Protecting and Preparing for Winter Risks

Extreme weather conditions, such as winter storms, heavy snow or sleet and freezing rain, can significantly disrupt the operations of a nonprofit or human service organization. To minimize the impact of such events, it is crucial to develop a comprehensive winter weather preparedness plan to protect the organization, staff, clients and volunteers.

According to The National Safety Council, winter weather was among the leading weather-related causes of death in 2022. Minimizing risks during a winter storm requires awareness and planning. Every organization should have a plan in place that is comprehensive enough to protect them from disaster with the right amount of coverage and the following sensible recommendations:

  • Pay attention to the forecast. Listen for emergency information and alerts. Sign up for your community’s warning system and monitor The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio for additional emergency updates.
  • Protect wet and icy property by keeping walkways, parking lots, driveways and doorways clear of ice and snow
  • From snow removal to freezing temperatures, make sure you have the equipment, materials and/or resources needed to remove snow to avoid potential water damage or structure collapse.
  • Conduct seasonal maintenance on building doors, windows, plumbing and pipes to ensure that everything is weather-tight and fully insulated.
  • Check all vehicles within the organization to verify that each is winterized, fueled up and equipped with emergency supplies like jumper cables, flashlights, blankets and a first-aid kit.
  • Replace all smoke detectors 10 years after the date of installation. All carbon monoxide alarms will need to be replaced after 7 years – along with any combined smoke/carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Keep employees informed of all policies related to safety, attendance, pay and services amidst dangerous weather conditions to help avoid potential winter-related risks.
  • Limit outside time. Advise employees to stay off roads and limit outdoor time as much as possible to avoid risk of overexertion, frostbite and hypothermia.
  • Establish a crisis communication protocol to alert and update staff, volunteers and clients to an emergency situation or any necessary contingency plans.

Last, but certainly not least, work with your client to review their property/casualty, general liability, auto and workers’ compensation policies to determine if all structures and individuals are properly covered and information is up to date.

Preparation is key to minimizing the impact and risks of winter weather events. A comprehensive winter weather preparedness plan is critical to ensuring the safety and continuity of services and operations. For more tips, visit Ready.gov.