Cook County Prepares for Season’s Coldest Temperatures as Winter Storm Watch is Issued for Region

The County is sharing tips and information to keep residents and pets safe

The season’s first major winter storm will bring high winds and dangerously low temperatures to the region. Cook County is sharing the following information to keep residents and pets safe.

Heat Safety Awareness

The County’s Emergency Management and Regional Security encourages residents to follow the following tips during cold weather to keep themselves and their families safe:

  • Never use your oven for heat.
  • Never bring charcoal or gas grills indoors (they are a carbon monoxide hazard).
  • Make sure all portable heaters are unplugged when not in use.
  • Do not leave small children or pets unattended in areas where space heaters are in use.
  • Use electric space heaters with extreme caution – avoid placing them near curtains or other flammable materials and turn them off before going to bed.
  • Keep heat at adequate levels or leave faucets open with a slight drip to prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep moving. Your body generates its own heat when you engage in physical activities.

A list of municipal warming centers in Cook County can be found here:

Safety on the Roads

The County’s Department of Transportation and Highways (DoTH) reminds residents to give plows plenty of room and to keep a safe distance behind them. Please do not try to pass plows and do not crowd the plows.

Residents are also reminded to keep an emergency kit in each of their vehicles in case they break down or get stuck during severe weather. Items include:

  • Shovel
  • Windshield scraper and small broom
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Battery powered radio
  • Water
  • Snack food, including energy bars
  • Matches and small candles
  • Extra hats, socks and mittens
  • First aid kit with pocketknife
  • Necessary medications
  • Blankets or sleeping bag
  • Tow chain or rope
  • Road salt, sand or cat litter for traction
  • Jumper cables
  • Emergency flares and reflectors
  • Fluorescent distress flag and whistle to attract attention
  • Cell phone adapter to plug into lighter


Outdoor and Cold Exposure Safety

Cook County Health (CCH) sees an increase in injuries and illnesses during big winter storms including cold exposure injuries and heart attacks when people over-exert themselves while shoveling snow. If you must be outside, CCH offers the following tips:

  • Wear multiple layers including a hat and gloves or mittens.
  • Exposed skin in cold, windy weather is most vulnerable to frostbite and can set in within 30 minutes.
  • Older individuals, especially those who are inactive, should take caution while shoveling snow. Sudden exertion combined with cold weather can result in a deadly combination.
  • Know the signs of hypothermia: intense shivering, slurred speech, drowsiness and loss of coordination.

Pet Safety

The County’s Department of Animal and Rabies Control reminds residents to take special precautions to keep their pets safe during extremely cold and dangerous weather.

  • All dogs and cats, whether they are acclimated to outdoor living or not, must be brought indoors during sub-zero weather.
  • Outerwear is necessary for all dogs when the temperature drops.
  • Both salt and ice can irritate your dog’s footpads. Use foot coverings or wash paws with warm water after being outside.
  • Dogs and cats can get frostbite. Walks should not exceed 10 minutes in sub-zero temperatures.
  • Prevent dogs from becoming lost by keeping them leashed. Make sure pets are microchipped and collars have up-to-date contact information.
  • Wear reflective gear and keep dogs close while on walks.
  • Properly secure potentially poisonous materials such as antifreeze, which can be extremely toxic to all living creatures.
  • Have an emergency plan and kit that includes your pets in case of a power outage.

To receive the latest messages through AlertCook, the County’s text alert system, text “alertcook” to 888-777.