RSA survey finds Canadians are unprepared for winter

Published: December 19, 2017

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones



Deep into December and with Christmas just around the corner, winter is now in full swing and the harsh cold of January is close. RSA Canada conducted a survey to find how many Canadians are properly prepared for what the winter brings.

Perhaps it is no surprise to find many are not.

Fifty-seven per cent of participants are not prepared for a winter-related emergency, such as cold weather or a storm. Across provinces, Quebec is the least prepared, with 61 percent not ready to deal with winter emergencies. In British Columbia, 55 per cent are unprepared, while 55 per cent in Ontario are not ready.

Climate change is bringing harsher winter weather, but Canadians appear to be unaware of the potential effects. 40 per cent believe they will not be impacted by severe weather during the winter.

Many agencies and insurance companies recommend customers have an emergency bag prepared, which includes essentials should the worst of winter weather hit. However, many say they wish they had prepared such a kit:

  • 60 per cent wish they had prepped food, batteries, a blanket and/or an emergency plan
  • 20 per cent wish they had packed snow-related items, such as a shovel

We spoke to North Shore Insurance Brokers about the things Canadians can do to prepare their home and car for the cold season.

  • Ensure your vehicle is ready for winter: Winterizing your vehicle can be the difference between a collision and staying safe on the roads. For consumers with newer vehicles, sending the car to a dealer or service facility is a straightforward way to prepare a vehicle. The service provider will add winter motor oil, transmission oil, differential oil, thermostat protection, and more. Customers with older vehicles may not have service access, but should still ensure the above items are taken care of.
  • Winter Tires: Arguably the most important part of readying your vehicle for driving on winter roads is to install specialist tires. Depending on first snowfall in your region, you should install winter tires from mid to late November and leave them through the cold season. It is worth mentioning that using winter tires will score you an auto insurance discount in most cases.
  • Winter Safety Kit: While we would advocate a vehicle safety kit in all circumstances, it is doubly important during winter. A package of essential items has been proven to save lives, but many customers still avoid using them. Canada’s smaller routes can get very quiet in winter, so you need something to help in the event you are stranded. A winter safety kit includes items such as flares, candles, a blanket, gloves, clothes, tools, a flashlight, and more. Kits can be built individually, or bought for around $50.00.
  • Carry a Shovel: Deep snow is a fact of life during winter in many parts of the country. Always carrying a shovel in your trunk means you will be able to dig your vehicle out of deep snow.
  • Fully Charged Cell phone: By carrying a cellular device, you will be able to call emergency services if they are needed. Service the Furnace: Getting a professional maintenance check for your furnace each autumn should be essential. Additionally, make sure your thermostat is functional, and consider buying a new programmable one to save on heating costs.
  • Clear the Chimney: If you have a chimney in your home, make sure it is swept ahead of winter. You will likely be burning through the cold season and will need your chimney to vent properly. Again, this is a job that should be carried out by a professional. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer and a blocked chimney could spell disaster.
  • Check Doors and Windows for Leaks: While snow and blizzards can be unpredictable, it is a guarantee that it will get cold this winter. Heat loss through leaking windows and doors can make maintaining a cosy temperature nearly impossible. It can also mean paying too much on heating bills through winter months. Seal the leaks, stay warm, and save money.
  • Clean Gutters: Eaves that are clogged by leaves and dirt will not drain snow and rain efficiently. This can lead to build up and eventual leaks.
  • Check the Roof: Missing shingles on a roof can mean heat loss, accumulation, and leaks. Avoid these potential problems by getting a professional to fix roofing issues you find.
  • Trim Trees and Bushes: While overhanging trees may look pretty in winter, they can be hazards. Trees are perfect accumulators of snow, which adds a lot of weight. If snow becomes too much of a burden, the tree could fall and cause property damage. If you are lucky it would be a broken window, but it would more likely be severe structural damage to your property. This can be avoided by ensuring trees are trimmed down for winter.