Winter Safety



Extremely cold weather in early January 2014 prompted incorporation of these safety tips for homeowners.  Here's what you can do to beat a freeze:

  • If you can, stay indoors where it's warm. If you must go outside, dress in several layers of lightweight clothing, coat, mittens/gloves, hat and shoes/boots. And be sure to bring pets/companion animals inside.
  • In case of snow or other wintry precipitation, be careful on walkways and roads, which can be dangerous despite appearances.
  • If you see someone who looks like they may be at risk of suffering from hypothermia, we encourage you to call the police non-emergency number (703-691-2131). If directly addressing those who are homeless, call the Coordinated Services Planning (CSP) hotline for coordinated help (703-222-0880) or have them go to the nearest shelter directly. When temperatures are below freezing, shelters in Fairfax County operate on a no-turnaway policy.
  • During extremely cold days, there is plenty residents can do to stay warm. Residents can take in a movie, stroll through a shopping center or visit one of the Fairfax County Warming Centers:

                     -  Libraries

                     -  Community Centers

Residents are encouraged to check the operating hours to ensure the facility is open before arriving.

  • Residents who know individuals needing special attention are encouraged to take a few minutes to check in on them to ensure their well-being. If residents need immediate, life-saving help, call 9-1-1. For other safety help, call the public safety non-emergency phone number at  703-691-2131, TTY 711.
  • Residents who need immediate help  with utility bills or other urgent human services assistance can call  the county's Coordinated Services Planning staff at 703-222-0880, TTY  711. County staff can connect residents with a network of services  provided by public, private and community-based organizations, as well as appropriate county government resources.

For People

  • Do not over-exert yourself  shoveling snow! Too many people end up in the hospital after shoveling snow and working harder than they are used to doing.
  • If you see someone unsheltered in this extreme cold weather, call 703-691-2131, TTY 711. Learn more about our emergency shelters and hypothermia program here.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. If you must be outside, either for work or leisure, take precautions such as dressing in layers.  See more here.

For Your Pets

  • Do NOT leave pets outside!
  • Because the freezing temperatures may be deadly to pets, the Fairfax County animal shelter is offering temporary emergency housing for cats, dogs, and small companion animals. If you or someone you know needs to utilize this service, contact the shelter at 703-324-0208, TTY 711, or e-mail
  • More safety tips for pets in cold weather are at this link.

For Your Home

  • Remove all snow or ice around your heat pump, to prevent your system from freezing up
  • When the temperature of your pipes drops below 32 degrees, even for a short period, open all your cabinets to allow heat to reach your plumbing fixtures to reduce the risk of a pipe fracture or burst pipe. Here are details about what to do to protect your pipes.

In the event that you lose power for an extended period of time, the loss of heat in your home can allow interior pipes to freeze! Please do the following:

  • Fill your bathtubs with water.   
  • Turn off your main water valve.   
  • Drain all your plumbing fixtures by opening all faucets.
  • Drain your toilets and water heater.
  • Use water in bath tubs to flush toilet sewage.

For Your Property

If you plan to use alternative heating sources such as fireplaces or portable heaters, please take a quick minute to review  these safety tips for the safety of your family here.

You may monitor the plowing of roads with this new website link/tool:

For Your Vehicles

Fill up your car gas tanks - there's less of a chance of gas lines freezing (and it takes longer idling to get the cars warm before traveling).

  1. Check all hoses and belts.
  2. Check your battery and battery cable connections.
  3. Ensure your windshield wipers are in good condition.
  4. Inspect all lights and bulbs.
  5. Check antifreeze levels and ensure it is sufficient to avoid freezing.
  6. Inspect your tires and check the tire tread. Use a penny to measure tire tread depth (if you can see the top of Lincoln's head, it's time for new  tires).

Update Your Vehicle Emergency Kit:

  1. Ice / snow scraper
  2. Flashlight and extra batteries
  3. Booster cables
  4. Blanket or sleeping bag
  5. First aid kit
  6. Reflective vest
  7. Emergency flares
  8. Bottle water
  9. High protein/low sodium snacks
  10. Shovel
  11. Pocket Knife
  12. Bag of sand or kitty litter to help provide traction if your car is stuck in the snow