Every winter, 911 communications centers are inundated with calls for service ranging from vehicle accidents and structural fires to burglaries and health related issues (such as suicides, heart attacks, slip and falls). As national organizations address winter safety precautions to citizens and communities, we must also remember to address winter safety issues directly to those who serve and protect us — our nation’s first responders. Below are three winter preparedness tips that all first responders must adopt to ensure a safe return home at the end of each shift.

1. Dress appropriately

Whether an officer is performing a traffic stop or a paramedic is performing CPR in freezing weather, first responders must wear the proper attire to protect themselves from extreme weather conditions. Winter attire includes winter socks, gloves, foot/hand warmers and insulated hats and vests. All first responders must train using their tools or medical equipment while wearing extra layers. For example, an officer should try using handcuffs while wearing winter gloves.

2. Prep your vehicle

All first responders must carry a first-aid kit in their vehicles (on-duty and off-duty) and make sure the kit includes tourniquets. Research shows that an individual can bleed to death in three minutes from a traumatic injury. Additional equipment all first responders should have in their vehicles includes jumper cables, tow rope, shovels, a de-icer and chains for tires. All fleet (and personal vehicles) should go through a general vehicle maintenance service check before the winter months.

3. Protect your home

Every first responder wants to go home at the end of a shift, and it is important for first responders to make sure to protect their own homes. Home safety includes fire and carbon monoxide protection as well as burglary prevention. All first responders must remember to five things: change batteries in smoke detectors every year, lock all doors when leaving home, make sure lights or decorations are shut off every night and before you leave your residence, blow out all candles before bed or before leaving your home and make sure large appliances are shut off before leaving home.

On-duty and off-duty, first responders must remember to take extra steps to protect themselves and their families from incident.