Winter Weather Safety

  • Camp Safety
  • Ice Safety
  • Driving Safety

The Winter Season is filled with fun-filled activities but also extreme weather; keep your troop safe and educated during these next few months!

Special considerations for winter camping are:

  1. Qualified Supervision. It is vital that a leader be an experienced winter camper with strong character and common sense.
  2. Equipment. Be completely outfitted for cold weather. Equipment should be checked to ensure good condition for the activity and proper maintenance while in use. Youth should be adequately clothed, and blankets should be of suitable quality and weight.
  3. Physical Fitness. Youth should be suitably fit for the activity. Periodic rests while building snow caves and engaging in other strenuous cold-weather activities will help prevent accidents and overheating.
  4. Buddy System. Having Youth paired aids in monitoring each other’s physical condition and observation of surroundings and circumstances.
  5. Planning. Safe activities follow a plan that has been conscientiously developed. In winter, plan to cover no more than 5 miles per day on snowshoes or 10 to 12 miles on cross-country skis. Allow ample time to make it to camp at the end of the day.
  6. Safe Area. Leaders should determine whether an area for winter camping is well-suited and free of hazards.
  7. Weather Check. Weather conditions, potential hazards, and appropriate responses should be understood and anticipated. Go to for Hazardous Weather training.
  8. Burning. Never use flames in tents, teepees, or snow shelters. This includes burning any solid, liquid, gel, or gas fuel; using features of tents or teepees that support stoves or fires; and use of chemical-fueled equipment and catalytic heaters.
  9. Discipline. Rules are effective only when followed. All participants should know, understand, and respect the rules and procedures for a safe winter camping experience. Applicable rules should be discussed prior to the outing and reviewed for all participants when leaving for the winter campout.

No Ice Should Ever Be Considered Safe Ice!

Because there is no such thing as safe ice, we recommend avoiding entering an ice-covered body of water. However, if you must do so, here are the Five Rules of Ice Safety From Lifesaving.Com:

  1. THICKNESS VARIES – Ice might be suitable in one section but compromised in another. You need at least 4” of new, clear, hard ice before venturing out on foot, skis, or skates. Additional thickness is needed before going out in groups or on snowmobiles.
  1. PLASTIC PEALESS WHISTLE – When venturing out, carry a plastic pealess whistle to alert others in the event of an emergency. A pea-less design is preferred as it can get wet and even be fully immersed in water. But, after emptying the water out, it will work effectively.
  1. ICE PICKS – Carry ice picks which are used to help self-extricate yourself out of the water and back onto solid ice should you fall through. And, in the event of a fall-through, turn back in the direction you came from. Distribute your weight onto the ice and roll away from the hole.
  1. FLOAT COAT OR LIFEJACKET – Consider wearing a float coat or lifejacket when recreating on the ice in the event of a fall-through. The float coat will provide warmth on the ice, and in the event of a fall-through, the coat will provide buoyancy and extended hypothermia protection.
  1. KEEP VEHICLES OFF ICE – Never drive a vehicle onto the ice. And, if you have to, open your windows beforehand. Should the vehicle go through, your only escape route will be through the windows, as the doors will not be able to be opened.

Lastly, in the event of someone falling through, do not attempt to rescue them other than to perform a shore-based rescue by throwing something or extending something to them. Call 911 as soon as possible to get the First Responders who are trained and equipped to respond.

Winter Driving

When winter strikes, the chances of automobile accidents increase. Roads are slick, and snow piles up, creating potential hazards that don’t exist in the warmer seasons. Taking these steps to be prepared when driving in winter is an easy way to protect yourself and anyone you may be driving with.

  • Carry a winter emergency travel kit.
  • Listen to weather and travel advisories, but if you don’t have to travel in bad weather, don’t.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full.
  • Slow down and increase following distance.
  • Avoid sudden stops and starts.
  • Beware of roads that may look wet, but are actually frozen, often referred to as “black ice.”
  • Use extra caution on bridges and ramps, where ice can often form without warning.
  • Carry a cell phone.
  • Do not use cruise control while driving on snow-covered roads.
  • PA State law requires you to turn on your headlights when your wipers are on.
  • Use your low beams in particularly bad weather, especially in cases of heavy or blowing snow.
  • Remove ice and snow from windows, mirrors, and all vehicle lights before you drive and as often as needed.
  • Remove snow and ice from the hood and roof of your vehicle. PA State law states that if snow or ice from your vehicle strikes a vehicle or person and causes death or injury, you can be ticketed.
  • Do not park or abandon your vehicle on snow emergency routes.
  • Do not pass or get between trucks plowing in a plow line (several trucks plowing side by side).
  • Make sure someone else knows where you are going and when you expect to arrive. In case you run into an emergency and need help, someone will know where to look for you.
  • If you do become stranded, it’s better to stay with your vehicle until help arrives. Run the engine every hour or so, but make sure the tailpipe is clear and keep the downwind window cracked open.

Look over the Winter Driving Guide from the Pennslyvania Department of Transportation for a visual guide on being attentive on the road.

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