Extreme Cold

Winter storms can occur on the North Shore. These events may result in power outages, blocked roads, icy conditions, and extremely cold temperatures. It is important to be prepared for winter weather before it strikes.

The most important lifesaving tip during extreme cold is to seek warm shelter immediately. If you must go out in the extreme cold, please check weather conditions at Environment Canada - Public Weather Warnings for alerts on the North Shore, and dress appropriately. If you must drive, check road conditions before go. Be aware of the wind chill factor that can cause cooler temperatures to occur.


Before

  • Create a household emergency plan.
  • Assign specific safety tasks to family members.
  • Practice your household emergency plan until everyone knows their role and practice every six months.
  • Prepare an emergency kit to be self-sufficient for a minimum of 72 hours, but preferably one week.
    Consider adding the following items:
    • Rock salt or more environmentally safe products to melt ice on walkways and driveways.
    • Sand to improve traction.
    • Snow shovels.
  • In addition to a home emergency kit, you should also have one in your vehicle and at work or school.
  • Plan a family meeting place.
  • Plan to have an out-of-area contact where all family members can check in, in case you are separated.
  • Take first aid and emergency preparedness workshops and keep your training current.
  • Monitor Environment Canada weather alerts. When warnings occur, do a quick run through of your emergency plan.
  • Winterize your home by insulating walls and attics, caulking, weather stripping doors and windows, and insulating pipes.
  • Have the BC Hydro number ready to report an outage.
  • Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them.
  • Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts).
  • Winterize your car. Get your vehicle ready for winter and learn how to stay in control while skidding. ICBC has tips for safe winter driving.
  • Keep your vehicle in good repair and keep your gas tank at least half full.

During

  • If possible stay indoors. If the power is out, keep warm by layering clothes that cover head, hands and feet. Close off all rooms not in use. NEVER use gas ranges or propane heaters for indoor heating or cooking. Carbon monoxide gas can build up and cause suffocation.
  • Contact BC Hydro to report a power outage.
  • If you see lines or poles down, or see any sparks, flames or smoke, call 9-1-1 immediately. Keep back a minimum of 10 metres (33 feet) from the wires or anything in contact with them and warn others of the danger. Always assume that the lines are energized.
  • Tune into your local media (on your battery operated/wind up radio if the power is out) for up-to-date information.
  • If the power is out and the temperatures have dropped, allow your faucets to drip a little to avoid freezing up.
  • During extremely cold temperatures and if you must go outdoors:
    • Dress appropriately. Thin layers of loose fitting clothing will trap body heat while aiding air circulation. Outer clothing should be hooded, tightly woven, and water repellent. Mittens are warmer than gloves. Wear a hat to prevent heat loss. If it is extremely cold, cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.
    • Limit your time out and watch out for signs of frostbite or hypothermia. Check out HealthLinkBC for information on cold temperature exposure.
    • Be cautious when walking on icy streets.
    • Pay attention to wind chill. Frostbite becomes an increasing threat to humans and animals. Wet skin or wet clothing in direct contact with skin increases the effective wind chill.
    • Watch for signs of hypothermia. Symptoms are shivering, confusion, and loss of muscular control. If symptoms occur, seek medical assistance immediately.
    • Be careful when shovelling. Vigorous exercise and cold temperatures can cause high blood pressure and accelerated heart rates. Take breaks, shovel with a buddy, warm up your muscles before you start, don't shovel right after you eat, and check with your doctor if you suffer from a particular condition.
    • Drive only if it is absolutely necessary. If you must drive: travel in the day; don't travel alone; keep others informed of your schedule; stay on main roads and avoid back road shortcuts.
    • Travel by daylight and with a companion if possible. When traveling alone, make sure someone knows which route you are taking, and your departure and expected arrival times. Be sure to notify them of when you arrive.

Helpful Home Tips

When the temperature and/or wind chill drops below zero the water pipes located inside of your strata lot may freeze.

Owners and residents should prepare by:

  • Disconnecting garden hoses and if possible shut off and drain the water to the outside pipes. If it's frozen to the hose bib, pour hot water over the connect to help thaw.
  • Keep your thermostat in your unit no lower than 12°C.
  • If you are planning to be away, shut off the water and ask a friend or neighbour to check on your unit regularly to make sure the temperature is warm enough to prevent freezing.

Even if you've taken the right preventative steps, extreme weather conditions can still harm your pipes. You may wish to take the following steps:

  • A trickle of hot and cold water from a faucet, preferably on an outside wall can prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set at the same temperature during the night and day. Temperatures usually drop more in the night time so turning your thermostat down when you go to bed can catch you off guard.
  • Open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to un-insulated pipes under sinks and appliance near exterior walls.

Here's what you can do to thaw frozen pipes before they burst:

  • If you turn on the faucet and nothing comes out, leave the tap on and call a plumber.
  • You may be able to thaw a frozen pipe with warm air from a hair dryer. Start by warming the pipe as close to the faucets as possible working your way to the coldest section.
  • If the pipes have already burst, turn off the water at the main shut off valve and leave the faucets turned on.
  • Make sure everyone in your unit knows how to shut off the water.
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