Winter Storms - Emergency Preparedness

People walking down the street during a winter storm.

Severe winter storms can cause widespread damage and disruption. Heavy snow can result in transportation delays and traffic accidents due to slippery roads and stranded vehicles. Ice storms can down power lines and poles, and make travel virtually impossible. Winter storms may also cause power outages leaving you without heating, lighting, water, or phone services. Here is some information to help you cope with severe storms in Halton.

What to do prior to a Winter Storm

What to do during a Winter Storm

  • When a winter storm watch is in effect, listen to the radio or television for information or instructions. When a winter storm hits, stay indoors and make sure you have enough heating fuel.
  • During winter storms, icy roads challenge even the most experienced drivers.  If you must travel during a winter storm, do so during the day and let someone know your route and expected arrival time. Where possible, stay on cleared routes. More about Driving in the Winter.
  • Power outages are often caused by winter storms which damage power lines and equipment. During a power outage, you may be left without heating, lighting, water, or phone. You can greatly lessen the impact of a power outage by taking the time to prepare in advance. You and your family should have a Family Emergency Survival Kit to cope on your own during a power outage for at least 72 hours.    
  • Farmers should take the necessary precautions to safeguard animals and livestock.
  • If you must go outside, dress for the weather.
  • If you must travel during a snowstorm, do so during the day and let someone know your route and arrival time.

Recognizing cold-related injuries

  • The risk of cold-related injury varies depending on:
    • the temperature
    • wind speed
    • length of time outdoors
    • age
    • physical conditions
    • whether clothing is wet or dry
  • Frostbite, or the freezing of body tissue exposed to the cold, is a common cold-related injury and has a numbing effect so you may not be aware you are frostbitten.

Warning signs include

  • A stinging or aching feeling, followed by numbness.
  • Skin that feels waxy and cold; and skin that turns red, then gray, white, yellow or blue.

How to treat frostbite

  • Move the person to a warm place and call for professional emergency medical help.
  • Don't let the person walk if his or her feet are frostbitten.
  • Handle the frostbitten area gently; never rub it. Wait for professional emergency medical help to arrive.
  • Do not try to rewarm the frostbitten area.

How to treat hypothermia

  • Gently move the person to a warm place and immediately call for professional emergency medical help.
  • Remove the person's wet clothing. Slowly warm the person by wrapping them in blankets or putting on dry clothing. If the person is conscious, offer a warm, non-alcoholic drink and avoid caffeine.
  • Hypothermia occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Heat loss occurs more rapidly when you are wet. Warning signs of hypothermia include increased shivering, slurred speech, impaired judgement, and poor muscle coordination.