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The City of New Orleans

Plan for Emergencies


Winter Weather

Even though we're so far south, New Orleans can see dangerous winter weather. Extreme cold, dense fog, and even ice & snow storms are possible during the winter months. Dangers from these weather conditions include unsafe roads, cold-related illness, fires, and power outages. When there's a winter weather risk in New Orleans, the National Weather Service issues alerts.

Freeze Warning: Air temperature is expected to be 32 degrees F or lower for a significant amount of time

Hard Freeze Warning: Air temperature is expected to be 25 degrees F or lower for long enough to freeze water pipes

Wind Chill Advisory: issued when wind chills, or "feels like temps," are 13 degrees F or colder AND are expected to last for two hours or longer.

Wind Advisory: issued when the following conditions are expected for 1 hours or longer -- 1) sustained winds of 26-39 mph OR 2) gusts 40 mph or greater.

High Wind Warning: issued when the following conditions are occuring or imminent -- sustained winds of 40 mph or higher for one hour or more OR 2) wind gusts of 58 mph or higher for one hour or more.

Dense Fog Advisory: Widespread or localized fog reduces visibility to 1/4 mile or less

Winter Storm Warning: A mix of wintry precipitation (freezing rain or snow) is happening or is about to happen

Ice Storm Warning: Heavy freezing rain is happening or is about to happen

During extreme cold

Stay warm

  • Stay inside in heat during extreme cold.
  • If you are homeless, seek shelter. During extreme cold, the citywide freeze plan will offer free shelter for homeless residents.   
  • If you have to go outside, wear layers, a hat & gloves and carry a cell phone.
  • Check on neighbors, children, the elderly & chronically ill to make sure they are okay.
  • Bring pets inside.

Know the signs of cold-related illness

See a doctor immediately or go to the emergency room if you or someone you know has these symptoms:

Signs of Hypothermia 

  • Shivering or fumbling hands
  • Exhaustion or drowsiness
  • Confusion or memory loss
  • Slurred speech
  • Bright red, cold skin or very low energy in infants

Signs of Frostbite

  • Redness or pain in any skin area
  • White or grayish-yellow skin area
  • Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
  • Numbness

Practice fire safety & prepare your home

During an ice storm, snow, or dense fog 

Stay informed & connected

  • Sign up for NOLA Ready Emergency Alerts and follow us on Twitter and Facebook
  • Stay tuned to your local news.
  • Know how to contact your loved ones, at work, at school, and at home.
  • Follow the instructions of emergency officials. 

Be careful on the road

  • Listen to emergency personnel and do what they say.
  • Stay off the road as much as possible.
  • If you must drive, use extreme caution during icy or foggy conditions. 
  • Take extra care on elevated roads, like bridges.

Prepare for power outages

  • Keep generators outside and away from your home.
  • Stay warm: wear warm clothes and go to a public place like a library, recreation center, or mall for temporary relief.
  • Use flashlights, not candles.
  • Preserve cell phone battery life. Texting saves battery life compared to calling.

Prepare your home for a hard freeze

Leave your faucets on a slow drip.

  • To help prevent frozen pipes, run a spaghetti-thin trickle of water from the one faucet farthest away from your water meter when temperatures approach 32 degrees.
  • Please run just a thin trickle. If residents across the city run more than that, it can contribute to a water pressure drop.

Open your cabinet doors to expose pipes.

  • As an added precaution, open any cabinet (or regular) doors that hide the pipes under your sinks.
  • This allows the heat from your home to “thaw out” the pipes and prevent condensation from freezing.
  • If you have pipes in an unheated part of the home like a garage, try to keep them as warm as possible. Heat tape is a great solution for situations like these.

Be prepared to turn off your water (or disconnect hoses).

  • Disconnect outdoor hoses.
  • Know where to find the main water shutoff to your property in case a pipe does break.
  • As temperatures climb and the ice thaws, be on the lookout for leaks around your property.

Turn up the thermostat

  •  Make sure you leave the heat on at all times during a extreme cold weather.

  • Use a programmable thermostat to customize the temperature in your home. Set it to one temperature while you’re home and another while you’re at work, school or asleep.
  • Set the thermostat at the lowest comfortable temperature (recommended setting is 60 degrees). The lower the temperature is, the slower it loses heat and the more you save on your energy bill.

Dealing with a burst pipe?

If you experience a pipe burst in your home, turn off your water and drain your plumbing.

  • To do this, locate the main water line from your water meter. 
  • There should be a valve where the line enters your house. Turn it off. Then run all your indoor faucets to drain water from your pipes.
  • Disconnect garden hoses and hoses to your washing machine. 
  • As with any leak on private property, call a plumber immediately.

Prepare for Pets

If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pets.

  • Bring all pets inside and out from the wintery elements.
  • If you are unable to bring pets inside you must provide a shelter that protects from cold winds and rain, along with access to clean, unfrozen water.

Contrary to popular belief, pets are not insulated from the cold just because they have fur. Just as with people, prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can cause conditions such as hypothermia, frostbite and even death in animals.

Stray animals will seek warmth wherever they can find it.

  • Cats left outdoors often crawl into a warm car engine to get warm.
  • When that engine starts up the cat can be seriously injured or killed by the fan blade or belt.
  • It’s much safer to keep your cat indoors in cold temperatures.
  • Always honk your horn or tap your hood before starting your car to scare any cats from under your vehicle.
  • If you have outside cats you take care of, either let them in your garage or build them a shelter with bins and boxes filled with blankets or hay.


New Orleans Humane Law and Rescue will be responding to emergencies only while the freeze plan is activated.

