Winter storms: Be prepared
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Winter Storm Preparedness


Winter Storm Preparedness
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Video: Winter Preparedness

Step 1: Know the Risks (and Get Prepared)

To get prepared for a winter storm, you should know the risks specific to your community and your region. To find the hazards in your region, visit the “Know the Risks” section of the website.

The following list of actions can be completed to get prepared and know what to do in the event of a winter storm:


  • Clean gutters, drains and downpipes.
  • Make sure your roof is in good condition.
  • Trim dead branches and/or cut down dead trees to reduce the danger of them falling onto your house during a winter storm.

When a winter storm is imminent an Alberta Emergency Alert may be issued with recommendations on actions to take.

Environment Canada will issue weather warnings. Radio and local television stations will also broadcast Environment Canada weather statements.

Secure everything that may be blown around (such as lawn furniture and/or garbage cans) as they may injure people or damage property.

During a Winter Storm

If you are indoors during a winter storm, stay away from windows, doors and fireplaces.

If indoors, use a cellular or cordless telephones as it is not safe to use corded telephones.

If a power outage occurs, do the following:

  • Check your main electric panel and breaker. If you move a tripped switch to the “off” position and then to the “on” position, you may restore power.
  • Turn off or unplug appliances or equipment. Sensitive equipment, electronics and appliances should be unplugged during an outage and re-plugged after power has been restored.
  • Preserve heat, where possible. Close blinds or curtains and avoid opening doors to keep heat from escaping. Do not use outdoor barbeques, kerosene or camping heaters indoors as they emit carbon monoxide.

If you are advised by local officials to evacuate, do so immediately. Take your emergency kit with you.

If you are in a car, stop the car away from trees or power lines.

If you are in car and it gets stuck, do the following after calling for help:

  • Remain inside the vehicle and open one window slightly on the sheltered side for fresh air.
  • Run the engine for 10 minutes every half hour. Before running the engine, check the exhaust pipe to ensure that it is not blocked with snow, as carbon monoxide fumes do not have an odour.


Blizzards come in a wave of cold arctic air, bringing snow, bitter cold, high winds and low visibility due to blowing snow. Blizzards could last a few hours to several days. A wind chill warning may be issued when very cold temperatures (-35 degrees C or colder) combined with wind could create outdoor conditions hazardous to human activity.

A wind storm warning may also be issued when winds are expected to reach a steady speed of between 65–75 km/hr or 90–100 km/hr in gusts. Blizzards may leave heavy snowfall that can cause roof failures or collapses.

Blizzard Tips

If a blizzard or heavy blowing snow are forecast, you may want to string a safety line between your house and other structures in case you have to go to them during the storm.

Stay indoors if possible. If you must go outside, dress for the weather. Outer clothing should be tightly woven and water-repellent. Jackets should have hoods. Wear mittens, as they are warmer than gloves and a hat, as a lot of body heat is lost through the head.

Do not try to walk to another building unless there is a rope to guide you or something you can follow.

If you must travel, do so during the day and let someone know your route and arrival time.

Ice Storms

Freezing rain occurs when raindrops fall from a warm layer of air into air that is below freezing and become supercool. When the super-cooled droplets strike a surface below 0˚C they freeze instantly, which forms a layer of ice.

Ice, branches or power lines can continue to break and fall for several hours after the end of the precipitation.

Ice Storm Tips

If you must go outside when a significant amount of ice has accumulated, pay attention to branches or wires that could break due to the weight of the ice and fall on you or your vehicle.

Never approach power lines. A hanging power line may be charged (live) and you could be electrocuted. Stay back at least 10 metres from wires or anything in contact with them.

When freezing rain is forecast, avoid driving if possible. Even a small amount of freezing rain can make roads very slippery. Wait several hours after freezing rain ends so that road maintenance crews have time to spread sand on icy roads.

Step 2: Make a plan

Every household needs an emergency plan. It will help your household know what to do in case of an emergency. Also, remember that your household may not be together when a winter storm (or another emergency) happens.

Here are some suggestions to guide you through your planning:

  • Discuss what could happen and what you should do at home, school or work if a winter storm strikes. To be prepared, make a list of what needs to be done ahead of time.
  • Choose two meeting places in the event that not everyone is together when the storm hits: one meeting place in your neighbourhood, and one in your community.
  • Write down important contact phone numbers.
  • For households with children, be familiar with school emergency procedures.
  • Store important documents such as birth certificates, passports, insurance, wills, and financial documents in a fire/waterproof container.
  • Identify an appropriate out-of-town contact that can act as a central point of contact for everyone in your household during an emergency.
  • Write down and exercise your plan at least once a year. Make sure that everyone has a copy and keeps it accessible.

Step 3: Get a kit

In an emergency, you will need some basic supplies. You may need to get by without tap water or power. Be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours (three days).

Make sure that your kit is easy to carry. Options for a kit container include a backpack, duffel bag or suitcase with wheels. Your emergency kit should be kept in an easy-to-reach, accessible area, such as your front hall closet. Make sure everyone in your household knows where the emergency kit is.

Household Emergency Kit

  • Water (six litres per person). Include small bottles that can be carried easily in the event of an evacuation order.
  • Food that won’t spoil such as canned food, energy bars and dried foods. (Remember to replace food and water once a year.)
  • Manual can opener.
  • Crank or battery-powered flashlight (and extra batteries).
  • Crank or battery-powered radio (and extra batteries).
  • First aid kit.
  • Extra keys for your house and car.
  • Some cash in smaller bills.
  • Copies of your emergency plan, important documents and contact information
  • Special items such as prescription medications, infant formula, or equipment for people with disabilities. (Remember to replace medication once a year.)
  • Vehicle emergency kit
  • Water (in plastic bottles so they won’t break if frozen)
  • Food that won’t spoil
  • Blanket
  • Extra clothing and shoes
  • First aid kit (with seatbelt cutter)
  • Copy of your emergency plan and documents
  • Small shovel, scraper and snowbrush
  • Candle in a deep can and matches
  • Wind-up flashlight
  • Whistle (in case you need to attract attention)
  • Roadmaps

Keep the following items in your trunk

  • Sand, salt or non-clumping kitty litter
  • Tow rope
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Antifreeze/windshield wiper fluid
  • Jumper cables
  • Warning light or road flares

Emergency Preparedness Resources


Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo


Alberta Emergency Management Agency


Public Safety Canada

Canadian Red Cross

St. John Ambulance



ATCO Electric, Environment Canada, Public Safety Canada

FLOOD RECOVERY: Information and resources