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Cold Wave

Cold waves, which are a fact of life in Manitoba, can last for weeks and can have an effect on infrastructure, machinery, and health and safety. Frost bite and hypothermia pose a serious risk to students, faculty, and staff.


A “special weather statement” or windchill warning will be issued, in advance, by Environment and Climate Change Canada. This will provide time for students, faculty, and staff to check their basic emergency kit to ensure that it is current. As infrastructure could be affected, the following are additional items that may be considered:

  • An alternate heat source with extra fuel. Ensure that there is proper ventilation. Never burn charcoal indoors.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher on hand and make sure that the household knows how to use it.
  • Prepare for possible isolation in your home. Keep a stock of food and extra drinking water.


  • Stay indoors as much as possible.
  • Listen to the radio or television for weather reports and emergency information.
  • Conserve fuel, if necessary, by temporarily closing off heat to some rooms.
  • Eat to supply heat to the body and drink non-alcoholic beverages to avoid dehydration.


  • Wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
  • Mittens are warmer than gloves.
  • Cover your head as most body heat is lost through the top of the head.
  • Cover your mouth to protect your lungs.
  • Use caution when shovelling snow. Over exertion can bring on a heart attack — a major cause of death in the winter.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite: loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, and the tip of the nose.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia: uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion.
  • If symptoms of hypothermia are detected, get the victim to a warm location and remove any wet clothing. If conscious, warm the centre of the body first by giving warm, non-alcoholic beverages. Seek medical help as soon as possible.


About 70 per cent of winter deaths related to snow and ice occur in automobiles. Consider public transportation if you must travel. If you travel by car, travel in the day, don’t travel alone, and keep others informed of your schedule. Stay on main roads; avoid back-road shortcuts.

Winterize your car. This includes checking battery, antifreeze, wipers, windshield washer fluid, ignition system, thermostat, lights, flashing hazard lights, exhaust system, heater, brakes, defroster, oil level, and tires. Consider snow tires and keep your car’s gas tank full. Carry a basic vehicle emergency kit in the trunk of your vehicle.

If you get trapped in your car:

  • Pull off the highway. Turn on hazard lights and hang a distress flag from the radio aerial or window.
  • Remain in your vehicle where rescuers are most likely to find you. Do not set out on foot unless you can see a building close by where you know you can take shelter. Be careful: distances are distorted by blowing snow. A building may seem close but be too far to walk to in deep snow.
  • Run the engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm. When the engine is running, open a window slightly for ventilation. This will protect you from possible carbon monoxide poisoning. Periodically clear snow from the exhaust pipe.
  • Exercise to maintain body heat, but avoid overexertion. In extreme cold, use road maps, seat covers and floor mats for insulation. Huddle with passengers and use your coat for a blanket.
  • Take turns sleeping. One person should be awake at all times to look for rescue crews.
  • Drink fluids to avoid dehydration.
  • Be careful not to waste battery power. Balance electrical energy needs — the use of lights, heat, and radio — with supply.
  • At night, turn on the inside light so work crews or rescuers can see you.
  • If stranded in a remote area, spread a large cloth over the snow to attract attention of rescue personnel who may be surveying the area by airplane.

You can protect yourself and your household from the many hazards of a cold wave and winter conditions by planning ahead.

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