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

If you must go outside during cold weather, make sure to dress properly. Wear multiple, thin layers of loose-fitting clothing to trap body heat and promote air circulation. Outer clothing should be tightly woven, hooded and water-repellant.

Mittens are warmer than gloves. Because most body heat is lost through the head, always wear a hat when it is cold outside. If it is extremely cold, cover your mouth and exposed skin with a scarf, neck tube or face mask.

Pay particular attention to the wind chill index, which can create dangerously cold conditions. Be on alert for signs of frostbite by checking for numbness or white areas on your face and extremities (ears, nose, cheeks, hands and feet in particular).

Get medical assistance immediately if you notice signs of confusion, slurred speech, stiff muscles or uncontrollable shivering - all of which are symptoms of a potentially fatal condition called hypothermia. Hypothermia occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can generate it.  

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.