Common sense is key as cold weather descends on Oak Bay.
“(Residents) need to have their emergency kids ready. Their ‘shelter-in-place’ kits will be the ones they should really pay attention to because they’re going to want to stay inside and stay as warm as possible,” said Eileen Grant, of the Oak Bay Emergency Program. “We don’t get this kind of weather so those of us like myself who are from the Prairies we know about winter coats… and shoes that don’t slip and slide all over the plaice. If you don’t have that stuff, really consider how much you really need to go out.”
A snowfall warning was issued this afternoon for the south coast with five to 25 cm of snow expected at varying elevations. Snow is expected to begin over Vancouver Island late this evening and continue into Friday. The snow is expected to become mixed with rain Friday afternoon or evening.
Island Health warns that cold snaps create dangerous, icy conditions on sidewalks and roads that can send people to hospital with fractured bones due to falls.
“With this first real blast of winter on Vancouver Island, we ask everyone to be careful of the ice and snow on driveways, sidewalks and roads,” said Dr. Murray Fyfe, Island Health Medical Health Officer. “Slips can result in falls and broken bones.”
Island Health advises everyone, particularly seniors, to be extremely cautious when they venture outdoors this winter, as they are especially at risk of sustaining serious injuries from slips and falls.
“This is going to be cold, it’s going to be an inconvenience and it’s going to be a pain, but it’s all manageable and it’s not a disaster,” Grant said. “If you’re prepared for a disaster, this is a piece of cake.”
Grant suggests topping the gas tank and checking flashlights and batteries today, ahead of the potential storm.
“Make sure that is happening now, because we don’t want you using candles,” Grant said. “People forget about them because they’re not used to them, so they wander out of a room. We really are discouraging the use of candles, unless that’s the only thing you have.”
Candles are also a risk without heat, where folks are bundling up in blankets and sweaters and one brush against a candle is dangerous.
“Make sure you’ve got some food in place for at least three or four days. The biggest issue might be power, so make sure you have your plan in place of what you’re going to do if there’s a sustained power outage,” Grant said. “Put some extra covers on your bed, so you keep warm and toasty and be very careful with space heaters, make sure you turn them off when you’re not in the room and don’t leave them on when you go to bed.”
Residents who live alone or feel uncomfortable braving a potentially stormy night should find someone to stay with, or at the least have a support at the other end of the phone line.
Oak Bay Volunteer Services offers a year-round program that fosters relationships with seniors and others needing help on occasion including a social contact, phone call program.
“We provide services all year around so when there’s a weather challenge or an emergency we already have things in place for people,” said Joan Halvorsen, executive director. “That would also be a way that the volunteer would be talking to someone, and if there was anything impacting someone with weather we would be aware of that.”
She encourages residents on their own and without a lot of supports to register for services.
“Even if somebody’s looking after someone quite regularly, if they go away if that person is there then that person is already registered with us,” Halvorsen said.
If a resident registers, a staff member comes out and explains the services and gathers basic information.
“(We ask) anything we would need to know to provide a volunteer for them,” Halvorsen said. “Then they can decide from there if they want to receive any services or not.”
To register, call Oak Bay Volunteer Services at 250-595-1034.
While Oak Bay bylaws require residents to clear snow and ice from adjacent sidewalks, use common sense, said Grant.
“If there is a large dump of snow, make sure you keep your sidewalks clear,” she said. “If you haven’t shoveled sidewalks in a while it doesn’t need to be done in 10 seconds, take your time … or if you’re not feeling up to it ask your neighbour if they’d mind.”
The district asks residents to consider using alternatives to salt, such as sand, high nitrate fertilizers or calcium chloride that do not corrode concrete.
Those with questions can call the Public Works Yard at 250-598-4501.
Island Health strategies to reduce the risk of falling:
· Postpone non-essential trips if possible
· Wear proper-fitting, supportive footwear appropriate to the weather
· Keep your centre of gravity over your feet and keep your hands out of your pockets to maintain balance
· Walk slowly and pay attention to where you are going
· Remove reading glasses while walking
· Use handrails when available, especially on steps
· Use extra caution when entering or exiting a vehicle
· Avoid stepping on ice or snow if possible – or, if you must, walk where it’s crunchy if you can
· Use a waist belt or backpack instead of carrying a purse – this will improve your balance
· Use walking aids (walkers or canes) as ordered for you by a health professional
· Sprinkle sand or salt around your home and on sidewalks to improve traction
· Don’t use ladders in icy or wet weather, ask for help or hire a professional if absolutely necessary – otherwise, wait until things warm up