7 days of winter preparedness

By Farah Ng, Canadian Red Cross Digital Volunteer
Admittedly, I dread the start of winter each year. It’s hard adjusting to shorter days and cold weather. But I often think that, without winter, I wouldn’t have all those cozy memories of drinking hot chocolate by the fire - not to mention skating and sledding!

What makes the difference between a bad winter and a good one is preparation. Depending on where you live, winter can mean extreme cold temperatures, snow storms and power outages.

Join us for the next seven days as we do one small thing each day to help prepare for cold days ahead:

Day 1: Get your car ready! Always keep an emergency kit and be sure to include non-perishable food, water, warm clothing and blankets too. It’s also important to keep salt, sand and a shovel in the trunk in case you get stuck in the snow. For extra peace of mind, I like to keep my gas tank as full as possible in case a storm keeps me on the road longer than anticipated.
A person skating down a frozen river lined with evergreen trees.
Day 2: Plan on enjoying the great outdoors this winter? Me too! Remember, layers are your friend. Prevent cold-related injuries such as frostbite by covering up your head and trunk, dressing in layers, and covering exposed skin such as fingers, cheeks ears, and nose.

It’s also a good time to make sure the whole family has appropriate winter gear such as gloves, jackets, snow pants and toques. Have the kids outgrown their layers? Get those early, before you need them.

Day 3: The Canadian Red Cross sees an increase in home fires during the winter. Make sure your family, knows what to do, including the kids. I recommend holding a household meeting and making sure everyone knows:
  • How to escape your house in case of a fire
  • Where to meet up if you and your loved ones get separated and can’t return home
  • Who to call if you get separated and can’t get to the meet up location (memorize the phone number of an out-of-town contact who can connect you)
  • What to do to keep family pets safe – they’ll need a home fire escape plan, too
  • How to test and read smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, as they could save your life!
Day 4: Be ready for winter storms! Download apps from Environment Canada and the Weather Network. Sign up for local emergency alerts.  
  • Make a plan about what to do if your power goes out when it is -40℃. How will you stay warm? What will you eat? Who should you check on?
  • Review power outage safety tips for generators, using candles and cooking indoors (for example, never use camp stoves in an enclosed area).
Day 5: Get familiar with the signs and symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia. These are two of the most common wintertime risks that can be prevented with some advanced planning. It’s important to also learn how to treat their signs and symptoms, and know when to call EMS/9-1-1.

Day 6: Before you lace up your skates, make sure the ice is safe! Check out this Red Cross resource on how to know when it’s safe to skate or use a snowmobile. If you fall into icy water, know what to do. Did you know it’s best to avoid climbing out where you fell in? That’s where the ice is weakest.

Day 7: Feeling blue from the darker days? You’re not alone. In fact, 15% of Canadians report experiencing symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a kind of depression that appears at certain times of the year.

To help alleviate mild symptoms, try to schedule daily outdoor activity during sunlit hours and make physical activity a priority. For more serious cases of SAD, it’s best to speak with your doctor or a mental health professional.

Now that you’re ready, what are you waiting for? Get out there, stay safe, and have a fantastic winter!

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