If your program is in an area that has extreme cold and winter weather, you need a plan for handling winter emergencies. Review the Emergency Preparedness Manual for Early Childhood Programs, and use its tools to create or revise your winter weather plan. Consider planning for some or all of the situations below.
Prevent and Respond to Frostbite and Hypothermia
The best way to protect children from cold-related conditions is to dress them properly and limit the time they spend outdoors. Children are vulnerable to cold and — despite your precautions — may get frostbite or hypothermia.
Frostbite is when the tissues in some parts of the body freeze, typically on the face, fingers, or toes. Warning signs include numbness in the area and skin that turns white or grayish-yellow and is firm or waxy. Because a frostbitten area becomes numb, both the child and provider may be unaware of the problem until back indoors.
Hypothermia is a dangerously low body temperature caused by exposure to extreme cold. Warning signs include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, memory loss, slurred speech, and drowsiness.
Read the Cold Weather Safety tip sheet to learn more on how to keep children safe during the winter.
What to Do if You Suspect Frostbite or Hypothermia:
- Bring the child into a warm room and call 911.
- Remove wet clothing, and wrap the child in blankets.
- Call the child’s family or emergency contact to alert them.
- Do not rub an area that looks frostbitten, as it can make the condition worse.
Stay Informed About Possible Severe Weather
Here are some ways to stay informed about possible severe weather:
- Sign up for community alerts. Contact your local government for instructions.
- Listen to the weather forecast on TV or the radio, or through a trusted news source online. A battery or crank-powered weather radio can give updates in case of a power outage.
- Make sure your mobile phone can receive Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). You will automatically receive alerts about weather and other emergencies. Ask your service provider for details.
Plan What to Do if Your Program Loses Power
A snowstorm, windstorm, or ice build-up on utility lines may cause you to lose power. To prepare:
- Make sure your communications plan is up to date so you can quickly contact families to pick up their children
- Plan to keep children warm until they are picked up
- Stockpile blankets or sleeping bags
- Decide where to cluster children and staff, and close off other rooms to retain heat
- Have a fully stocked emergency kit
- Have an evacuation plan for winter emergencies
- If conditions delay parents from reaching your program and your facility gets too cold, you may need to move to your designated alternate location.
Other Winter Emergencies
For more information on winter emergencies and other ways to keep your children and program staff safe, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or Ready.gov.
Resource Type: Publication
National Centers: Health, Behavioral Health, and Safety
Last Updated: July 18, 2023