Statistical Importance: High
Hypothermia claims the lives of 700 people every year in the U.S. (1)
Wintertime Hazards and Health
Keep your home warm.
- Ensure that you have the means to comfortable and safely warm you home.
- Ensure that your sources of heat are properly installed, cleaned, and managed.
- Always use the correct fuel (recommended by the manufacturer) for the respective heating
- Never use gasoline for a kerosene heater, as this will cause an explosion.
- Never use your range or oven to heat your home.
- Never burn paper, green wood, or pine branches (kindling can float up and alight the roof)
- Invest in an easily accessible dry-chemical fire extinguisher.
- Always use the correct fuel (recommended by the manufacturer) for the respective heating device.
- Winterize your home with sound insulation (plus any weather-stripping frames, storm windows, caulking).
Keep your home safe. In a workplace area, try investing on a winter safety program for your employees to minimize accidents and illnesses during times like this.
- Look out for potential hazards and obstacles. Unblock rain gutters, repair cracks and leaks throughout the home, ensure no old tree trunks or branches are in danger of falling upon your house.
- To prevent freezing, insulate pipes (insulation, plastic, and even newspapers help) and turn on faucets slightly (just at a drip).
- Install smoke alarms, check them regularly, and replace batteries at least annually.
- Never leave sources of heat or fire unattended.
Stay warm by bundling up.
- Better many thin layers than one thick piece of material.
- Rule of thumb: dress children and elders in one more extra layer (than an adult would wear).
- To keep infants from suffocating, opt for one-piece sleepers and wearable blankets.
Sign of frostbite:
- Loss of feeling in the limbs
- White, gray, or blistered fingers, toes, ear lobes, nose tip
- Keep the person warm and dry, apply warm water to frostbitten areas, and do not rub. Get medical help immediately.
Signs of hypothermia:
- Uncontrollable shivering
- Memory loss, disorientation, or incoherence
- Slurred speech, drowsiness, or apparent exhaustion. Get medical help immediately.
- Get the person to a warm location (warm the center of the body first), replace wet clothing with dry, and encourage them to drink plenty of warm (non-alcoholic) liquids. Get medical help immediately.
Statistical Importance: moderate
Approximately 14% of the candle fires occur in December. This is almost twice the 8% monthly average.(2)
Surviving the Seasonal Storms
In case of a power failure, have an alternative way to heat your home.
In case pipes freeze, remove insulation, open all faucets, and douse pipes with hot water.
Stock up on emergency supplies, stowing them at home, at work, in your car, or any other place you may be stranded or snowed in.
- A few days’ worth of non-perishable food and water, a first aid kit, any essential medication, flashlights, batteries, battery-operated radio, candles and matches, tools (snow shovel, can opener), etc.
- Also ensure that you have sufficient heating fuel (dry, seasoned wood; kerosene oil) to last for a while in case you’re snowed in.
Tune in to NOAA Weather radio, or your local radio or TV weather channel to learn about varying weather conditions.
Minimize travel. Stay indoors as much as possible.
Keep dry. If you get wet, change out of your clothes immediately.
Bring pets indoors, or move livestock to warm shelter with drinkable water.
Maintain ventilation, especially if using kerosene heaters (refuel these outdoors) or fireplaces.
Statistical Importance: moderate
The number of falls involving ice and snow has raised to 17.8% for 2010. (4)
Safely Handling Snow and Ice
Bundle yourself up.
- Dress in layers to stay warm, even though you might warm up later due to the exertion of shovelling.
- Feet, hands, nose, and ears should be especially well covered.
Sprinkle the ground liberally with rock salt or de-icing compounds to avoid slips and falls.
Shovel carefully. It’s an unusual and strenuous activity; probably not something you do daily.
- Stretch and warm up before you begin; take frequent breaks; cool down whenever you feel tired or strained.
- Position yourself so that you’re shovelling the snow in front of your body (facing the snow).
- Avoid shovelling if you’re out of shape or you’ve got cardiac issues.
- Never smoke while (or drink alcohol prior to) shovelling.
- If using a snow blower, follow the owner’s manual’s guidelines.
