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Cold Weather Safety

Cold weather can create hazardous conditions for students,  faculty  and staff.  While driving, walking and working outdoors you may be exposed  to things such as slippery conditions, frostbite, hypothermia, and cold stress.   Being prepared before, during and after the cold weather event is essential.    

In The Case Of An Emergency

  • Contact UPD at 631-632-3333, or 333 from any on-campus phone.

In The Case Of A Building or Maintenance Issue

  • Notify your Building Manager or Campus Operations and Maintenance of any issues or concerns.  Please report any urgent facilities issues to: 
      • Campus Residences: Please call (631) 632-9585
      • West Campus and Research and Development Park: Please call (631) 632-6400
      • HSC and Hospital: (631) 444-2400

How cold is too cold?

When most people think of hypothermia, they think of frigid temperatures or blizzard like conditions.  Actually, hypothermia occurs most often in the spring and fall, rather than winter.

Four factors contribute to cold stress: cold temperatures, high or cold wind, dampness and cold water.  A cold environment forces the body to work harder to maintain its core temperature of 98.6F.  Cold air, water, and snow all draw heat from the body. So, while it is obvious that below freezing conditions combined with inadequate clothing could bring about cold stress, it is important to understand that it can also be brought about by temperatures in the 50's coupled with rain and/or wind.

How your body reacts to cold conditions

When in a cold environment, most of your body's energy is used to keep your internal temperature warm.  Over time, your body will begin to shift blood flow from your extremities (hands, feet, arms, and legs) and outer skin to the core (chest and abdomen).  This allows exposed skin and the extremities to cool rapidly and increases the risk of frostbite.  When the body can no longer maintain core temperature by constricting blood vessels, it shivers to increase heat production.  Maximum severe shivering develops when the body temperature has fallen to 95F.  Hypothermia becomes an issue at this point.


Hypothermia occurs when the body's core temperature drops below 95 degrees. Severe shivering, one of the first signs of hypothermia, is beneficial in keeping the body warm. But as hypothermia progresses, shivering gives way to drowsiness or exhaustion, confusion, shallow breathing, irregular heartbeat, slurred speech, loss of coordination and, eventually, unconsciousness and death.

If you encounter someone suffering from hypothermia:

    • Check responsiveness and breathing, and call 911 from a campus phone or 631-632-3333 from a cell phone
    • Provide CPR if unresponsive and not breathing normally
    • Quickly move the victim out of the cold
    • Remove wet clothing.
    • Warm the victim with blankets or warm clothing
    • Do not rub or massage the victim’s skin
    • Be very gentle when handling the victim
  • Give warm (not hot) drinks to an alert victim who can easily swallow, but do not give alcohol or caffeine

Winter Weather Driving 

  • If you are stopped or stalled in wintry weather, stay focused on yourself and your passengers, your car, and your surroundings.
  • Stay with your car and don’t overexert yourself. 
  • Let your car be seen. Put bright markers on the antenna or windows and keep the interior dome light on. 
  • Be mindful of carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure your exhaust pipe is clear of any snow and run your car only sporadically — just long enough to stay warm. Don’t run your car for long periods of time with the windows up or in an enclosed space.
  • Drive Slow  It’s harder to control or stop your vehicle on a slick or snow-covered surface.
  • Don’t  travel beside snowplows.


Even skin that is protected can be subject to frostbite. It's the most common injury resulting from exposure to severe cold, and it usually occurs on fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks and chin. If caught early, it is possible to prevent permanent damage. If not, frostbite can cause tissue death and lead to amputation.

If you suspect frostbite:

  • Move the victim out of the cold and into a warm place
  • Remove wet clothing and constricting items
  • Protect between fingers and toes with dry gauze
  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible
  • Do not use chemical warmers directly on frostbitten tissue
  • Protect and elevate the frostbitten area

Protective Clothing

Wearing the right clothing is the most important way to avoid cold stress.  The type of fabric also makes a difference. Cotton loses its insulation value when it becomes wet.  Wool, on the other hand, retains its insulative qualities even when wet.  The following are recommendations for working in cold environments:

  • Wear at least three layers of clothing: An outer layer to break the wind and allow some ventilation. (like Gortex® or nylon) A middle layer of down or wool to absorb sweat and provide insulation even when wet. An inner layer of synthetic weave to allow ventilation.
  • Wear a hat.  Up to 40% of body heat can be lost when the head is left exposed.
  • Wear insulated boots or other footwear sized appropriately.  Tight-fitting footwear restricts blood flow, as can wearing too many socks.
  • Wear insulated gloves sized appropriately, especially when contacting metallic surfaces and tool handles.
  • If you get hot while working, open your jacket, but keep hats and gloves on.
  • Keep a change of dry clothing available in case work clothes become wet.
  • Do not wear tight clothing which can restrict blood flow.  Loose clothing allows better ventilation.

Work Practices

  • Drinking:  Drink plenty of liquids, avoiding caffeine and alcohol.  It is easy to become dehydrated in cold weather.
  • Work Schedule: If possible, heavy work should be scheduled during the warmer parts of the day.  Take breaks out of the cold.
  • Buddy System: Try to work in pairs to keep an eye on each other and watch for signs of cold stress.  Victims of hypothermia may not recognize symptoms.

Campus Fire Safety 

In The Case of an Emergency

    • Report fire or smoke conditions 
      • When on campus call University Police.  Dial 333 from any campus phone or 631-632-3333 from a cellular phone.
      • When at home or off campus. Dial 911
    • Evacuate the building promptly
    • Notify others (pull the fire alarm on your way out). 
    • Electrical Safety- Extension cords are prohibited.  Surge protectors certified by Underwriters Laboratories is an acceptable substitute for extension cords. Never plug surge protectors into each other. 
    • Building Familiarization- Identify locations of nearest exits, portable fire extinguishers and fire alarm pull stations.
    • Carbon monoxide incidents are more common during the winter months, and in residential properties. Make sure your home CO detectors are in proper working condition. On Campus, CO detectors are integrated into our fire alarm systems where required.



During a severe cold weather event please ensure all your respective building windows are closed and tightly secured, as well as, all loading dock doors, roof doors, and other building doors. We want to ensure the cold air does not result in frozen pipes in any of our campus buildings.

Additional Reminders 

  • Ensure dampers are working and fans are controlled by thermostat for automatic shutdown when freezing temperatures occur
  • Check air sources, air pressure levels, antifreeze solution and low point drains for non-freeze fird protection systems.
  • Wherever sprinkler piping is installed, such as in attics, ceiling spaces and stairwells, be sure that adequate heat is provided; install thermometers or remote-reading thermometers to help simplify ongoing inspections throughout winter
  • Check doors and windows for any cracks or openings where frigid outside air leaks in
  • Areas protected by wet pipe systems should be kept above 40 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Building doors, windows and walls should be closed and weather tight
  • Maintain area temperatures within acceptable ranges
  • Ensure heating system are functioning properly
  • Ensure insulation is intact and heat tracing systems are functioning

Additional Information:

OSHA Winter Weather

National Weather Service

National Safety Council 

Winter Car Safety Kit

EH&S Winter Weather Guide 

Put a Freeze on Winter Fires 

Be Fire Smart with Electric