Stay Safe When Extreme Cold Weather Arrives This Winter

woman looking cold

Peterborough Public Health Activates Extreme Cold Response Plan

With an early start to the winter and colder weather ahead, Peterborough Public Health has activated its Extreme Cold Response Plan (ECRP) to advise residents on the best way to protect their health when temperatures plummet.

“We all need to take precautions during cold weather to prevent illness and injuries such as frostbite and hypothermia,” said Julie Ingram, Manager of Environmental Health. “Most healthy people can tolerate a short period of cold weather if they are dry and properly dressed. Our alert system is designed to advise the public when there is an increased risk and what actions they can take to prevent cold weather-related injuries.”

Ms. Ingram noted that trend data indicates a doubling in the rate of local emergency department visits related to cold exposure between 2009 and 2018. In addition, between September 2020 and October 2021, there were 26 emergency department visits in the Peterborough area related to cold exposure.

Ms. Ingram noted that people who are more vulnerable to the risks of cold temperatures include the elderly, infants less than one year old, people with a history of cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks and strokes, and people who are homeless or marginally housed. People who are homeless in particular spend long periods of time outside and can suffer increased health effects from the cold even at warmer temperatures.

Peterborough Public Health’s ECRP has three levels of notification:

Frostbite Alert
Frostbite Warning
Cold Weather Emergency

The most common form of extreme cold notification is a Frostbite Alert. Last season, there were four Frostbite Alerts issued, and none from the other two categories. Frostbite alerts are issued when temperatures are forecasted to be from -27° to -38° Celsius or a wind chill of -27° to -38° Celsius. In these conditions, exposed skin can freeze in as little as 10 to 30 minutes. Residents are advised to take the following precautions:

  • cover unprotected skin
  • avoid prolonged outdoor exposure
  • drink warm fluids
  • watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia
  • check on neighbours
  • maintain a warm indoor environment (ideally 20° Celsius or warmer)

For details about other extreme cold notifications, please visit  and search for “extreme cold”.

Cold weather, combined with wind, can cause serious injuries or even death. Peterborough Public Health monitors the forecasted weather conditions from December 1 to April 1 each year. The ECRP defines a series of cold weather thresholds that trigger Peterborough Public Health to notify the general public, healthcare providers and community service providers of appropriate measures they can take to reduce the risk of cold weather injuries for themselves and the vulnerable populations they serve.

Notifications of frostbite alerts and warnings will be posted on  and Peterborough Public Health’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, as well as issued to the media and stakeholder groups when the forecasted temperature or wind chill may result in an increased risk of frostbite. Most townships and Curve Lake First Nation post extreme weather alerts on their websites and social media channels.

City of Peterborough Social Services also has a Cold Weather Protocol that takes effect in cold weather, which may trigger extended hours of operation for the Drop-In program. When Social Services activates their Cold Weather Protocol they will share information regarding the locations and times of emergency shelters and any relevant outreach programs, as well as reminders to get out of the cold during periods of extreme cold. A cold alert will be issued by Social Services when the temperature drops below -15° Celsius with a wind chill. One Roof Community Centre drop-in at 99 Brock St. will extend their hours of operation during a cold alert from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Normal hours of operation for drop-ins is from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. with a take away meal available between 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Peterborough Public Health recognizes that other community organizations may have developed their own internal policies and procedures for dealing with extreme cold for the population they are serving (e.g. school boards, and day care providers). Community agencies and partners that would like direct notification from us in the event of an extreme cold alert should contact the Communications Manager at 705-743-1000, ext. 391.


For further information, please contact:

Brittany Cadence

Communications Manager

705-743-1000, ext. 391