- Always turn off the machine before touching or adjusting it.
- Never leave it unattended while it’s running.
- Before you begin, fill the snow blower with fuel, while the engine is still cool.
Statistical Importance: high
55% of all skiers and boarders wore helmets. Quebec had the highest rate of usage at 65% with the lowest rate in Western Canada at 50%.(5)
Protective Measures for Winter Sports
Don’t overdo it. Come back indoors often and periodically to warm up.
Never play under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Play with company. It’s always good to have a buddy (or a few) when skating, sledding, or snowboarding—in an emergency, another person to offer immediate assistance could save a life.
- Supervise children.
Keep to approved and safe locations. Keep equipment away from the road and other dangerous areas with hazardous obstacles. Don’t ski, snowboard, sled, etc. on surfaces that are unfamiliar or hazardous.
First learn how to stop and steer.
Cover exposed skin with sunscreen; sunburn is still an issue, particularly with the sun reflecting off snow and ice.
Always don or use proper safety gear and equipment, respective to the sport or activity (helmets, goggles, etc.).
Statistical Importance: HIGH
About 70% of injuries due to ice and snow result from vehicle accidents, and about 25% occur in people caught out in a storm.(3)
When driving, take heed of these winter safety tips:
- Check that your car is in good condition before bad weather hits. Ensure that you are
- A lasting battery
- Good tires; opt for snow tires or chains.
- Keep seasonal emergency equipment in the car, along with your regular emergency kit:
- Sand or rock salt for traction (kitty litter also works)
- Ice scraper
- Small shovel
- If possible, always avoid driving during heavy snowfall or ice storms.
- If you’re forced to drive in bad conditions,
- Drive as slowly as possible.
- Entrust a family member or friend with your itinerary so authorities will be alerted if you’re stuck or lost.
- If you’re stuck or your vehicle gets stalled, stay inside until help comes.
- Don’t spin your wheels; try rocking the vehicle.
- Light two flares and place them at a safe distance in front of and behind your car.
- If necessary, unblock the exhaust pipe from snow.
- Open the window slightly for ventilation.
- Turn on the ignition for a few minutes each hour to use the heater; wrap yourself in clothes and blankets.
- If you skid,
- Remove your foot from the gas or accelerator.
- If rear wheel skid, steer in the direction you want to go; if front wheel skid, shift to neutral and steer only when the car slows (due to friction), pushing the accelerator gently.
- Gently pump standard breaks; apply steady pressure if you have ABS (anti-lock brakes).
- Dress in layers.
- Wear appropriate and warm footgear; waterproof boots with non-skid soles are fest.
- Choose bright clothing or reflective gear to be visible to motorists.
- Always opt for the sidewalk.
- Ensure that vehicles come to a complete stop before moving towards or around them.
If using public transportation,
- Stay tuned to weather forecasts for potential storm watches and warnings or changing weather patterns.
- Stay tuned for any changing travel announcements.
- Consider the probability of delays and cancelations.
- If waiting for a bus or other vehicle, stick far from the curb; slippery conditions can cause vehicles to slid and skid.
- Be careful boarding and exiting, hold on to handrails, and stay away from platform edges (for metros and trains).
---- Winter Safety Tips: Sources ----
- (1) NAccidental Hypothermia & Frostbite: Cold-Related Conditions, Page 1, by bhchp.org
- (2) Facts about Winter House Fires, page 2 by rcrmc.org
- (3) Winter Storms: The Deceptive Killers, page 3 by nws.noaa.gov
- (4) Falls involving ice and snow, transport accidents and respiratory conditions: the impact of winter (2009/10) on emergency hospital admissions in the North West, page 3 by npwh.info
- (5) Helmets and Ski Safety Facts and Stats, page 3 by SkiCanada.org
- (6) Helmets and Ski Safety Facts and Stats, page 6 by SkiCanada.org
- (7) Make Safety a Tradition Campaign, page 17 by HolidaySafety.org
- (8) Winter Storms: The Deceptive Killers, page 5 by nws.noaa.gov
- (9) Road Salt Use in the United States, page 29 by onlinepubs.trb.org