Being Prepared for Winter

Winter weather conditions in Canada can quickly become dangerous, often with little or no warning. Winter storms and excessive cold claim over 100 lives each year in this country - that is more than the combined number of deaths caused by hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, extreme heat and lightning each year.

Environment Canada issues a variety of severe winter weather watches and warnings to alert the public about the approach of hazardous winter conditions. Protect yourself and your family by learning more about the different kinds of winter hazards you might encounter, and how to plan ahead for possible emergencies.

Winter driving calls for extra care, even in normal winter conditions. Snow and ice can reduce tire traction on roads, and heavy or blowing snow can make visibility poor. For more information on winter driving please visit Public Safety Canada’s safety tips on driving in the winter.

Whether you’re shovelling or skiing, always be sure to dress warmly in cold temperatures and avoid over-exerting yourself. When your blood vessels are constricted by the cold, your heart has to work harder to pump blood through them and the added stress could trigger a heart-attack or stroke.

For more detailed information on winter safety, visit the following links:

Blizzard Safety

When a blizzard hits, stay indoors and wait it out. If you must go outside, dress properly to stay warm. Tie one end of a long rope to your door and hold onto the other end to avoid getting lost in the blinding snow. When it comes time to shovel yourself out after the storm, take your time to avoid over-exertion.  More information on blizzard safety is available at the Public Safety Canada website.

Planning Ahead

Having a storm readiness plan in place saves valuable time if severe weather strikes. It is also important to maintain an emergency pack with a battery-powered flashlight, a radio, tools for emergency repair, ready-to-eat food, a first aid kit, blankets, and extra clothing. Keep your car gas tank full in case gas stations close down after a storm, and have some cash on hand in case bank machines and electronic payment methods are down. When a warning is issued, stay calm and follow your plan. In winter, be sure to stock up on heating fuel. A great way to be aware of potential impending winter storms and be prepared, is to take advantage of Environment Canada’s Weatheradio service.

For more information on how to prepare yourself and your family for an emergency situation, visit the Government of Canada’s 72 Hour Campaign.

Staying Warm

Dress warmly when you go outside during cold weather.  Wear layers of clothing with a wind resistant outer layer.  You can remove layers if you get too warm (before you start sweating) or add a layer if you get cold.  Wear warm socks, mittens, a hat and scarf.  In extremely cold conditions, cover as much exposed skin as possible.  If you get wet, change into dry clothing.  You lose heat faster when you are wet.

Outdoor sports, such as skiing, snowmobiling and skating can be fun in the wintertime, but be sure to dress appropriately.  Wear a face mask or goggles to protect your face from frostbite and windburn.

Be on alert for signs of frostbite - check for numbness or white areas on your face and extremities (ears, nose, cheeks, hands and feet). Get medical assistance immediately if you notice signs of confusion, slurred speech, stiff muscles or uncontrollable shivering.  These are signs of hypothermia, a potentially fatal condition.  Hypothermia occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can generate it. 

Check the Environment Canada weather forecast before you go outside.  Watch for wind chill or extremely cold temperatures.  Wind chill can create dangerously cold conditions, but extremely cold temperatures can also be hazardous, even if there is little or no wind.

Storm Surge Safety

In the event of a storm surge, avoid coastal areas, particularly those prone to flooding, and seek higher ground. This Public Safety Canada website offers detailed information on what to do in the event of a storm surge. 

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