Severe Weather

Winter Storm Hazards

During winter, storms can put your safety at risk in many ways.

Pay attention to weather forecasts and take appropriate preparedness measures to ensure your personal safety. Watch this preparedness video to get started.

Icy Conditions

Stairways and sidewalks may be icy and increase the risk of falls. 



Wind chill is a combination of cold temperatures and wind conditions which may cause rapid loss of body temperature. Excess wind chill may require special precautions for outdoor activities. If you suspect frostbite or hypothermia, know how to begin warming the person slowly and seek immediate medical assistance.

Power Failure

Most home heating systems depend on electric power. As backup, consider installing a non-electric standby stove or heater.

  • Choose approved heating units that don’t need electric motors, fans or other electrical devices to work.
  • If the standby heating unit uses the normal house oil or gas supply, make sure it’s properly connected and vented. 

Before using an emergency home generator during a power outage, check with the dealer or manufacturer for power needs and proper operating procedures.

  • Use caution and follow directions.
  • Make sure they are in a well-ventilated area.
  • Do not connect your home portable generator directly to a house wiring system without the proper installation of an approved transfer switch and inspection and approval by an electrical inspector.

Never use a camp stove, barbecue or propane/kerosene heater indoors. You can die from a build-up of carbon monoxide gas in unventilated areas.

If your home heating system fails, take the following precautions:

  • Remain calm. Your house may remain warm for several hours.
  • Avoid opening doors unnecessarily.
  • During a power failure, turn off all electrical appliances.
  • If you have a safe, approved backup heat source, start to use it before the house cools down.
  • Maintain adequate ventilation.
  • Stay warm. Dress in layers and bring out extra blankets.
  • Consider closing off one room for primary heating and use.
  • If you’re worried about freezing pipes, opening a tap even a small amount may keep water moving enough to keep pipes from freezing.

For information about power outages and estimated power restoration in your area, visit the BC Hydro website.

While most power outages last only minutes, in severe weather events, the power can be off for longer periods of time.

Think ahead and get prepared.

  • Plan for isolation in your home.
  • Consider a safe backup heating system.
  • Ensure that you have enough heating fuel for fire places or wood burning stoves.
  • Have working smoke alarms, fire extinguishers and sprinklers.
  • Have a fire escape plan in place.

It is a good idea to assess the trees on your property. Trim dead branches to reduce the danger of them falling onto power lines or your house during a storm.

Stay away from fallen power lines. A hanging power line could be charged (live) and electrocute you. Also remember that ice, branches or power lines can continue to break and fall for several hours after a storm ends.


In extreme conditions, you may want to arrange to stay with relatives, friends or neighbours. 

  • Listen to weather forecasts and instructions from local officials.
  • Communities may set up reception centres to support residents.
  • Keep an eye out for your neighbours who may be at risk.
  • Always follow the instructions of first responders and local emergency officials.
  • Take your Grab and Go Bag  if you need to evacuate.

Extreme Heat

Heat events in British Columbia are classified into two levels, a Heat Warning when conditions are very hot, and there is a moderate risk to public health, and an Extreme Heat Emergency when conditions are dangerously hot and have a very high risk to public health. For more information on the BC Heat Alert and Response System visit the BC Centre for Disease Control Heat Event Response Planning website. 

Extreme heat can put your health at risk. It is important to take steps to protect yourself and your family. While extreme heat can put everyone at risk from heat illnesses, health risks are greatest for:

  • Older adults
  • Infants and young children
  • People with chronic illnesses (like breathing problems, mental illness, and heart problems)
  • People who work in the heat
  • People who exercise in the heat
  • Pets

If you are taking medication or have a health condition, ask your doctor or pharmacist if it increases your health risk in the heat.

During extreme heat, the most important thing is to keep cool and hydrated.

  • Drink water regularly, even more than you think you need
  • Check on family, friends and your neighbours, especially those who are isolated or more vulnerable to heat illness
  • Make your home as comfortable as possible – close blinds and shutters during the daytime and open them at night
  • Open your windows at night to let in cooler air
  • If you don’t have air-conditioning, take shelter in the coolest room in your home and use a fan
  • Cool showers and misting yourself and your clothing with cool water will help keep you from overheating
  • If you’re heading outside make sure you protect yourself from the sun by staying in the shade, avoiding direct sun mid-day, wearing a hat and protective clothing, using sunscreen, and wearing UV-protective eye wear
  • Seek cooler, breezier areas such as a large park near water with lots of trees

Pets in Extreme Heat

During extreme heat, it's important to remember that pets are vulnerable too! In these conditions, the BC SPCA recommends the following tips
  • Check the pavement before your walk. Place your hand or bare foot on the pavement for five seconds. If it’s too hot for your skin, then it’s most likely too hot for your pet.
  • Walk during cooler times of the day. Avoid taking walks during the hottest time of the day. Instead, opt for walks in the early morning and late evening when the pavement is cooler.
  • Keep midday walks short. If you’re taking your pet out during the day, be sure to keep walks short. If you have a longer adventure planned, be sure to bring water and take frequent breaks.
  • Refrain from walking on hard surfaces and stick to the grass. Pavement and roads can be tough on your dog’s joints, in addition to being too hot for your dog’s paws. If possible, stick to grass, dirt, or a softer terrain but be aware of uneven surfaces or any other hazards like rocks and holes.
  • Stick to a shady and cool route. You don’t want your dog to become overheated, which is why sticking to cool and shady routes is key. A run along a lake or pond is another great idea since it’s the perfect place for your dog to stop for a dip post-run.

Additionally, the BC SPCA recommends Carrying a Kit for your pet. This includes bottled water, a small bowl, a small battery-powered fan and a towel that can be soaked in water.

For more tips about keeping your pet cool at home, the BC SPCA has lots of tips to help keep you and your pets safe.

Find out more about extreme heat waves in Canada and some tips to Beat the Heat. 

View tips from Sustainable Saanich on Climate adaptation to heat and smoke in your home.

Be Prepared
For more information, visit PreparedBC's Extreme Heat Preparedness Guide [PDF - 9 MB].