Northern Ireland's councils must be prepared to open emergency facilities for people affected by the severe weather, the environment minister said.
Edwin Poots said he was concerned that people, including senior citizens and families with small children, were left without heat, water or electricity.
All 26 councils have emergency plans to provide help and shelter when needed.
The plans allow for properties to be opened as emergency reception facilities.
"Many people are facing Christmas without any heat or running water," he said.
"They can't live in those circumstances for days while they wait on a thaw.
"I have therefore requested that councils be prepared to open humanitarian centres, if required, to cater for the needs of these people over the Christmas period and beyond."
He said his department had met the Local Government Emergency Management Group (LGEMG) and other emergency responders on Thursday.
"We advised the councils that emergency procedures should be activated. The councils have now done so," he said.
Councils and their staff are now on stand-by to assist lead agencies in the provision of emergency help.