Winter Safety

Temperatures are dipping, and snow flurries are flying. Get out and enjoy the snow but remember these safety tips to have fun during the winter months.

Common Winter Injuries

With snow and ice everywhere, it’s always a good idea to layer up (even if you’re walking the dog around the block or taking out the trash). It’s much easier to remove a layer than it is to get warm again once you’re cold.

How to Prevent Frostbite/Hypothermia:

  • Wear warm clothing and dress in layers.
  • Keep clothing dry.
  • Go indoors at regular intervals.
  • Do not go out in cold weather when wet.
  • Keep your hands and head covered with mittens/hats.

Source: CDC


  • Shivering
  • Exhaustion or feeling very tired
  • Confusion
  • Fumbling hands
  • Memory loss
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness


  • bright red, cold skin
  • very low energy

Hypothermia is a medical emergency. If you notice any of the above signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95° F, get medical attention immediately!

If you are not able to get medical help right away, try to warm the person up.

  • Get the person into a warm room or shelter.
  • Remove any wet clothing the person is wearing.
  • Warm the center of the person’s body—chest, neck, head, and groin—using an electric blanket, if available. You can also use skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels, or sheets.
  • Warm drinks can help increase body temperature, but do not give alcoholic drinks. Do not try to give beverages to an unconscious person.
  • After body temperature has increased, keep the person dry and wrap their body, including their head and neck, in a warm blanket.
  • Get the person proper medical attention as soon as possible.

If you notice redness or pain in any skin area, get out of the cold or protect any exposed skin—frostbite may be beginning. Any of the following signs may point to frostbite:

  • A white or grayish-yellow skin area
  • Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
  • Numbness

A person who has frostbite may not know they have it until someone else points it out because the frozen parts of their body are numb.

If you notice signs of frostbite on yourself or someone else, seek medical care. Check to see if the person is also showing signs of hypothermia. Hypothermia is a more serious condition and requires emergency medical care.

If (1) a person shows signs of frostbite, but no signs of hypothermia and (2) immediate medical care is not available, do the following:

  • Get the person into a warm room as soon as possible.
  • Unless absolutely necessary, do not walk on feet or toes that show signs of frostbite—this increases the damage.
  • Do not rub the frostbitten area with snow or massage it at all. This can cause more damage.
  • Put the areas affected by frostbite in warm—not hot—water (the temperature should be comfortable to the touch for unaffected parts of the body).
  • If warm water is not available, warm the affected area using body heat. For example, you can use the heat of an armpit to warm frostbitten fingers.
  • Do not use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming. Affected areas are numb and can easily burn.

Don’t substitute these steps for proper medical care. Frostbite should be checked by a health care provider. And remember, Hypothermia is a medical emergency and immediate medical care is necessary.

Safe Sledding

Sledding and tubing can be a great way to enjoy winter weather. The joy of speeding down the hill can make it easy to forget that these activities can also lead to injuries. Taking a few safety measures can help keep you and your kids safe on the hills this winter. Head and neck injuries are common among children 6 years old and younger.

Sledding Tips

  • ALWAYS wear a helmet to prevent head injuries. Properly fitted snow sport helmets, multi-sport, and bicycle helmets are good options. Esnure they have ASTM certification on the equipment.
  • Avoid sledding in areas with trees, fences and light poles or on rocky hills.
  • Always go down the hill feet first.
  • Have only the recommended number of passengers on a sled at one time.
  • Do not sled in the street or on a highway.
  • Never ride a sled being pulled by a car, ATV, snowmobile or other motorized vehicle.
  • Avoid sledding on driveways, hills, or slopes that end in a street, drop off, parking lot, river or pond.

Source: Nationwide Children’s Hospital; Seattle Children’s

Practice Winter Sports Safely

Skiing and snowboarding are great ways to spend time outdoors during the winter months. As with all sports, injuries are a huge risk when you ski or snowboard. Bruises and broken bones are the most common types of skiing- and snowboarding injuries. Traumatic Brain Injury is the leading cause of serious injuries among skiers and snowboarders and is also the most common cause of death.

