ensure windshield wipers are in good working condition before heading out on the road. When conditions are wet or dark, be sure to use headlights.
  • Never use high beams in urban areas. Highway overpasses and bridges pose the highest risk of icing.
  • Take extra precautions when driving over them.
  • Slow down. Rain, sleet, and snow can limit visibility, giving drivers less time to recognize danger.
  • Slowing down gives provides extra time to adjust to changing conditions.