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People dig out as a major snowstorm hits eastern Ontario in Carleton Place, Ont., on Dec.16.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Canadians aren’t strangers to winter storms by any stretch – at least once a year, cities and towns across the country are battered by snow and sleet, rendering it difficult to leave the house, and in more extreme circumstances, stay warm at all.

But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t use reminders as to what to keep on hand and how to prepare for the worst of winter’s weather.

Here’s what you need to know about how to weather-proof your home and vehicle for when blizzards hit.

What to do around the house

Here’s what you should do before and during a winter storm to protect your house:

  • Weatherproof your home by caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows to keep cold air out. Install storm windows or cover your windows with plastic for an extra layer of insulation. The Red Cross also recommends insulating any water lines that run alongside outside walls to prevent your water supply from freezing during a storm.
  • Keep a reliable heat source around in case of a power outage. Emergency heating equipment such as fireplaces or wood-burning stoves are helpful, or if you’re preparing in advance, a small generator is useful to have.
  • Make sure you have a smoke detector and battery-operated carbon monoxide detector near the area that will be heated – test them monthly and replace batteries twice a year.
  • To prevent all of the water pipes from freezing, leave a faucet on with a small stream of water running.
  • Charge all your electronic devices, such as smartphones and laptops, in advance.
  • Keep snow shovels at the ready – even inside so they don’t get buried by snow.
  • Stock up on and salt or sand to prevent slips on your front steps and sidewalk.
  • Have fire extinguishers available and make sure your family knows how to use them.

Supplies to keep in case of emergencies

The Red Cross recommends keeping an emergency preparedness kit in your home with enough supplies to last your family for at least three days. The kit should have essential items, but also include “items that are unique to your own families’ needs,” such as baby items, medical prescriptions and pet food.

Here’s a list of everything you should keep in your emergency kit for a winter storm:

  • First-aid kit.
  • Candles and matches.
  • Water.
  • Non-perishable food items and a can opener (cans, energy snack bars, etc.) – enough for three days of meals.
  • Flashlights and battery-operated radio.
  • Extra batteries and cellphone chargers.
  • Cash.
  • Extra layers, including hats and mitts.
  • Masks and hand sanitizer.

What to do to prepare your vehicle

Here’s what you should do before a winter storm to prepare your car:

  • Before winter approaches, it’s a good idea to have a mechanic check your car’s battery, antifreeze, wipers and windshield washer fluid, ignition system, thermostat, lights, flashing hazard lights, exhaust system, heater, brakes, defroster, and oil.
  • Install winter tires.
  • If it’s cold out, plug in your car’s block heater. Some experts say to plug in if it’s below minus 15 C, the temperature when oil starts getting thick and doesn’t flow normally. Natural Resources Canada suggests plugging in your car two hours before you start it.
  • Make sure you have a full tank of gas.
  • You should always keep these items in your car, according to the Red Cross: a windshield scraper; a small sack of sand for generating traction under wheels and a set of tire chains or traction mats; matches in a waterproof container; a brightly coloured (preferably red) cloth to tie to the antenna.
  • A more extensive winter survival kit for your trunk might include a bungee cord, a hanger for repairs and a multipurpose tool such as a Swiss Army knife, along with oil to ensure it doesn’t rust shut.
  • The Red Cross also recommends storing an extra coat, pair of gloves, hats, boots, pieces of warm clothing and extra blankets in the car for every member of your household.

Where to get weather information

Staying informed can help you make smart decisions about whether it’s safe to travel.

  • Tune in to weather reports on the radio or online to find out about local conditions.
  • Check your local hydroelectric power provider for outages and anticipated repair times.
  • If you have online access, check Environment Canada’s site for updates for your area.
  • Hashtags like #BCSnow, #ABStorm, #MBStorm, #ONStorm, #QCStorm, #NSStorm, #NBStorm and #NLwx are often used by meteorologists and news stations on social media to give further information.
  • Don’t forget to check in on neighbours, especially those who may have difficulty accessing information and clearing their pathways.