Emergencies include an animal hit by a car, an distress and in need of immediate help, and animal attacks.

If you do see an owned animal outdoors without shelter while the city has it’s freeze plan enacted, call 911 to alert New Orleans Humane Law & Rescue.

The LASPCA will be closed December 24 and 25, but will have an officer on standby 24/7 responding to emergency calls.

Prepare for Plants

  • Cover vegetable, tender, and tropical plants with a light-colored material (e.g., a bedsheet) extending all the way to the ground. Try to avoid contact with the foliage.
  • Cover citrus when temperatures stay below 32°F for 6+ hours.
  • Covers should be put on in the afternoon before a freeze is expected; the afternoon sunlight will warm up the trapped air inside, which can keep the temperature above freezing. Remove or vent the covers during the day if the temperature warms or it is sunny. If there is a prolonged or severe freeze, consider adding incandescent string lights to warm the plant.
  • Water soil around plants thoroughly.
  • Protect the roots and rhizomes of tropical plants by spreading a 4-6 inch layer of mulch around the base of the plant.
  • Bring non-cold hardy potted plants indoors (ex. garage or shed).

Know Your Renters' Rights

Your landlord should provide working heat in your home.

New Orleans Municipal Code Sec. 26-215:

Every dwelling unit shall be provided with heating facilities capable of maintaining a minimum room temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cooking appliances shall not be used to provide space heating to meet the requirements of this section.

How is room temperature measured?

New Orleans Municipal Code Sec. 26-216:

The required room temperature shall be measured three feet above the floor near the center of the room and two feet inward from the center of each exterior wall.

What about fuel-burning equipment?

According to New Orleans Municipal Code Sec. 26-218:

All fuel-burning equipment and appliances shall be connected to an approved chimney or vent.

Combustible and flammable items shall not be stored in the same area as fuel-burning equipment or appliances.

Staying Warm Safely


  • Generators should be used in well ventilated locations outside away from all doors, windows, and vent openings.  

  • Never use a generator in an attached garage, even with the door open.  

  • Place generators so that exhaust fumes can’t enter the home through windows, doors, or other openings in the building. 

  • Make sure to install carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in your home. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for correct placement and mounting height.  

  • Turn off generators and let them cool down before refueling. Never refuel a generator while it is running.  

  • Store fuel for the generator in a container intended for the purpose and is correctly labeled as such. Store the containers outside of living areas.  

  • When plugging in appliances, make sure they are plugged directly into the generator or a heavy duty outdoor-rated extension cord.  

  • If you must connect the generator to the house wiring to power appliances, have a qualified electrician install a properly rated transfer switch in accordance with the National Electrical Code® (NEC) and all applicable state and local electrical codes. 


  • Plug heaters directly into the wall socket, and not into extension cords.  

  • Check the cords on electric heaters before using. If the cord is frayed or splitting, discard the heater.  

  • Any repairs to heaters should only be performed by a qualified licensed appliance repair person.  

  • Keep anything that may burn at least 3 feet away from the heater.  

  • Never allow children to play with, or around, the heater.  

  • Never place anything inside the grill on the front of the heater. 

  • Unplug heater when they’re not being used.  

  • Do not place anything on top of extension cords such carpets, rugs, or textiles.


  • Use only seasoned wood, never use green wood, plastic artificial logs, paper, or trash.  

  • Make sure the chimney flue is open before the fireplace is used. 

  • Always use a protective screen.  

  • Clean interiors, hearths, and chimneys yearly.  

  • Have your chimney inspected by a professional at least once a year and have it cleaned if necessary.  

  • Ashes should be removed in a metal container. Never store ashes in or near your home as they may rekindle. 


  • Before you light candles put them in a non-tip candle holder.  

  • Never burn candles near combustible decorations or displays.  

  • Keep candles well away from curtains and other combustibles, and never put candles in windows or near exits.  

  • Don't leave candles burning unattended or within the reach of small children.  

  • Extinguish candles before you leave a room, go to bed, or leave home.  


  • Depletion of oxygen from the room resulting in death.  

  • Clothing or close combustibles catching on fire when close to flames.  

  • Air pollution such as carbon monoxide whenever fuel is incompletely burned.  


  • Once a year have your heating sources checked by a licensed mechanical contractor.  

  • Floor furnaces should be cleaned and vacuumed prior to usage and should be checked for proper ventilation.  

  • Make sure floor furnaces are clear of all coverings.  

  • All gas heating sources should put out a clear blue flame, if you see a primarily orange or yellowish flame; have it checked by a professional.  

  • All heating sources should be checked annually.  

  • All gas heating sources must also be properly ventilated. Keeping a window slightly opened can circulate fresh air and reduce carbon monoxide buildups in tightly sealed houses.  

  • Never use a stove or oven to heat the home, as this causes a buildup of deadly carbon monoxide gas in the home.  


  • Smoke alarms save lives! The best level of protection is to install alarms in every bedroom and every hallway on every floor.  

  • Minimum protection installs smoke alarms outside bedrooms and on every floor.  

  • DO NOT install smoke alarms in the kitchen or bathroom.  

  • Test the batteries monthly.  

  • Keep smoke alarms away from air vents.  

  • Place smoke alarms at least 4 to 6 inches away from walls and corners 


  • Install carbon monoxide (CO) detectors near bedroom areas and family rooms, for extra protection; place one about fifteen feet away from your home’s heat source.  

  • DO NOT install them near air vents or fans.  

  • Test your CO Detector each week by pressing the test/silence button to make sure that the alarm sounds.  

  • Keep your CO detectors dust free by vacuuming air vents regularly.