Ottawa Public Health has issued a Frostbite Warning to ensure people take appropriate precautions before going outside and to encourage people experiencing homelessness to seek indoor shelter from the cold.
A Frostbite Warning is issued when a wind chill of -35 or colder is forecast by Environment and Climate Change Canada for the Ottawa area. Environment and Climate Change Canada has issued an extreme cold warning for the City of Ottawa. With a wind chill of -35 or colder, exposed skin can freeze in less than ten minutes. There is also an increased risk of hypothermia for people who stay outside for long periods of time without adequate protection. Overexposure can result in severe injury and even death. Ottawa Public Health recommends that you wear several layers of clothing to keep warm and make sure that the outer layer protects you from wind and moisture.
Frostbite results when the skin and underlying tissues freeze. Skin becomes white and waxy and feels hard to the touch. Frostbite is a serious condition that can require amputation. Medical attention is advised. Frostnip is a mild form of frostbite where only the skin freezes. Both frostbite and frostnip can be treated by gradually warming skin using body heat or warm water. Never rub or massage affected areas.
Infants, children, the elderly, people with certain chronic illnesses such as poor circulation and heart disease and people experiencing homelessness are particularly vulnerable to cold weather. Service providers to these populations are encouraged to assess and adjust their programming as necessary to help prevent cold injuries.
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 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.
For more information on frostbite, hypothermia and cold weather precautions visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca or call 613-580-6744 (TTY: 613-580-9656). For up to date weather forecasts and weather advisories download the free Environment and Climate Change Canada WeatherCAN for mobile devices.
For more information on City programs and services, visit ottawa.ca, call 3-1-1 (TTY: 613-580-2401) or 613-580-2400 to contact the City using Canada Video Relay Service. You can also connect with us through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.