Winter Storm Safety Tips

Winter Storm Safety Tips

Winter is here, which means we should expect and prepare for colder temperatures and an increased risk of heavy snow and ice storms in the coming months.

Like hailstorms, snow, ice and extreme cold can be dangerous and potentially cause significant damage to your vehicle and your home. While you can’t stop a storm from coming, you can often help reduce the amount of damage it causes. Here’s a list of tips to help you stay safe before, during, and after a winter storm.

Prepare for winter storms at milder times of the year

Prepare your home:

  • Keep trees and shrubbery trimmed. Remove all tree branches that hang over your roof and walkways. Branches that get heavy from ice and snow can break off and fall. If you’re unable to reach these areas safely, consider hiring a professional. Some shrubs and plants may also benefit from being covered with burlap to prevent damage from snow, ice and salt.
  • Keep your eaves troughs and downspouts clean of leaves and debris so melting snow and ice can get through.
  • In the event that a weather emergency requires you to stay at home for a few days, be prepared by creating an emergency preparedness plan and have a kit ready with flashlights, batteries, blankets, some non-perishable food, and bottles of water.

See our “5 Easy Ways to Winterize Your Home” infographic for more home advice.

Prepare your vehicle:

  • Schedule a winter vehicle maintenance inspection with your mechanic, and install winter tires and new wiper blades.
  • Create a winter safety kit and store in your trunk so you are prepared if you get stuck in a winter storm while on the road.
  • Always keep your gas tank over the half way mark in winter months so you are ready for the unexpected.

Stay safe during a winter storm

  • Stay off the roads. A blizzard can make roads impassable and leave drivers stranded.
  • Keep everyone, including your pets, indoors. If you need to go outside to clear snow, dress in layers, take breaks, and stretch in between shovelling.
  • To help prevent pipes from freezing and bursting, keep your home heated to a minimum of 18°C. If temperatures dip very low, open cabinet doors in your kitchen and bathrooms to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.
  • If you discover that pipes are frozen, don’t wait for them to burst. Take measures to safely thaw them immediately (such as wrapping pipes in warm towels or using a hot air from a hair dryer), or turn off the main water line and call a plumber for assistance.
  • If you’re going to be away at any time during the winter months, drain the pipes by shutting off the main water line and then run your taps until the water runs out. You should also flush all of the toilets to remove water from the tanks.

Hot Steaming Water Running from Kitchen Faucet

After a winter storm

  • Once the storm has passed, check the snow accumulation levels on your roof, particularly on the downwind side where blowing snow typically collects. If there’s been a lot of accumulation you could try to remove it with a roof rake or a long-handled soft bristled push broom if safe to do so from the ground. Otherwise, consult a professional contractor who can remove excess ice and snow safely. Excess snow can be heavy and can also lead to ice dams.
  • Clear snow and ice from basement stairwells, window wells, gutters and around walls.
  • Keep sidewalks and front steps of your home clear of ice and snow to help prevent falls.
  • Clear snow from gas or propane meters, and exhaust vents.

Become familiar with your community’s severe weather warning system and make sure every member of your family knows what to do in case severe weather hits.  Learn about the emergency plans at your workplace, as well as at your children’s school and/or daycare.


Originally published December 2015