As I look out my office window, I am reminded of the beauty of our Canadian winters. It also makes me think of the special conditions that cold weather brings to firefighting and some of the brutal events that I have worked through in this climate! Cold weather, snow and ice add a huge danger to firefighting. Everyone needs to keep this in mind – from the newest probie to the most seasoned officer.
It starts with pre-planning. Know your area, know your limited access areas and develop strategies to deal with properties that could be affected by winter conditions – hills, water supply issues, restricted access for apparatus.
Dress properly for these cold weather events. Wicking socks, long underwear and layers will help keep firefighters warm. Spare gloves and other layers could be needed in those longer, more drawn out incidents. Hydration and nutrition is key too – drink lots of water! Take frequent rests and rotate crews.
Responding to calls is also more dangerous with slippery road conditions and (sometimes) reduced visibility. So, drive safely with consideration of these conditions. Remember too, that kids could be playing on the roadside snow banks or could simply run out from behind these large snow banks when they hear the sirens coming – scanning the road and adjacent areas is important. Also, reduced visibility for both you as a driver and for those firefighters working on a scene can create dangers – see and be seen!
When on scene, there are many slip hazards. Especially late in the incident when firefighters are tired and when a large amount of water has been used. This is when the firefighter is most vulnerable to slip and fall injuries.
And last (but not least), protect your equipment and apparatus during these cold weather events. Keep hoses, nozzles, pumps, port-a-tanks and hydrants moving water. Treat equipment with electronic components carefully and respect your PPE – store SCBAs in a warm place when not in use.
Be prepared and enjoy our beautiful Canadian winters!