December 12,

Protect Yourself from Extreme Cold This Winter

December 1, 2017 – Peterborough Public Health Activates Extreme Cold Response Plan

With the colder winter months ahead, Peterborough Public Health has activated its Extreme Cold Response Plan (ECRP) to advise residents on the best way to protect their health when temperatures plummet.

“Cold weather injuries, such as frostbite and hypothermia, are preventable,” said Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, Medical Officer of Health.  “Most healthy people can tolerate a short period of cold weather if dry and properly dressed.  Our plan is designed to advise those who are the most vulnerable, suffer from cardiovascular disease and are at the highest risk of cold weather injuries how to protect themselves.”

Dr. Salvaterra noted that vulnerable populations in our communities include the elderly, infants (under one year), people with a history of cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks and strokes and mental disabilities, and people who are homeless or marginally housed.

Cold weather, combined with wind, can cause serious injuries or even death.  Peterborough Public Health monitors the forecasted weather conditions from December 1 to April 1.  The ECRP defines a series of cold weather thresholds that trigger the Peterborough Public Health to notify the general public, healthcare providers and community service providers of appropriate measures they can take to reduce the risk of cold weather injuries for themselves and the vulnerable populations they serve.  City Social Services have aligned their Extreme Weather Protocol to take effect when Peterborough Public Health issues frostbite or heat alerts.  This will lead to improved communications and coordination of health protection measures when extreme weather warnings are issued.

Notifications of extreme cold will be posted on www.peterboroughpublichealth.ca and Peterborough Public Health’s Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as issued to the media and stakeholder groups when the forecasted temperature or wind chill may result in an increased risk of frostbite.  Residents are advised that other communities may have different cold alert systems so following local media will ensure accurate information for this area.  City Social Services will also share information regarding the locations and times of emergency shelters and any relevant outreach programs, as well as reminders about visiting public locations such as malls to get out of the cold.  The One Roof Community Centre at 99 Brock St. extends its hours of service from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to allow vulnerable populations a comfortable location until the Warming Room opens.

County residents are encouraged to consult their township for measures related to their local extreme cold response.  Most townships and Curve Lake First Nation post extreme weather alerts on their websites and encourage residents to check in on neighbours.

Peterborough Public Health’s ECRP has three levels of notification:

  1. Frostbite Alert
  2. Frostbite Warning
  3. Cold Weather Emergency

Follow up messages and actions taken by Peterborough Public Health depend on the level of notification, as described below:

Level 1: Frostbite Alert
A Level 1 Frostbite Alert is issued when meteorologists forecast a temperature of -27˚C to -38˚C or a wind chill of -27 to -38.  This level of notification reminds residents to: cover unprotected skin; avoid prolonged outdoor exposure; drink warm fluids; watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia; check on neighbours; and maintain a warm indoor environment (ideally 20˚C or warmer).

Level 2: Frostbite Warning
A Level 2 Frostbite Warning is issued when meteorologists forecast a temperature between -39˚C and -47˚C or a wind chill of -39 to -47.  This level of notification reminds residents of the core messages above in addition to:  reminding children and the elderly to stay indoors; advising the general public to reduce time spent outdoors; and advising the public to check their faces and extremities frequently for signs of frostbite.

Level 3: Cold Weather Emergency
A Level 3 Cold Weather Emergency is issued when meteorologists forecast a temperature of -48˚C or colder or a wind chill of -48 or colder OR when the temperature is below -27˚C or a wind chill below -27 accompanied by a contributing risk factor such as a power outage, or critical infrastructure failure.  This level of notification reminds residents of all the core messages above in addition to: requesting that residents stay indoors; ensuring vulnerable individuals are in a warm, safe environment; and advising the public to check their faces and extremities frequently for signs of frostbite.  Further information about Peterborough Public Health’s ECRP is available on  www.peterboroughpublichealth.ca under the section for “My Environment”.

Peterborough Public Health recognizes that other community organizations may have developed their own internal policies and procedures for dealing with extreme cold for the population they are serving (i.e. school boards, and day care providers).  Community agencies and partners that would like direct notification from us in the event of an extreme cold alert should contact the Communications Manager at 705-743-1000, ext. 391.

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For further information, please contact:
Wanda Tonus
Public Health Inspector
705-743-1000, ext. 285

These notifications are designed to alert those who are most vulnerable to extreme cold so they can take precautions to avoid cold weather injuries like frostbite or hypothermia.  Extremely cold weather can pose serious health risks to several groups, such as the elderly, babies under a year old, people with a history of cardiovascular disease or mental disabilities, and people who are homeless.  These are the groups to think about supporting when you hear the temperature or wind chill dipping below minus 27 degrees Celsius.

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