Winter Survival Tips for Madison Wisconsin Residents

Winter is almost upon us!  Prepare to face brutal wind chills, slippery sidewalks, and severe Vitamin D deficiency. To help us get through the arctic cold, we turned to some Madison companies for these 25 winter survival tips.

Each of these companies specializes in a different winter-related area. Make use of their collective tips!


You may not be so inclined to conserve energy if heat is included in your rent. However, as MGE notes, if we control and reduce our energy use—individually and collectively—we will help to reduce costs for all of us in the long run.

1. Check batteries of your programmable thermostat

Don’t come home to a cold house! Check the batteries before the winter weather gets here.

2. Activate smoke detectors

Make sure your smoke detectors are ready to work if you need them.

3. Install a carbon monoxide (CO) detector

CO is a silent killer! If you have a furnace, fireplace, water heater or other appliance that is fueled by fossil fuel, the chances of CO poisoning from malfunctioning appliances increases substantially as houses are closed up for the winter.

Exhaust fumes from an attached garage can also leak into living areas. CO detectors are inexpensive—just plug in and they could save your life.

4. Check your furnace filter

Before the heating season starts, change your furnace filter. If the furnace hasn’t been serviced for more than two years, now’s a good time to do that too.

5. Keep your thermostat at 68°F or below

Lower your thermostat at night and when you’re gone (55°F lowest setting). In older buildings with less insulation, Steve Brown Apartments recommends 65°F.

6. Check weather-stripping

Check the weather-stripping around doors and windows and replace as needed. Leaks around windows and doors not only create drafts but also waste heat. Get it repaired if necessary.

7. Cover wall-mounted air conditioners with plastic film or an air-tight cover

Cover interior of windows with shrink-film plastic, and add a cover for the air-conditioner.

8. Close off unoccupied rooms

If you heat with electricity, close off unoccupied rooms or turn down its thermostat. (For older homes, there could be pipes running through the wall that need heat. If you know there’s no plumbing in or above that room, it’s safe to close off and not heat the room.

Use portable electric space heaters safely and wisely – they can be very costly!

9. Install ENERGY STAR certified bulbs

Replace most frequently used incandescent bulbs and with ENERGY STAR certified bulbs. ENERGY STAR bulbs use about 70-90% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs.

Visit to learn how together we can create a more sustainable future for our community.

Go Slow: Driving Tips from American Family Insurance

American Family Insurance knows what happens when people don’t adapt to winter driving conditions. I guess when you’ve seen as many winter fender-benders as they have, it can be your “claim” to fame. (Sorry, we couldn’t resist.)

Here are a few tips for vehicle safety from American Family Insurance:

  1. Drive appropriately for the conditions
  2. Check weather reports before you travel to determine if it’s safe to drive

If the weather is bad and you must go out, strongly consider public transportation.

  1. Avoid the build-up of carbon monoxide in your car and home

Don’t let your car run while parked in the garage, and remove any snow that accumulates near the vehicle’s exhaust pipe.

  • Clear all snow, ice, and fog from your windows before driving
  • Drive slowly, and take corrective steering and braking action gradually
  • Turn on your headlights

This will not only improve your visibility but also make yourself more visible to other motorists.

  1. Use well-traveled routes and let others know your expected arrival time.
  2. Watch out on bridges

Remember that bridges become slick before roads do in cold conditions, and snow becomes more slippery as the weather gets warmer.


Public Health Madison and Dane County chimes in with some winter health pointers — including ones to help our furry friends:

1. Check on loved ones and neighbors, especially those in fragile health, preferably by telephone

Pay particular attention to older neighbors who may be outdoors attempting to shovel snow or engaged in some other activity that might be putting them at risk.

2. Monitor your food intake and physical output and maintain a regular diet to help your body better handle the severe weather conditions

3. Hydrate – water is usually the best choice

Drinks with caffeine, sugar, and alcohol take longer for your body to absorb and do not hydrate as well.

4. People should be aware of the amount and intensity of their physical activity, both indoors and out

Avoid overexertion. Cold weather puts additional strain on the body, especially the heart.

5. If you have to go outside, be sure to wear appropriate clothing that will adequately insulate you from the cold and provide protection from the wind

Older adults, those in fragile health and smaller children can be more readily affected by the cold than the average adult.

6. Never leave children or pets alone in vehicles

Temperatures in vehicles can drop rapidly.

7. Pets can be greatly affected by the cold and should not be exposed longer than necessary

Large animals need to be kept out of the wind and have a dry place to lie down. Water supplies should be checked to avoid freezing and diets should be adjusted to increase energy content by 5%.


We’ve already covered winter driving tips. But what happens if you’re on the road and, well, suddenly you’re off the road and in the ditch, or stranded in a snowbank. Every car should have a survival kit. Here are the essentials, courtesy of Zimbrick.

Make a survival kit for your car

Items to store in the car include:

  • Cell phone and charger
  • Boots, gloves, and hat
  • Blanket or sleeping bag
  • Shovel
  • Flares and/or reflective triangle
  • Coffee can “furnace” with a candle
  • Waterproof matches
  • Tire traction material, such as sand or cat litter
  • Ice scraper and brush
  • Small tool kit
  • Flashlight with fresh batteries
  • Jumper cables
  • Tow rope or chain
  • Non-perishable food and high-calorie snacks
  • Bottled water
  • First-aid kit
  • Any medically-critical prescription medications

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