Winter is upon us, and for those of us who work in a cold-weather climate that means working in even tougher conditions than normal – snow piled to our knees, temperatures in the teens with wind chills in the single digits or below, icy roads and sidewalks. It also means different kinds of calls – falling through ice, space heater fires, frostbite, and hypothermia, just to name a few.
The most important way for us to respond to fires and other emergencies in cold weather starts way before that first frost or snow flurry. It starts with being prepared. Not only do we need to take into account personal preparedness, we also need to ensure that our apparatuses and equipment are in good working order.
Prepare yourself for what may come
Dressing properly for winter conditions can prove difficult when you’re spending a majority of your time in the heated firehouse waiting on a call, so you want to find the right balance between dressing comfortably and being ready to go outside in subfreezing temperatures.
Layering works well, as layers can be added or subtracted based on our degree of comfortableness. You’ll want to carry extra clothing with you for staying both warm and dry. You may find yourself cold and wet from being outside, and an extra set of dry clothes will be just the thing you need.
It’s also a great idea to store a jump bag in your apparatus. You can pack it with extra winter clothes, sweats, extra firefighting gloves and winter gloves, and a warm winter hat.
Lastly, it can be easy to quickly become dehydrated, especially during cold, winter months. Because it’s not hot outside, we tend to forget about drinking enough water, but you must stay hydrated, including drinking sports drinks to replace electrolytes lost while fighting the fire.