Cold Weather

In Canada, more than 80 people die each year from over-exposure to the cold. 

Ottawa is one of the coldest capitals in the world. Winter temperature paired with wind can cause severe injuries and even death. Frostbite injuries can lead to amputations. Hypothermia, the most serious of cold weather complications can lead to brain damage and then death. At -15 C, hypothermia becomes an increasing concern and when the wind chill reaches -35 or colder, exposed skin can freeze in as little as 10 minutes. Most susceptible to these cold weather problems are the elderly, children, infants, the homeless, newcomers to Canada, outdoor workers and sport enthusiasts. City of Ottawa would like to offer a few tips to prevent the cold weather in becoming a life-threatening event.

There are many services available to help people get out of the cold including people who are experiencing homelessness:

  • Emergency sleeping spaces in Ottawa shelters
  • Street outreach services to encourage homeless people to come in from the cold
  • Provision of emergency transportation and other services by the Salvation Army
  • Out of the Cold programs (PDF link is external) where anyone can warm up

To seek assistance for someone who is homeless, concerned citizens are encouraged to call 3-1-1. Calls are answered by the City of Ottawa Call Centre on a priority basis and referrals are made to the appropriate services. Call 2-1-1 anytime to find out how to access social service assistance and information, hours, and location of local Out of the Cold programs (PDF link is external)

Dress for the cold 

Layers of clothing for cold weather

Three Layers

Hats, mittens and face masks

Hat, face cover, mittens and boots

  • Wear a hat, gloves or mittens to prevent heat loss and protect ears and fingers from frostbite.
  • Wear a neck warmer to protect the chin, lips and cheeks - all are extremely susceptible to cold weather injuries.
  • Wear waterproof winter boots with room for an extra layer of socks.
  • Drink warm fluids and avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol promotes other cold weather injuries.
  • If you start to sweat, cool off a little. If your clothing gets wet, change into dry clothes as soon as possible. Wet clothes will also encourage other cold weather injuries.
  • Wear clothes in layers
    • Inner Layer (closest to the skin) - should have "wicking" properties to move any moisture away from the skin
    • Middle Layer - should be the insulating layer to prevent loss of your body heat while keeping the cold outside air away
    • Outer Layer - should be the "windbreaking" layer to reduce the chances of cold air reaching the insulating layer

Always be on the lookout for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. In case of serious cold weather injury, City of Ottawa Paramedics urge you to seek immediate medical attention.

Connect with 2-1-1 or 3-1-1

  • 2-1-1 for winter clothes and support services
  • 3-1-1 to help homeless people get out of the cold

Be Winter Ready! Dress for the cold [pdf - 3MB] 

Contact Us