Prepare Now for Freezing Weather, Winter Storm

January 23, 2023. Powerful winter weather continues to make headlines early into the new year. From a winter storm that caused an hours-long shutdown of a major interstate to record-breaking rain along the Pacific Coast, no state has been spared hazardous weather. Even if your area isn’t affected by snow or other winter weather hazards, you may be seeing temperature drops of 20 degrees below what’s normally expected.

It’s time to prepare for whatever is headed your way.

If freezing weather or a winter storm is imminent

Freezing weather and winter storms involving snow or ice can cause pipes to burst, create dangerous sidewalks and lots, and knock out power for days or weeks. Here are some last-minute tips to get you ready.

  • Turn up the heat to above 55 degrees. Check the thermostat in all rooms to ensure the setting.

  • Prop open room doors and cabinet doors beneath sinks to keep heat circulating throughout the building. Let faucets drip to keep water moving inside pipes.

  • Locate your water supply valves. If a pipe bursts, time is critical. Know where valves are located for all buildings. Keep the tools to close the valves nearby. Be sure to include areas with baptisteries, laundry rooms, and water heaters in your search.

  • Prep the generator. The goal is to maintain heat in the building, even if a big freeze takes down power lines.

  • Clear gutters of debris to allow melting snow to drain. Obstructions cause “ice dams” that block drainage and damage your roof. Check drains on flat roofs and remove leaves and other material.

  • Designate staff and/or volunteers in advance to clear sidewalks and parking lots of snow. Put snow shovels, salt, and entryway mats in easy-to-access locations.

  • Get to know your sprinkler system. Monitor your systems using a central station that provides early detection of a pipe failure. Make sure to maintain the temperature in the control rooms.

  • Stock vehicles with supplies. A traveling group might experience bad weather during a trip, leaving them stranded. Load up the vehicle with blankets, extra clothing, water, energy bars, a flashlight, and a first aid kit. Test tire pressure and coolant levels. Even better: consider postponing the trip until bad weather is not in the traveling path.

  • Move vehicles off the lot and away from trees. A concrete parking garage is best, if possible. If not, allow staff to take home vehicles to spread your risk of damage.

  • Prepare for guests, if necessary. If you’re in a position to offer emergency shelter to storm victims, read Guidelines for Making Your Church a Temporary Shelter to get ready.

Finally, keep emergency numbers close. Create a list of numbers that includes your insurance agent, plumber, water restoration company, heating contractor, electrician, and utility companies.

Free Resources for Ministries

Whatever disasters are common to your area, our online Safety Library can help you prepare—and recover. We’ve selected a few articles to get you started:

Winter Weather Prep

Disaster Planning and Recovery

Additional Topics