Safety and Preparedness for an Extremely Cold Weekend


Image by Brigitte Tohm.

This Friday and Saturday are predicted to have highs in the low teens, gusts of 30 m.p.h., and windchills in subzero temperatures potentially reaching minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit. It's important to be prepared when you step outside!

As shown in the National Weather Service chart below, at a temperature of 5 degrees Fahrenheit with wind gusts of 30 m.p.h., the windchill will be -19 degrees and frostbite can occur in 30 minutes or less.  In temperatures lower than that, as we'll have this weekend, frostbite can occur in under 10 minutes.

Source: National Weather Service at, "Wind Chill Safety" retrieved Feb. 4, 2024.

But with some common sense and the tips below, we can stay safe, warm, and comfortable for the short periods of time we find ourselves outdoors:


Cover your head with a hat and your face with a scarf or knit mask. Mittens are recommended over gloves, as they are warmer. Layer your clothing with an inner layer, mid-layer, and outer layer. An inner layer of wool or polypropylene is warmer than cotton. A mid-layer of fleece or a natural fiber like wool or goose down will work best to trap heat. An outer layer that is tightly woven and preferably water or wind resistant will help keep the wind and wet out.

Stay dry, as wet clothing will chill a person's body. Remove extra layers of clothing if you feel too warm, as too much sweat will make your body lose heat.

Signs That You Need to Go Indoors

Physical shivering is a first sign that your body is experiencing heat loss. Constant shivering should be taken as a sign to go indoors. For how to spot hypothermia or frostbite, see information from the Center for Disease Control here.

Pet Safety

Do not leave pets outside for long periods of time. If it's too cold for you, it's too cold for your pet. 

Dogs' paws should be checked frequently for cold-weather injury (cracked paw pads or bleeding). Owners should wipe down their pet's feet, legs, and belly after walking outside to remove chemical deicers or antifreeze.

When you start your car, beware of animals taking cover underneath or inside the hood, where they may find it warmer and seek shelter. Bang on the hood, look under the car, and honk your horn to scare them away before starting your car.


Reduce outdoor activity and minimize travel. If driving, check out your vehicle before leaving and keep a safety kit with emergency supplies on hand, just in case. 

Home Heating Safety

If you use a space heater, plug it directly into a wall, rather than using an extension cord. Turn off the space heater when you leave the room or go to sleep.

Keep a space of three feet around heating equipment, and be sure to place heating equipment on flat surfaces where they will not be knocked over.

Remember there is assistance for home heating bills if you need it. Locally, Westwood Community Chest provides temporary financial assistance to residents in need. For ongoing assistance with your heating bill, look into applying for home energy assistance, or LIHEAP and/or utility discount rates that are available from your heating company.



(1) Press Release, Town of Hingham Shares Safety Tips Ahead of Extreme Cold (Feb. 2, 2023).

(2) Press Release, "Canton Fire Department Shares Safety Tips Ahead of Expected Extreme Cold Weather"(Feb. 2, 2023).

(3) National Weather Service Wind Chill Safety, (accessed Feb. 3, 2023).

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