Seven steps to cold weather safety

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Publishing Organisation:
Government of Canada
  • English
  • Cold wave
Disaster Management Phase


Make sure you're ready for cold weather!


  • Listen to the weather forecast
    • Check the weather forecast before going out.
    • Listen for a wind chill warning.
    • Warnings are based on local climate and are issued when significant wind chills are expected.
  • Plan ahead
    • Develop a cold weather safety plan in advance to ensure that safety concerns are addressed when it's very cold, or when the wind chill is significant.
      • For example, schools could hold recess indoors, outside workers could schedule warm-up breaks, and those involved in winter recreation could reduce the amount of time they spend outdoors.


  • Dress warmly
    • Dress in layers, with a wind resistant outer layer.
    • When it is very cold, or when the wind chill is significant, cover as much exposed skin as possible.
      • Your body's extremities, such as the ears, nose, fingers and toes lose heat the fastest.
    • When it is cold, wear a hat, mittens or insulated gloves.
    • Keep your face warm with a scarf, neck tube or facemask.
    • Wear warm and waterproof footwear.
  • Seek shelter
    • When the wind chill is significant, get out of the wind and limit the time you spend outside.
  • Stay dry
    • Wet clothing chills the body rapidly.
    • Remove outer layers of clothing or open your coat if you are sweating.
  • Keep active
    • Walking or running will help warm you by generating body heat.
  • Be aware
    • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia (see below).
    • Some people are more susceptible to the cold, particularly children, the elderly and those with circulation problems.
    • Check on elderly relatives and neighbours to ensure they are warm enough and have sufficient supplies, particularly when the weather is cold or snowy.
      • They might not feel comfortable going outside to shop and may require food, medications and other supplies.
    • The use of alcohol, tobacco and certain medications will increase your susceptibility to cold.


Being cold over a prolonged period of time can cause a drop in body temperature. Shivering, confusion and loss of muscular control (e.g., difficulty walking) can occur It can progress to a life-threatening condition where shivering stops or the person loses consciousness. Cardiac arrest may occur

  • What to do:
    • Get medical attention immediately.
    • Lay the person down and avoid rough handling, particularly if the person is unconscious.
    • Get the person indoors.
    • Gently remove wet clothing.
    • Warm the person gradually and slowly, using available sources of heat.


A more severe condition, where both the skin and the underlying tissue (fat, muscle, bone) are frozen. Skin appears white and waxy and is hard to the touch. No sensation - the area is numb or tingling.

  • What to do:
    • Frostbite can be serious, and can result in amputation.
    • Get medical help!
    • Do not rub or massage the area.
    • Do not warm the area until you can ensure it will stay warm.
    • Warm the area gradually; use body heat, or warm water (40°C to 42°C).
    • Avoid direct heat which can burn the skin.


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