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Winter Safety

Extreme cold temperatures can be a hazard to personal safety, and special precautions are required. Before you head outdoors, please take the following steps to reduce your risk of weather-related health problems:

  • Older adults and very young children should avoid prolonged outdoor exposure.
  • Check on older friends, relatives and neighbours who live alone. During periods of extreme cold weather, offer to shop for older friends and relatives
  • While indoors, try to keep at least one room heated to 20 degrees Celsius. Be careful when using fireplaces, stoves or space heaters to stay warm. Carbon monoxide poisoning and home fires are very real winter hazards.
  • Dress in layers of warm, dry clothing, so that you can adjust to changing conditions. Be sure to wear a warm hat that covers your ears and a pair of loose-fitting gloves or mitts - Up to 40% of our body heat is lost through the head and hands.
  • Eat high-energy foods along with warm beverages and soup. Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages.
  • Avoid fatigue and exhaustion during cold weather. Overexertion, such as shoveling snow or pushing a car, can strain your heart.
  • Cover exposed skin surfaces to protect from frostbite. Warm affected areas gradually by wrapping or placing the affected area next to warm skin or in warm water. Do not rub areas of frostbitten skin.
  • Recognize the symptoms of hypothermia: confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. If these symptoms are present, seek immediate medical attention. Severe hypothermia can be life threatening.
  • Use particular caution on slippery surfaces during winter weather. Many injuries are caused by falls on ice-covered sidewalks, steps and driveways. Keep these areas clear of snow and use salt or sand on ice.
  • Wear winter footwear with good treads, foot traction aids and/or ice picks on canes. Reschedule outings or appointments on days that are particularly slippery.
  • When traveling by automobile, monitor weather conditions carefully and adhere to travel advisories.
  • Keep a winter storm survival kit in your car. This should include extra clothing, blankets, food, flares, chains, gloves and first aid supplies. Keep your gas tank full and to the extent possible, avoid traveling alone.

Wind Chill

Consult the Weather Office website for the wind chill forecast and current values in your locality.

Winter Travel

The best safety precaution during severe weather conditions is to avoid traveling. However, if you must drive, be prepared.

  • Tune up your vehicle and keep the tank full of gas.
  • Plan your trips in advance and drive well-traveled roads.
  • Tell family and friends of your route, departure, and arrival times.
  • Listen to the radio for weather updates.
  • If driving conditions become serious, turn back or stop at the side of the road.
  • Carry a WINTER SURVIVAL KIT (see below).

Things to do if you are stranded

  • Park completely off the traveled portion of the road.
  • Set out warning lights or flares.
  • Turn on 4-way flashers.
  • Stay in the vehicle and keep dry.
  • Run the engine sparingly for heat.
  • Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow.
  • Avoid long exposure and over-exertion -- shoveling in bitter cold can kill.
  • Use a candle in a coffee tin for heat.
  • Keep fresh air in the vehicle by partially opening a sheltered window.
  • Exercise in the vehicle by vigorously moving your legs, arms and hands.
  • Wear a hat as you can lose up to 60% of body heat through your head.
  • Do not let all occupants sleep at the same time.
  • Keep watch for searchers and other traffic.

Winter survival kit

  • Ice scraper and brush
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Booster cables
  • Shovel and tow rope
  • Flares or other signal aids
  • Sand or kitty litter
  • Candles and coffee tin
  • Matches/lighter (in a waterproof bag)
  • Blankets/warm clothing
  • Granola bars, candy, sugar cubes
  • First aid kit
  • Compass
  • Hatchet or axe
  • Cellular phone
  • Methyl hydrate (fuel line de-icing)
Last update: June 23, 2014