The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Winter Weather Preparedness










Make sure you are signed up for UMass Amherst Alerts so you will receive text messages when the campus is closed for inclement weather.

If you notice that ice and snow are causing problems in specific locations on the UMass Amherst campus  – icy walkways, snow that needs to be shoveled or plowed, etc. – give the Facilities Solutions Center a call, 24 hours a day at 413-545-6401.  Let them know where the problem is, and they will do their best to fix it fast. 

For severe weather closing information at the University, visit the Emergency Closing Status page.


Winter Preparations for your vehicle

  • Before the cold comes, get your battery checked on your car. Many auto parts store offer free testing to see if your batter will make it through winter.

    • Install good winter tires with adequate tread and pressure.

    • Check your antifreeze, battery, defroster, windshield wipers, wiper fluid, and other vehicle equipment to make sure they are ready for winter driving.
    • Have a Winter Emergency Car Kit in the trunk.  (Put a blanket or warm clothes in your car and leave them there. If you become stranded, a blanket could save your life... literally.  Have a shovel and a small bag of ice melt at your disposal. A shovel and ice can bail you out of slippery situations).
  • Always clear off your vehicle before operating it.

    • Remove snow from headlights and brake lights.

    • Remove snow from ALL windows and make sure they are adequately defrosted. (Not worth risking that $200 fine that the police can issue!)

    • Remove anything that could fly off, including ice or snow, as you are responsible for any damage that occurs. 

  • Always maintain a safe following distance from other vehicles and slow down well before an anticipated stop.

    • All Wheel Drive or Four Wheel Drive, is not four-wheel stop. Don't let your vehicles capabilities make you over confident.

  • Try to maintain 1/2 tank of gas at all times. If you run out of gas, you run out heat in your car.

  • Don't use the cruise control in wintry conditions.

  • And always buckle up!


Before Extreme Cold Weather

  • Create and review your family emergency plan and assemble an emergency kit.  Add seasonal supplies to your emergency kit such as extra winter clothing and blankets.  Visit Ready.Gov at for more details and ideas on what to incorporate into your emergency plan and emergency kit.
  • Prepare your home and your vehicle for possible emergencies.
  • Know where your electricity, gas, and water switches and valves are located and how to shut them off. You may need to turn off water pipes if your pipes freeze or burst.
  • Ensure that heating equipment and chimneys are well maintained and inspected. 
  • Check that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working and have fresh batteries.


When walking on snow and ice

Plan ahead, give yourself sufficient time and plan your route.

  • Traffic moves slowly in snowy conditions.
  • Give yourself extra time--don't assume a clear path for driving and walking will be available.

Wear shoes or boots that provide traction on snow and ice.

  • Footwear made of rubber and neoprene composite provide better traction than plastic and leather soles.
  • Wear flat-soled shoes.  Avoid shoes with heels.
  • Products are available with abrasive soles or cleats that provide special traction for walking on snow and ice, such as Yaktrax. [Remember to remove when entering buildings.]

Use special care when entering and exiting vehicles, climbing or descending stairs, entering or leaving buildings.

  • Move slowly.
  • Remove snow/water from shoes when entering buildings.
  • Use handrails for support.
  • Try to keep your center of gravity over your support leg.
  • Use car for support.
  • Keep your hands out of your pockets.

Walk on designated walkways as much as possible.

  • Don’t take shortcuts over snow piles or areas where snow and ice removal is not feasible.
  • Look ahead when you walk. A sidewalk completely covered with ice may require travel along its grassy edge for traction.
  • Don’t text or read while walking.

Walk safely on snow or ice.

  • Take short steps or shuffle for stability.
  • Bend slightly forward and walk flat-footed with your center of gravity directly over your feet as much as possible.
  • Keep your hands out of your pockets.
  • Be prepared to fall. If you fall, fall with sequential contacts at your thigh, hip and shoulder.  Avoid using outstretched arms to brace yourself.
  • Bend your back and head forward to avoid hitting your head against the ground.


Extreme Cold Safety Tips


What Is Extreme Cold?

Extreme cold is generally defined as a prolonged period of excessively cold weather. Extreme cold conditions are often, but not always, part of winter storms.


Why Prepare for "Cold"?

Winter in Massachusetts almost always includes periods of extreme cold weather. Exposure to cold can cause frostbite or hypothermia and has the potential to become life-threatening. Although anyone can suffer from cold-related health issues, some people are at greater risk than others, such as older adults, young children, those who are sick, and those without adequate shelter. To reduce the risks of extreme cold conditions, take the proper safety precautions to protect yourself and your family.

Wind added to cold temperatures can multiply the problems that occur with cold weather.,  Wind chill is a term commonly used by meteorologists in the colder months of the year. But, when you see a wind chill of minus 20 degrees in your forecast, do you know what that truly means?

You may also hear forecasters refer to this as the "feels-like" temperature because, essentially, the wind chill is how cold it actually feels on your skin when the wind is factored in.  Even with temperatures in the 20's (F) wind can make it "feel like" near zero or below zero and cause your body to cool at a faster rate, leading more quickly to hypothermia and frostbite.

This is because the wind strips away the thin layer of warm air above your skin. The stronger the wind, the more heat lost from your body, and the colder it will feel. When the winds are light, it will feel closer to the actual air temperature.

The website provides some common sense approaches in preparing for cold weather for students at


During Extreme Cold Weather

  • Continue to monitor the media for emergency information and follow instructions from public safety officials.
  • Minimize outdoor activities for the whole family, including pets.
  • Dress in several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing instead of a single heavy layer. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Wear a hat, mittens (not gloves), and sturdy waterproof boots to protect your extremities. Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.
  • Take recommended safety precautions when using space heaters, a fireplace, or a woodstove to heat your home. Keep a fire extinguisher handy.
  • Make sure emergency generators or secondary heating systems are well ventilated.
  • In the event of a power outage you may need to take additional precautions or go to an emergency shelter to stay warm.
  • Be a good neighbor. Check on family, friends, and neighbors, especially the elderly, those who live alone, those with medical conditions, and those who may need additional assistance.


Ice Safety Tips

As the lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers, throughout Massachusetts, freeze during winter months, residents may be eager to start skating, playing hockey, ice fishing, and enjoying other winter activities. However, frozen bodies of water can be dangerous.

Generally, ice that forms on moving water (rivers, streams, and brooks) is never safe. Ice freezes and thaws at different rates and the thickness of ice on ponds and lakes can vary depending on water currents, springs, depth, and natural objects such as tree stumps or rocks. It can be a foot thick in one area and just inches thick a few feet away. Daily changes in temperature also affect its strength. Because of these factors, no one can declare the ice to be absolutely safe. The only “safe” ice is at a skating arena.


Cold-related Illnesses

Extreme cold can cause cold-related illness, including:


Frostbite is the freezing of the skin and body tissue.

  • Symptoms — Loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, earlobes, face, and the tip of the nose.
  • Treatment — Get the victim into a warm location. Cover exposed skin, but do not rub the affected area. Seek medical attention immediately.


Hypothermia is abnormally low body temperature and is life-threatening.

  • Symptoms — Shivering, exhaustion, confusion, memory loss, and slurred speech.
  • Treatment — If symptoms of hypothermia are detected take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95°, seek medical attention immediately. Get the victim to a warm location. Remove wet clothing. Warm the center of the body first by wrapping the person in blankets or putting on dry clothing. Give them warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the person is conscious.


Download this Hypothermia Fact Sheet made available through the Centers for Disease Control