Snowstorms: our tips for avoiding the worst

Many places in Canada are hit hard by snowstorms all winter long. They may be part of everyday life for us, but they remain dangerous, particularly if you need to face one from behind the wheel.

Here are a few safety rules you ought to take seriously should you find yourself stuck at a standstill in your car while waiting out a blizzard.

  • Stay in your vehicle, unless you’ve spotted a safe place fewer than 90 metres away.
  • Keep moving your arms and legs to stay warm.
  • Remain visible by securing a piece of brightly coloured material to your antenna, turning the interior lights on (while the motor’s running), or raising your hood if the snow has stopped falling.
  • Ensure your exhaust pipe is clear.
  • Turn the motor on and run the heat for only 10 minutes every hour.
  • Leave a window cracked (on a side that isn’t exposed to the wind.)
  • Wait for the storm to be over before leaving your vehicle.


Protecting yourself, even at home

Even if you’re safe at home when a winter storm hits, it’s better to take precautions in case the storm lasts longer than expected. Here are some tips to help you protect yourself from the worst effects of a snowstorm.

First, make sure you’ve got an emergency kit that includes as many of the following items as possible:

  • Drinking water (3 days’ worth)
  • Food (enough for 3 days, easy-to-prepare, non-perishable items)
  • Manual can opener
  • Hand-crank flashlight
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
  • Spare batteries
  • First-aid kit
  • Medication (3 days’ worth)
  • Multi-tool
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Copies of important personal documents (list of medications and pertinent medical information, proof of residence, lease or house deed, passport, birth certificate, insurance policies)
  • Mobile phone (and chargers)
  • Coordinates for relatives or emergency contacts
  • Cash
  • Baby supplies (bottles, formula, food, diapers)
  • Pet supplies (collar, tags, leash, food, carrier, bowls)
  • Sand, salt, kitty litter or any other abrasive to make outdoor walkways less slippery
  • Coat, gloves, mitts, hats, boots, blankets and warm clothing for all family members


Next, protect yourself with the following advice:

  • Before going anywhere, always check the short-term and long-term forecast.
  • Avoid going anywhere while a weather warning is in effect.
  • If you have to drive, let a friend or family member know what route you’re taking and prepare a vehicle emergency kit.
  • Protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia by wearing multiple layers of cold weather clothing, both lightweight and heavy.
  • Be aware of the wind chill.
  • Limit exertion while moving around outdoors.
  • Bring a mobile phone.
  • Keep tabs on family members and neighbours who are vulnerable in cold weather: children, elderly people, and people with chronic illnesses.
  • If you have animals, keep them indoors. If that’s not possible, prepare a warm shelter for them and change the water frequently to avoid it freezing.


Finally, if you’re stuck at home for a long period of time, be careful to avoid carbon monoxide emissions by taking the following precautions.

  • Keep outdoor cooking equipment, camping stoves, BBQs and generators outside of your home, basement and garage.
  • Install generators as least 6 metres, (20 feet) away from your home.
  • Evacuate the house immediately and dial 911 if the carbon monoxide alarm goes off, or if you develop headaches, nausea or dizziness or if somebody loses consciousness.

The information contained on this webpage is for informational purposes only. belairdirect makes no representation, warranty or guarantee that use of this information will prevent damage. Your insurance contract prevails at all times, please consult it for a complete description of coverage and exclusions.