Get prepared for winter weather and storms
Severe weather like snow, hail, blizzards, high winds or heavy rain can happen without warning and can affect your safety in different ways. Extreme cold can be hazardous, and the risk increases the more time you spend outdoors.
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Protect yourself and others by learning more about the different kinds of winter hazards you might encounter and how to prepare.
- Snow, rain, and ice can cause transportation challenges and increase the risk of slips and falls
- It’s easy to get cold quickly if you are outside in wet, cold, and windy weather. Exposure to cold temperatures can lead to frost bite or hypothermia
- There can be an increased risk of flooding due to melting snow
- Power outages can disrupt communication, the heat in your home, and access to food and water
Climate Change Connection
Winter weather in B.C. is getting warmer and, in much of the province, wetter. However, this does not mean that winter weather will be less severe. It’s important to be prepared for a variety of winter weather conditions.
Even with climate change, we will still experience cold, snow, wind, and winter storms, but they may occur in places or in ways they haven’t before.
As temperatures continue to rise, we become more adapted to warmer temperatures and less prepared for colder temperatures. This means that when cold weather hits, communities feel the impacts of storms even more.
This section outlines basic readiness steps and winter specific considerations for your emergency plan.
Make a plan
When making your plan, keep the following in mind:
- Public transportation may be cancelled.
- Driving, walking, and cycling could be very dangerous due to slippery or snowy road conditions.
- Phone, gas, electric and water services may be disrupted during a power outage.
Also consider the unique requirements of your loved ones and everyone in your home, such as children, pets, and those with additional preparedness needs.
Identify a winter weather buddy
If you or someone you know lives alone or experiences mobility challenges in winter weather, make connections to find a winter weather buddy. Your buddy should be someone who can:
- help with shoveling snow
- help with running errands if you can’t leave your home
Check in with each other when winter weather arrives.
Prepare your home
Take steps to winterize your home such as:
- Insulate walls and attics
- Install weather-stripping along doors and windows
- Learn how to keep pipes from freezing
- Check with your service provider for details on insulation and heat rebate programs or emergency power assistance funds.
- Have a shovel and salt ready. Remove snow from sidewalks and driveways to help reduce the chance of slips and falls
Severe winter weather like ice, wind and snow can cause power outages. It’s important to be prepared to live without power for several days.
Prepare your vehicle
Ensure your vehicle is ready for winter with proper maintenance.
- Install winter tires. They provide better traction in cold temperatures and in snow, slush, and icy conditions
- Keep your gas tank at least half full or electric vehicle half charged at all times
- Visit Shift Into Winter for important road and vehicle safety information
- Create a vehicle emergency kit with the following winter-specific items:
- Windshield scraper
- Tow rope
- Extra items to stay warm (mittens, hat, blanket)
- Booster cables
- Reflective triangle or clothing
- Antifreeze and windshield washer fluid
- Sand or non-clumping kitty litter for better tire traction
Use appropriate clothing and gear
When you’re outside in severe winter weather for work or recreation, stay warm and protected with appropriate clothing and gear, such as:
- A hat and gloves to prevent heat loss.
- Waterproof winter boots with good grip to prevent falls on slippery roads.
- Bright colours and reflective clothing so cars can see you.
- Clothes in layers, with a wind resistant outer layer.
Visit www.AdventureSmart.ca for important winter safety tips if you are planning to recreate in the outdoors this winter.
Check Avalanche Canada at www.Avalanche.ca for the avalanche forecast before heading into the backcountry.
If you used anything from your emergency kit or grab-and-go bag, replace it after the weather has improved or your power is back on.
Set a reminder on your phone to review and update your home emergency plan, emergency kit, and grab-and-go bags at least once a year.
Trust in your preparedness. Contact your winter weather buddy and activate your emergency plan as needed.
Check weather forecasts frequently when winter arrives. Conditions can change quickly. Follow all alerts and travel advisories related to winter weather.
Respect travel advisories issued by Drive BC. If you don’t need to be on the road, stay home.
Follow trusted sources for information
Pay attention to trusted media outlets and community sources for more information and alerts related to winter weather. You can do this by following the trusted sources below.
Environment and Climate Change Canada (for weather alerts)
- Website: Weather.gc.ca
- WeatherCan mobile app
- HelloWeather (for automated telephone weather forecasts)
- English: 1-833-794-3556 or 1-833-79HELLO
- French: 1-833-586-3836 or 1-833-58METEO
First Nations Health Authority (FNHA)
- Website: https://www.fnha.ca/
- X (formerly Twitter): @FNHA
- Facebook: firstnationshealthauthority
- Website: DriveBC.ca
- X: @DriveBC
- Website: bchydro.com/outages
- X: @BCHydro
Emergency Info BC
- Website: www.EmergencyInfoBC.ca
- X: @EmergencyInfoBC
Warming centres and shelters
Warming centres may be opened for the public by First Nations and local governments in response to extreme cold events.
Temporary winter shelters and extreme weather response shelter spaces are funded by BC Housing and operated by community partners for people experiencing homelessness.
During cold weather events, emergency warming centres and general warming spaces locations are listed on EmergencyMapBC.ca at the discretion of First Nations and local governments. If warming centres are not listed on the map in your area, contact your Band office or local government.