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COUNTY CONNECTIONS: Winter Hazard Awareness Week

Oct 30, 2020 08:55AM ● By Editor

By Cook County Emergency Management Director Mike Keyport from Cook County MN - October 30, 2020

As most residents can attest, summer in Cook County is a glorious time, albeit a short one.  As winter threatens and we pull docks, insulate our water lines and don our winter gear, it’s a good time to refresh our cold weather skills and ensure that we are prepared for winter challenges.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DPS-HSEM) partners with the National Weather Service to sponsor the annual Winter Hazard Awareness Week.

The 2020 Minnesota campaign runs from November 9 through 13 and offers daily tips to assist families and businesses in preparing for and surviving winter.

Monday’s topic is Winter Weather Overview.  The main weather threats in Minnesota are extreme cold temperatures, wind chill, heavy snow and ice.  We need to know and understand winter weather watches and warnings, which include:

OUTLOOK:  Winter storm conditions are possible in the next 2-5 days.  Stay tuned to media for updates.

WATCH:  Winter storm conditions are possible within the next 36-48 hours. Prepare now!

WARNING:  Life-threatening severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours.  Act now!

ADVISORY:  Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous.  If you are cautious, these situations should not be life threatening.

Tuesday’s topic is Outdoor Winter Safety.  When enjoying the outdoors, we need to wear layers of loose-fitting, water repellant, warm clothing.  Don’t forget the hat!  Forty percent of body heat is lost from the head.  Be aware of frostbite and hypothermia.  Frostbite is the freezing of the skin and extremities on the body such as nose, cheeks, ears , fingers and toes. In very cold weather the body can lose heat faster than it can produce it; the result is hypothermia.  Warning signs include confusion, shivering, difficulty speaking and sleepiness.  Remember our pets during extreme winter weather, too; assure they have adequate shelter and bring them indoors when you can.

Wednesday’s topic is Winter Fire Safety.  Many of us in Cook County use wood as an alternate heating source.  Some things to remember when burning wood include: have the chimney inspected annually, burn only seasoned dry wood, assure the wood stove is properly installed, and make sure home smoke detectors are installed and working.   When using portable space heaters, make sure they are in good working order and keep them three feet away from combustibles.  Don’t forget to make a fire escape plan.

Thursday covers Indoor Winter Safety.  Carbon monoxide, also known as CO, is called the “invisible killer” because it’s a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas.  Install CO alarms on every level of the home and in each sleeping area.  It is especially important to make sure the CO alarms are in working order.  Symptoms of CO poisoning are very similar to the flu or COVID-19 and include headaches, nausea, fatigue, vomiting and disorientation.

Friday’s Topic is Winter Driving.  We sometimes need to travel in winter weather, so here are some winter travel survival tips: be sure to check road and weather conditions before leaving. Keep your gas tank at least half full at all times. Always share your travel plans with family or friends. If stranded, you will always be safer staying with your vehicle.  A winter survival kit is recommended to carry in the vehicle and should include extra winter clothing and boots, blankets, flashlight, booster cables and a shovel.  Some salt-sand or cat litter could be used for tire traction.  When traveling, remain on main highways when possible and always beware of snowplows.

The National Weather Service has a great website,, that offers a vast resource library for parents and teachers, fun activities for children, and printable publications and brochures on various winter weather related subjects.  

Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management offers additional information, checklists and resources to assist in local education efforts.  They encourage people, families, businesses and organizations to use the information to review, refresh and share their winter safety knowledge.  Check it out at

Winter in the Northland has come a little early this year, so be ready, be safe, and be well.


County Connections is a column on timely topics and service information from your Cook County government. Cook County – Supporting Community Through Quality Public Service


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