There’s a reason that Canada is often called “the great white north.” The nickname is especially appropriate during the winter months. Even though weather differs across provinces and regions, this season is typically snowy, icy, and cold.
Since Mother Nature likes to challenge us at this time of year, it’s a good idea to be prepared for anything. Winter preparedness means keeping both your home, and the people who live in it, safe, warm and cozy.
Make your home winter ready
There are a few key areas to focus on in your home so you can enjoy the winter in comfort.
- Replace air filters in your furnace to ensure cleaner flows of air.
- Clear any obstacles to your heating vents. Consider having your vents professionally cleaned every year or two.
- Prevent frozen pipes by insulating any exposed water pipes in uninsulated areas, such as crawlspaces, exterior walls or underneath some manufactured homes. Ideally, wrap exposed pipes with electrical heating tape first, then insulate them with a foam sleeve.
- Exterior faucets should have their water supply turned off. Drain and disconnect your garden hoses.
- Check windows and doors for damaged or missing caulking and seal any gaps you find with exterior caulk.
- Clean window tracks of debris that may interfere with seals.
- Feel around your door for air leaks and replace weather-stripping if needed.
Reduce fire risk
Did you know that house fires occur in winter more than any other season? It’s mainly because of an increase in heating, cooking, candles, and holiday decorations.
- Test your fire alarms every month to make sure they’re working.
- Keep a close eye on your stovetop and oven when baking, simmering or roasting.
- Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen where it’s easily reachable.
- Check holiday lights for broken sockets and frayed wires and dispose of any damaged sets. Avoid plugging too many lights into an outlet.
- Candles should be kept one metre (three feet) away from anything flammable. Never leave candles unattended.
- Space heaters pose a fire risk, but if you need to use one, keep it at least one metre (three feet) away from clothing, furniture and bedding.
Staying safe outdoors
The elements can really work against you in the winter. Icy sidewalks and roads mean slips and falls happen more, and extreme cold increases risk of frost bite and even hypothermia.
- Be cautious and allow for extra time when walking.
- Wear slip on ice cleats to better grip the ice or use a hiking stick or walking cane to help avoid falls.
- Check the weather forecast before you head outside. Winter weather can change on a dime and it’s worth knowing what to expect.
- Wear layers so you have coverage when you need it. Ears, noses, fingers and toes lose heat the fastest.
- If you get wet, change into dry clothing as soon as possible as you’ll lose heat faster.
- Bring your cellphone in case you need to call someone for help.
Be prepared for emergencies
Severe winter weather can bring power and water disruptions or outages. An ideal emergency kit should be equipped to get your household through an emergency for at least 72 hours. These are some of the essential items that are recommended by the Government of Canada:
- Water – at least two litres of water per person per day; include small bottles that can be carried easily in case of an evacuation order.
- Food that won’t spoil, such as canned food (make sure you have a can opener), energy bars and dried foods (replace food and water once a year).
- At least one battery-powered flashlight (and extra batteries). Replace batteries once a year.
- A battery-powered radio (and extra batteries).
- A first aid kit.
- If applicable, other items such as prescription medication, infant formula, equipment for people with disabilities, or food, water and medication for your pets or service animal (personalize according to your needs).
Keeping an emergency kit in your vehicle is also recommended. Some important items to keep in your trunk:
- Small shovel, scraper and snow brush.
- Flashlight (ensure batteries are changed regularly).
- Antifreeze/windshield washer fluid.
- Jumper cables.
- Candle lantern to keep warm.
- Warning light or road flares.
You can learn more about emergency preparedness on the Government of Canada’s resource site at getprepared.gc.ca