Skiing & Snowboarding Safety Tips

  • ALWAYS wear a helmet designed for skiing or snowboarding.
  • Protect your skin and eyes from the sun and wind. Apply sunscreen and wear ski goggles that fit properly with a helmet.
  • Do not ski or snowboard alone.
  • Follow all trail rules.
  • Stay on the designated trails.
  • Only go on trails that match your skill level.
  • Before using a ski lift, tow rope or carpet, make sure you know how to get on, ride and get off safely.  Ask an attendant if you need help.

Source: Nationwide Children’s

Courtesy: CDC

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headsup helmet fact sheet_ski

Courtesy: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

Snowmobile Safety

Many things make snowmobiling fun: the breathtaking beauty of a snow-filled woods, field or mountain; the precision performance of a well-designed machine; the satisfaction of traversing the winter landscape with friends and family. But snowmobilers need to take extra responsibility!

As a Safe Rider, you should:

  • Dress appropriately: Always wear a helmet, goggles, and gloves.
  • Slow down! High speed almost always factors into fatalities.
  • Do not mix alcohol and snowmobiling.
  • Know your abilities and don’t go beyond them.
  • Know your machine’s capabilities and don’t push beyond them.
  • Know your riding area. Get a map. Talk to the locals
  • Follow the rules!
  • Persons 12 years of age and older must successfully complete the snowmobile exam.
    • For information on where to take the course in WA State, call the Winter Recreation program at (360) 902-8684.
  • Stay alert & beware of low-light riding in the dark!


First Day Hikes

Ring in the New Year with Washington State Parks! First Day Hikes offer an experience for everyone to get outside and enjoy our beautiful state parks.

Hiking Parks, Rules & Safety

Enjoy a FUN and SAFE hike this winter! Learn more about State Parks’ hiking rules & safety >>

Source: Washington State Parks

Snow-Shoveling Safely

Snow removal may not always be labeled as the “Fun Winter Activity,” but it’s still plays a significant role in the cause of winter injuries. A 2011 study, conducted by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, found an average of 11,500 snow shoveling-related injuries and medical emergencies were treated in U.S. emergency departments (from 1990 to 2006).

Prevent these common injuries:

  • Gear up, and warm up before doing any rigorous shoveling.
  • Dress in layers, stay hydrated, stretch before you start, and take breaks.
  • Wear boots with Traction.
  • Push the snow – rather than lifting!
  • Never lift snow with your arms, shoulders, and back- you should squat and lift with your legs (if needed)!

Source: Nationwide Children’s Hospital; UW Medicine

Winter Driving Tips

Protect yourself and your passengers. Allow extra time to reach your destination during inclement weather. It takes only one unprepared or careless driver to slow or stop traffic. Important: Call 511 for highway conditions/closures before planning a trip to the mountains.

  • Check (Washington) Statewide pass conditions online before heading out or planning trips.
  • Drive for conditions: slower speeds, slower acceleration, leave extra space between vehicles, give yourself more time and space to stop.
  • Check to see if you have traction tires & chains.
  • Know what the traction & chain requirements.
  • Watch a video to learn how to install tire chains.
  • Do not use cruise control.
  • Four-wheel and all-wheel vehicles do not stop or steer better on ice.
  • Leave extra room between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. And remember, the larger the vehicle, the longer the stopping distance.
  • Slow down when approaching intersections, off ramps, bridges, or shady spots.
  • If you find yourself behind a snowplow, slow down and give the plow a little extra room.
  • Slow down and be extra cautious near the chain-up and removal areas. There are often people out of their vehicles.
  • Secure your load- its the Law!
    • Tie it down with rope, netting or straps. 
    • Tie large objects directly to your vehicle or trailer.
    • Consider covering the entire load with a sturdy tarp or netting. 
    • Do not load excessive amounts of cargo in or on your vehicle or trailer.
    • Always double-check your load to make sure it’s secure.

Source: Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOH); US Department of Transportation

Prevent Holiday Hazards

Decorating for the holidays is fun for the entire family. However, there are many items in homes during the holiday season that can be dangerous, that require extra supervision – especially in homes with young children.

To keep your holidays merry & safe, visit HIPRC’s Holiday Hazards >>

Visit our Digital Resource Center to learn more about Winter Safety — plus, more injury and violence prevention topics year-round!