How You Can Support Vulnerable Neighbors During the Polar Vortex

Thanks to the polar vortex, an atmospheric effect related to climate change, Midwesterners — no strangers to the cold — are dealing with extremely low temperatures. These are weather conditions normally reserved for the High Arctic.

If you’re in the affected area, what can you do for your most vulnerable neighbors – including the elderly, single parents with small children, people with disabilities, or low-income families? Plenty.

Check on Your Neighbors

Literally just knock on the door of anyone who you think might be at risk, especially if they don’t have family members or friends nearby who are able to check themselves. This is a chance to make sure that your neighbor’s heating is working, ask them if there’s anything they need, assess the situation and determine whether any urgent needs exist.

It’s possible you’ll encounter someone in need who is shy or afraid to say so. In that case, consider directly offering some of the following types of aid, rather than relying on them to bring it up.

Be an Advocate

If you discover a neighbor is missing an important resource like power, fuel or water — due to frozen or burst pipes — you can offer to help them contact the appropriate authorities if they aren’t sure how to do so. This may involve calling a utility company to describe the disrupted service, scheduling a service call, calling a municipality or maybe even contacting emergency services in some cases.

Be an advocate if you have a neighbor who isn’t sure how to solve a problem — or is hesitant to do so — by looking up phone numbers, giving advice and directly making calls as appropriate.

Pick up Groceries

The biggest danger for a person with limited mobility — and especially someone who may lack appropriate warm clothing or a vehicle — is being forced to leave the house for necessities and not being able to do so safely. In this weather, an elderly person who falls down on an isolated street – or a healthy young person without appropriate clothing — could be in danger of serious injury via frostbite, or even death by hypothermia.

Groceries are a common reason that someone might be forced to take that risk, but if you offer to go together or to pick up food for them yourselves, this danger can be avoided.

Donate Warm Clothing

If you know someone who lacks in warm clothing, consider offering them any extra items from your closet. It may help to say that you’re looking to get rid of it, and you want it to go to good use. You can also check into local charities that collect clothing donations for those in need and arrange to pick up items on your neighbor’s behalf.

Drive with an Emergency Cold Weather Kit

If you drive and you haven’t restocked your vehicle’s trunk in a while, make sure you have blankets, flashlights, heavy cold weather gear — including thick mitts, as well as gloves that provide for better fine motor coordination — jumper cables, a tow cable and basic roadside tools.

If you come across people who need rides, a boost for their car, a tow out of a snowbank or ditch, or any number of other situations, you’ll have the equipment to be able to do so while keeping yourself safe and warm.

Photo Credit: Thom Holmes/Unsplash


Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson2 months ago

Thank you.

Shirley S
Shirley S2 months ago

My thoughts are about people & animals trying to cope with this unusual weather.

Danuta W
Danuta W2 months ago

thank you for sharing

Carole R
Carole R2 months ago

Very good reminders.

Janet B
Janet B2 months ago


Christine Stewart
Christine Stewart2 months ago


Peggy B
Peggy B2 months ago


Anne Moran
Anne Moran2 months ago

Yes,,, check on you neighbors,, see if they need anything... - Never heard of a polar vortex before,, sounds alien, like sci-fi to me...

Alea C
Alea C2 months ago


Loredana V
Loredana V2 months ago

Homeless animals and people need help more than ever!
Thank you, I hope people have a heart.