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Getting newcomers ready for winter

For some newcomers to Saskatchewan, winter can be a shock. For some, it might also be dangerous. But Safe Communities Humboldt and Area are making winter a little safer with another year of their Winter Preparedness workshop in Humboldt on Oct.
Winter Preparedness
Darrell Wickenhauser with the Humboldt Fire Department had plenty of good advice for newcomers about keeping warm during the winter during the Safe Communities Winter Preparedness workshop on Oct. 19. Wickenhauser was one of four presenters making sure that newcomers have all the information they need to have a safe winter in Humboldt. photo by Becky Zimmer

For some newcomers to Saskatchewan, winter can be a shock.

For some, it might also be dangerous.

But Safe Communities Humboldt and Area are making winter a little safer with another year of their Winter Preparedness workshop in Humboldt on Oct. 19 and LeRoy on Oct. 20.

Presentations from the Humboldt and District Fire Department, Humboldt EMS, PARNTERS Family Services, and SGI gave newcomers information on everything from fire safety to safe driving habits, which amounted to a lot of information.

For Safe Communities Executive Director, Shari Hinz, there were bits of information that were very important and some that newcomers would not think about without coming out to a workshop.

Sometimes it is even information that shocks people who have lived in Canada a long time, says Hinz.

Road safety and dressing properly for winter are big ones that not everyone thinks about, says Hinz.

“Our road conditions can change so rapidly, from one day warm and sunny to a blowing snow storm the next with horrible road conditions. Being able to adapt and know what to expect with something like that and what to do and not to do is pretty important.”

As well as road conditions and safe driving, Brenda Shrader with SGI brought along her emergency kit, which she keeps in her vehicle during the winter months.

While there were plenty of things to get the person out of the ditch, including a tow rope and shovel, there were plenty of things to keep a person safe if they cannot make it out of the ditch, including food and blankets.

No matter the situation, anyone out driving on Saskatchewan roadways in the winter can be prepared.

One thing that everyone should think about if ever in an emergency on the road is to stay with your vehicle, says Shrader.

“We get really lost in this province. It seems flat and easy to find everything but in the snow, it’s not. Stay with your car and somebody will come to you.”

Fire safety was a big part of the presentation by Humboldt Fire Department Deputy Chief, Darryl Wickenhauser, since needing to heat a home is different than many newcomers are used to.

Natural gas and a safe wood fire if done properly should be the only way a home is heated, he said during his presentation. Any other way is just unsafe.

Having two ways out and getting to safety during a fire was also an important point that Wickenhauser wanted people to know.

Sandy English with PARTNERS Family Services came to talk about family safety with some newcomers unaware about how cold it can get during the winter.

Keeping children dry and warm when playing outside was an important theme of English’s presentation as well as car seat safety.

Putting children in a car seat in the winter can be tricky with bulky winter clothes on. Those clothes can also mean a child is not secure in their car seat if the straps are put on on top of the snowsuit, says English.

“People think they’re secure, but they’re not. Their snowsuits are too big and a lot of the times they just fly right out.”

Joel Moorman with Humboldt EMS sees many accidents in both winter and summer.

During the winter it is very easy for people not to have their cell phones or jackets in reach after they have been in a collision.

When it comes to making sure those items do not fly around during a collision, Moorman recommends the pocket for the cell phone so that drivers can readily dial 911 with a phone that is in reach.

Many newcomers get mislead by the temperature as well, says Moorman, since they have never had to deal with windchill before coming to Canada.

Dressing in layers and removing them if they are too warm is an important part of surviving  winter.

Anyone can take winter clothes off, he says, but putting on layers you do not have is going to be a problem.

While winter can sound scary to newcomers coming in, Odessa Sherbaniuk with the Newcomers Centre says that all presenters, no matter what they talked about had one clear message.

“Yes, there’s dangers and risks and safety concerns for winter but they’re all for the most part preventable and knowing what do in certain situations will keep you safe.”

Part of the workshop was also making sure newcomers were prepared to dress properly for winter with a winter clothing drive care of donations from the community.

Sherbaniuk says they had a great range of items available from kids clothing to adult jackets and skipants to tuques and mitts.

While they are not able to outfit everyone from head to toe, Sherbaniuk says the drive gives everyone an idea of what they need and where they could find it.

Safe Communities partnerred with Carlton Trail to make their presentation with their English as a Second Language Class.

The Humboldt Regional Newcomers Centre was also on hand with a clothing drive for the newcomers who came out to both Humboldt and LeRoy.

This has been the sixth year of the Winter Preparedness workshop and Hinz says they try to rotate between areas outside of Humboldt since having the workshop in the city all the time means it is not always accessible to all the newcomers.

For any questions or concerns, all presenters, as well as Hinz and Sherbaniuk, said they are just a phone call away.