As winter temperatures approach, staying warm and safe can become a challenge for many seniors. Here, extremely cold temperatures often accompany a winter storm, so along with the cold, you may also have to cope with power failures and icy roads.
Although staying indoors as much as possible can help reduce your risk of having an automobile accident or falling on the ice, there are other problems you may face in your home when the weather gets cold. For example, your home may not be properly equipped to protect you from the elements, and steps you take to get warm, such as using space heaters or fireplaces, may increase your risk of household fires as well as the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Exposure to cold temperatures, whether indoors or outside, can cause other health concerns as well, some of which can be serious or life-threatening . To keep yourself and your family safe, you should be prepared for winter weather, know how to prevent cold-related health problems, and also know what to do if a cold-weather emergency does arise.
Here are some tips on preparing for winter weather:
- Don’t wait for the first winter storm to prepare for poor weather. Begin your preparations early in the season so that you’re ready to react quickly when a winter storm is forecast. Assemble and check your existing emergency kits. Get in the habit of factoring the weather into your daily plans and be ready to cancel or reschedule plans.
- Travel safely. Give your car a winter tune-up in mid autumn and have your snow tires installed early to avoid being caught off guard by a late autumn snowstorm. Assemble a car emergency kit including basic items like high-energy snacks, a flashlight or road hazard light, new batteries, a blanket, and warm gel packs. Listen to weather forecasts early in the day to determine if there is the potential for severe weather in your area, or along your travel route. Check your provincial road reports before setting out on a trip.
- Assemble a home emergency kit. Have a dedicated supply of bottled water and non-perishable or canned foods on hand in case you are unable to get to a store for a few days. Ensure you have a battery or crank-powered radio, flashlights, new batteries and propane to fuel a propane camping stove and/or barbecue for cooking and heating water. If you water supply is dependent upon electricity try to set up an alternate water source like a rain barrel or ensure you have a way to melt snow for non-drinking water needs. Do not use propane stoves and barbecues indoors and avoid using candles if at all possible as they can be extremely dangerous, particularly if you have children or pets.
- Work and play safe. Winter storms and severe conditions like high wind chill values can be hazardous to you, your employees, children, or even pets. When you’re working or playing outside beware of worsening conditions in the area around you. If conditions worsen get indoors as soon as possible. If you must be outside during inclement weather, dress to suit the weather. Wear a hat and dress in thin layers of loose-fitting clothing with water-repellent and wind-resistant outer layers. Watch carefully for symptoms signaling hypothermia: shivering, confusion and loss of muscular control. Frostbite can occur in minutes. Watch for numbness or whiteness in ears, nose, fingers, and toes.
- Respect the potentially destructive power of the weather. When severe weather is forecast for your area, make preparations quickly, securing any outdoor property. Take cover inside and stay there until the storm has subsided and the danger has passed. Don’t travel unless it’s absolutely necessary and respect evacuation orders that local emergency responders may issue.
- Remember that after-storm conditions can pose hazards too. Weather phenomena such as storm surges can wreak lasting havoc on infrastructure, leaving it vulnerable after a storm. Road conditions can remain hazardous too even after the storm has subsided. Take care as you resume normal life after a storm has stopped.