Milwaukee Health Department Reminds Residents to Stay Safe in Cold Weather

MILWAUKEE – The National Weather Service forecast calls for dangerous wind chill temperatures in Milwaukee and surrounding areas Thursday evening, December 22 through Sunday afternoon, December 25. The coldest temperatures are expected for Friday, December 23, with wind chill temperatures below -20°. With the mix of snow and extreme temperatures, the City of Milwaukee Health Department (MHD) is reminding community members to exercise caution in the days ahead.

The MHD will be enhancing surveillance for cold weather-related illness in the coming days and continues to work with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Area Extreme Weather Task Force partners to address vulnerable population needs­ during this period. St. Ben’s Parish (930 W. State Street) and Repairers of the Breach (1335 W. Vilet Street) have drop-in warming shelters available for individuals without stable housing.

The Milwaukee County Homeless Outreach Team will be conducting street outreach on Thursday, December 22 and Friday, December 23 from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. to locate and triage people into warming sites. Anyone who witnesses an individual living outside during these extreme temperatures should reach out to the Milwaukee County Homeless Outreach Team at [email protected] with the location and general description of the individual.

To prevent cold weather-related illness or death, the MHD advises residents to take the following precautions:

Be prepared

• Have furnaces checked annually before winter to ensure they are working efficiently and safely.

• Be prepared for power outages, due to wind or ice. Have blankets and warm clothing on hand to keep you warm and create a cold-weather preparedness kit for your family that includes:

Candles and matches
Hand-cranked or battery-operated flashlight and radio
Cellular phone
Extra batteries
Blankets or sleeping bags
Extra clothing
High-calorie non-perishable food
Extra food and water for pets
First aid kits and any medications you require
Tool kit

• Wear weather-appropriate outdoor clothing to cover exposed skin

• Install carbon dioxide detectors and check batteries regularly

Be Safe

• When heading outdoors, let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.

• Wear appropriate outdoor clothing and ensure that exposed skin is covered, including your fingers, nose, and ears. Keep children indoors.

• If you have pets, bring them inside and ensure trips outside are brief.

• Avoid consuming alcoholic beverages. Alcohol causes the body to lose its heat more rapidly – even though one may feel warmer after drinking alcoholic beverages.

• Avoid traveling when the weather service has issued advisories

• Heat your home with devices approved for indoor use, and ensure they are properly vented to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning or fires. Never use wood-burning or coal-burning grills, camp stoves, or other outdoor devices indoors. Remember to keep flammable materials such as newspapers or clothing away from portable heaters.

Be Informed

• Pay attention to local news and weather reports for alerts and safety tips. If you know of someone who may not be aware of weather warnings, including individuals with hearing loss, share the information with them.

• Be aware of the symptoms of both frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite can occur within minutes when unprotected skin is exposed to very cold temperatures, causing the affected area to appear white or grayish-yellow in color and feel firm or waxy. Hypothermia is life-threatening and occurs when the body temperature drops too low, causing shivering, drowsiness, clumsiness, and confusion. Both require immediate medical treatment.

• Check on relatives, friends, and neighbors, especially those most susceptible to heat-related illness, which includes the very young, the elderly, and those on certain medications (especially certain medications related to blood pressure, heart disease, and mental health).

More information on winter safety, including warm shelters for vulnerable populations, snow removal operations, and tips to prevent frozen water pipes can be found at

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