Get prepared for cold weather and storms
Severe weather like thunderstorms, hail, blizzards, high winds or heavy rain can happen without warning and in any season. Extreme cold can be hazardous, and the risk increases the more time you spend outdoors.
On this page
- Severe weather checklist
- Extreme cold safety tips
- Warming centres and shelters
- Prepare your vehicle
- Follow weather alerts
Severe weather checklist
This checklist helps you prepare yourselves and your home.
- Develop an emergency plan
- Put together your emergency kit
- Connect with your neighbours (PDF, 2.55MB)
- Have a battery-operated radio
- This allows you to listen to your local station for warnings, advice and instructions
- Stow flashlights with extra batteries
- Winterize your home
- Insulate walls and attics
- Weather-strip doors and windows
- Clear rain gutters
- Remove tree branches that could fall during strong winds
- Inspect your chimney or flue
- This helps prevent structural fires and ensures smoke, carbon monoxide and other potentially harmful gases are properly vented
- Make sure you have an adequate supply of food and water
- Food in your fridge and freezer is usually safe to consume if the power is out for less than four hours
- Fireplaces, wood stoves, barbecues and camp stoves can be used outdoors for emergency cooking. DO NOT use barbecues or camp stoves indoors. Learn about the danger of carbon monoxide and how you can prevent it by visiting Technical Safety BC.
Extreme cold safety tips
Environment and Climate Change Canada issues extreme cold alerts based on local climate conditions and they are put into effect when significant cold temperatures or wind chills are expected to occur for at least two hours.
- Dress warmly
- dress in layers, the outer layer should be wind resistant
- synthetic and wool fabrics provide as good insulating properties
- Cover up
- frostbite can develop within minutes on exposed skin, especially with wind chill
- watch for colour changes on fingers and toes, pain, numbness, a tingling sensation, or swelling
- Keep dry to stay warmer
- Keep moving to maintain your body heat and seek shelter from the wind
- outdoor workers should take regularly scheduled breaks to warm up and reduce their risk of cold stress
- If it’s too cold for you to stay outside, it’s too cold for your pet to stay outside
- Check on family, friends and neighbours
- Keep emergency supplies in your vehicle such as extra blankets and jumper cables
- Make sure your home is well-insulated, the heating system is working efficiently and seal off cracks and drafts
- HealthlinkBC – Cold Exposure and Risk of Injury
- Environment Canada – Cold Weather Safety Tips
- Health Canada – Health Risks of Extreme Cold
Connect with your local government or First Nation for more information about extreme cold resources and supports available in your community.
Warming centres and shelters
In response to extreme cold events, warming centres may be opened for the public at the discretion of local governments and First Nations in affected areas.
Temporary winter shelters and extreme weather response shelters are funded by BC Housing and operated by their partners for people experiencing homelessness.
Find a warming centre or shelter by contacting your local government or by checking the BC Housing website.
Vehicle preparedness checklist
Preparing your vehicle (PDF, 721KB) includes packing a winter survival kit. Your kit should include:
- Grab-and-go bag containing water, non-perishable food, and first aid supplies
- Windshield scraper and snow brush
- Extra windshield washer fluid
- Spare tire, wheel wrench and jack
- Shovel and traction mat, sand or kitty litter
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Battery jumper cables
- Extra clothing and footwear
- Flares and matches or lighter
- Fuel line antifreeze
- Tire chains and gloves
Plan your route and keep up-to-date with weather information:
You can also call toll-free 1-800-550-4997 for B.C. road information 24 hours a day.