Winter Weather

Canadian winters are tough. From coast-to-coast we all need to be prepared for winter’s wrath. And preparation should start as soon as possible.

We’ve put together a few helpful tips to help you safely navigate the winter months. Whether at home, at work, or at play, follow these tips to help stay safe when the temperature drops.

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Winterizing your home

Top 10 maintenance tips for winterizing your home:

  1. Test and maintain smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
  2. Ensure your furnace, wood stove and any other heating sources are in good working condition
    • Have them inspected, maintained and cleaned. During the heating season, clean or replace furnace air filters each month.
  3. If you go on vacation, even for a few days, leave the heat on and have someone you trust check on your home while you are away.
  4. Run water through all plumbing fixtures regularly.
  5. Test plumbing shut-off valves.
  6. Inspect your attic for frost accumulation, and check your eavestroughs and roof for potential ice dams or icicles
  7. Keep your sidewalk and the front stairs of your house clear of snow and ice.
  8. Keep snow away from gas meters, gas appliance vents, exhaust vents and basement windows.
  9. Trim branches that are close to your house or electrical wires.
  10. Prevent freezing of pipes by fitting exposed pipes with insulation sleeves or wrapping.

Printable poster: Winterizing your home

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Ice safety tips

Top 10 Ways to Help Avoid Ice Hazards

  1. Use designated ice surfaces.
    • Many communities have designated ponds or outdoor ice surfaces – for activities such as skating – that are maintained by knowledgeable personnel. Designated ice should be regularly tested to ensure that it is thick enough and strong enough for recreational use.
  2. Measure ice thickness in several locations.
    • Local conditions such as currents and water depths can affect ice thickness. White ice has air or snow within it and should be considered suspect for recreational use.
  3. Avoid travelling on ice at night or when it is snowing.
    • Reduced visibility increases your chances of driving onto an open or weak ice area. This is a frequent cause of ATV- and snowmobile-related drowning.
  4. Never go onto ice alone.
    • A companion may be able to rescue you or go for help if you get into difficulty. Before you leave shore, tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to return.
  5. Stay off river ice and avoid the narrows between lakes.
    • River currents and moving water at the narrows where one lake flows into another can quickly change ice thickness or cause ice to be much thinner than in other locations on the river or on the lake.
  6. Wear a thermal protection buoyant suit or a lifejacket.
    • If you don’t have a thermal protection buoyant suit, wear a lifejacket or PFD over your snowmobile suit or layered winter clothing to increase your survival chances if you go through the ice.
  7. Take safety equipment with you.
    • Pack ice picks, a rope and a small personal safety kit (i.e., a pocket knife, compass, whistle, fire starter kit and cellphone) in your pockets or backpack.
  8. Avoid alcohol.
    • Alcohol impairs your judgment, coordination and reaction time and speeds up the onset of hypothermia.
  9. Don't drive on ice if you can avoid it. If you can’t avoid it, have an escape plan.
    • Open your windows, unlock your doors and turn on available lights to allow for a quick escape from your vehicle. Some ice safety experts recommend that you have your seatbelt unfastened and your door slightly ajar to speed up an escape. Don't wear a lifejacket while riding inside an enclosed vehicle; the extra bulk and flotation could hamper your escape through a window.
  10. Always supervise children playing on or near ice.
    • Children playing on or near ice should always be with a companion and under adult supervision.

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Slip, Trip and Fall

As a homeowner, you’re responsible for keeping your property and areas such as stairs, walkways and driveways reasonably safe for people who use them. Before a courier, babysitter, delivery person or repair technician visits, be on the lookout for common hazards such as:

  • Ice and snow – use salt, shovel and/or sand to keep walking surfaces clear within bylaw timeframes
  • Unexpected elevation changes, surface cracks or gaps – fix issues within your property line and/or report issues on municipally-owned property such as uneven sidewalks
  • Slippery surfaces such as wet floors or tile flooring – put down a non-slip covering
  • Missing or loose handrails on stairs – arrange repairs
  • Debris such as slippery and wet fall leaves – keep walking paths clear
  • Lighting – ensure all areas are adequately lit

Your Legal Liability

You may be held liable for slips, trips and falls if you don’t provide a reasonable standard of care in keeping your property free from hazards. If you are hosting a yard or garage sale, consider what you can do to prevent the potential for harm.

As a tenant, liability may be shared with your landlord. Who is held liable depends on the circumstances of the loss. The following criteria are considered:

  • Was the danger foreseeable?
  • Was the homeowner’s conduct in accordance with acceptable standards of practice?
  • Did the danger exist for an unreasonable amount of time?
  • How easily could the danger have been prevented?

The best way to avoid liability is to prevent losses from occurring in the first place. Be diligent in keeping your property free of hazards. Regular maintenance is one of the most effective ways to defend yourself against a claim or lawsuit should one occur.

In the case of a shared space when you are a tenant, ensure your lease agreement clearly states your responsibilities

What to Do If Someone Slips, Trips or Falls

  1. Assist the injured person in finding medical treatment. Call an ambulance if necessary.
  2. Record the names and contact information of any witnesses. Obtain and record detailed descriptions of the incident from the victim and witnesses.
  3. Refer any discussions with the claimant to your insurer. NEVER ADMIT LIABILITY!
  4. Take pictures of the area where the incident occurred. If possible, photograph the footwear that the injured person was wearing.
  5. Document the incident. This may help to establish a defense for a claim presented at a later date and  help your insurer analyze the cause of the incident.
  6. Report the incident to your insurer. Provide them with:
    1. Details of the incident
    2. Information about what you did to avoid the incident.
  7. Investigate potential causes and take steps to prevent and/or respond better to similar incidents in the future.

Printable poster: Slip, Trip and Fall

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Winter Road Safety

Top 10 tips for safe winter driving:

  1. Drive according to the road conditions.
    • Heed the warnings from Environment Canada’s local weather offices.
  2. Tune up your car.
    • Check your vehicle’s battery, belts, hoses, radiator, coolant/antifreeze, oil, lights, brakes, exhaust system, heater/defroster, ignition system and tires.
  3. Check the wipers regularly and carry an extra jug of windshield-washer fluid in your vehicle.
  4. Inspect the tires and check the tire pressure at least once a month in cold weather.
  5. Install four winter tires.
    • Winter tires allow you to stop up to 40% sooner than all-season tires and significantly improve your vehicle’s handling in winter weather.
  6. Keep the gas tank topped up.
  7. Always carry an emergency kit.
    • Include extra antifreeze, a flashlight, batteries, blankets, a candle, matches, hazard markers, a snow shovel, an ice scraper and brush, the phone number of a local towing company, sand, booster cables and food.
  8. Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to arrive.
  9. Bring a map or GPS and plan an alternative route.
  10. Carry a charged cell phone.

Printable poster: Winter Road Safety

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