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Snow Safety Tips

Shoveling Requirements

  • DC law requires residential and commercial property owners to remove snow/ice from the sidewalks around their property within the first eight hours of daylight after a storm ends. Otherwise, commercial property owners may be fined $150, and residential property owners may be fined $25.

Shoveling Help is Available

  • Homeowners who are 65 or older/or residents with disabilities, access, and functional needs may get help with shoveling snow from Serve DC’s DC Volunteer Snow Team. Call Serve DC at 202-727-7925 to sign-up for the DC Volunteer Snow Removal Program.
  • DPW’s Sidewalk Shoveling Exemption Program releases homeowners who are at least age 65 and/or have a disability, access, and functional need from the requirement to shovel snow from their sidewalk(s) within the first eight hours after the end of a snowstorm. For more information and to apply, click here.
  • Si usted es una persona de la tercera edad y necesita ayuda removiendo nieve, por favor llame al 311 (@311DCgov).

Shoveling Safely

  • Do yourself a favor before the storm begins – apply deicer or rock salt to your sidewalk and steps. This will make clearing snow and ice easier after the storm ends. The District Snow Team uses pet-friendly deicer on its pedestrian bridges.
  • The National Safety Council recommends the following tips to shovel safely:
    • Do not shovel after eating or while smoking
    • Take it slow and stretch before you begin
    • Shovel only fresh, powdery snow; it's lighter
    • Push snow rather than lift it
    • If you lift snow, use a small shovel or only partially fill the shovel
    • Lift with your legs, not your back
    • Do not work to the point of exhaustion
    • Know the signs of a heart attack, stop immediately, and call 911 if you experience any of them. Every minute counts.*
    • Don't pick up that shovel without a doctor's permission if you have a history of heart disease. A clear driveway is not worth your life.
    • Don't pick up that shovel without a doctor's permission if you have a history of heart disease. A clear driveway is not worth your life.
  • Clear catch basins and fire hydrants.
  • Please do not put snow in the street. Put all cleared snow, from parked cars and sidewalks, in the "tree box," front yard, or between the curb and sidewalk.

*Signs of a heart attack from the American Heart Association website:

“It’s important to know that every heart attack can be different. However, most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort of the chest. There may also be discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, or breaking out in a cold sweat.”

Winter Storm Tips for Pedestrians

  • Dress properly for the weather, including a hat, scarf, coat, gloves, socks and water-resistant shoes or boots.
  • Watch where you are going. Pay attention to traffic and traffic signals. Leave your phone in your pocket.
  • When walking at night, wear outer clothing that contrasts with the white snow.
  • When walking during the day, wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from glare.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get where you are going. 

Tips to Prevent Cold Related Illness

The best way to prevent hypothermia and frostbite is to stay inside. If you must go outside, here are some tips to stay warm and frostbite-free. Cold Related Illness Prevention [pdf]

Supplies You Should Have Before a Storm:

  • NOAA Weather Radio or battery-powered or hand-crank radio to receive weather reports and emergency information.
  • Flashlight and extra batteries.
  • Extra food and water. High-energy food, such as dried fruit or candy, and food requiring no cooking or refrigeration are best.
  • Special supplies (such as medications) for seniors, family members with disabilities, infants, young children and pets.
  • First-aid supplies.
  • Emergency heating source, such as a fireplace, wood stove, space heater, etc.
  • At least a three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day). Store in sealed, unbreakable containers.
  • A three-to-five-day supply of non-perishable canned food and a non-electric can opener.
  • Working fire extinguisher and smoke detector.
  • Change batteries in all your equipment at least once a year. An easy way to remember is to do it when you turn your clocks back in the fall.
  • Use deicer, rock salt or non-clumping kitty litter to clear snow/ice from walkways. The DC Snow Team uses pet-friendly deicer on its pedestrian bridges.
  • Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment.
  • ReadyDC Emergency Supplies List. 72 Hour Emergency Supplies List [pdf]

Cold Weather and Your Home

  • Frozen Pipes
    • Turn off water that flows through pipes to the outside of your home then drain the outside spigot of any remaining water.
    • For pipes inside your home that may be subject to freezing, keep cabinet doors open, allow a drip of cold water to flow through a faucet and keep your thermostat set at 55° or higher.
    • If your pipes freeze, remove any insulation or layers of newspapers and wrap pipes in rags. Completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they were most exposed to the cold (or where the cold was most likely to penetrate).
  • Snow and Roofs -
    • The weight of snow can collapse your roof, particularly flat or low-pitched roofs. (A pitched roof is a roof made of two angled pieces. A low pitched roof is a roof where the dangle is not very steep.) Wait until the storm has ended before climbing on your roof and removing snow, especially if blizzard conditions of high winds and snow prevail. Here are some tips:
    • Look for signs of collapse, e.g., sagging roof, severe leaks, cracked or split woof, bends or ripples in supports, cracks in the masonry, doors that pop open, and creaking, cracking, or popping sounds.
    • Consider hiring a professional, if possible, since snow removal can be dangerous.
    • Make sure you have a spotter! Do not attempt to climb on to or clear your roof on your own in case something goes wrong.
    • Use a snow rake (available at most hardware stores) or a broom for pitched roofs to remove snow from your roof. Avoid metal tools that can conduct electricity from power lines and might damage your roof.
    • Instead of trying to remove all of the snow from the roof, focus on getting down to two or three inches of snow to prevent damage to the top of your roof or shingles.
    • Be careful while removing icicles and use protective headgear or goggles when removing the snow.
    • Don’t forget your gutters and drains! Keep them free of ice and snow and make sure your downspouts are clear.
    • Don’t use open flame or electric heating devices (hair dryers, heat guns, etc.) to remove snow or ice.
    • Remember, ladders can be slippery and ice can build up on the rungs or your shoes.
    • More information can be found in the FEMA Snow Load Safety Guide.

CDC and HSEMA Preparedness Recommendations: