WINTER SAFETY PRECAUTIONS

Winter brings special challenges for people on—or travelling to and from—the Burnaby campus on Burnaby Mountain.

Be alert for announcements of campus closures (these are communicated in a number of ways, including via SFU Alerts. Please visit that webpage to find out how to update your contact information so the university can contact you in an emergency and advise you of any snow closures). Closures are also announced on the SFU.ca website and on local radio and TV stations. Snow-closures could affect any of the campuses.

If you are on the Burnaby campus, be alert for emergency information that will assist you if you have to remain there overnight in severe weather.

SFU's Severe Weather Plan provides information on the University's procedures for handling winter conditions on Burnaby Mountain.

Here are some tips on safety in the snow, and on winter driving.

They apply as well, of course, to anyone facing snow or ice on their routes to or from the Surrey and Vancouver campuses.

SAFETY IN THE SNOW

If roads on the Burnaby campus are blocked or restricted in snowy weather, do NOT try to walk down the mountain.

The weather can change in a flash, with nasty consequences.

First, you could quickly become disoriented in a whiteout and wander into traffic or get lost in very dangerous terrain.

Second, the temperature on the mountain can drop 15-20 degrees in, literally, a matter of seconds. If you’re not dressed for snow and below-zero temperatures, you could be in big trouble.

It’s safer to stay on campus until conditions and roads are clear. Be alert for announcements from the university and its Emergency Social Services team.

Heed all warnings and advice from Campus Security. The security staff have the training and expertise to help you.

Obey their traffic restrictions and road-barriers. Security may close a road because they know dangerous weather conditions are imminent, or that there is a problem on the road that you are not yet aware of. (Examples: black ice, gridlock down the hill, a police closure lower down the mountain, municipal snow plows at work.)

TransLink can shut down bus service at no notice in winter conditions. Do not assume that buses are or will be running just because the roads on the Burnaby campus appear to be clear and open.

BASIC WINTER DRIVING TIPS

From government safety agencies, and from SFU Campus Security, some tips on driving in our unpredictable Lower Mainland winters:

1. Winterize your vehicle.

  • Make sure your car is properly tuned and serviced, and the exhaust system has no leaks.
  • Ensure you have anti-freeze, and a de-icing solution in the windshield washer tank.
  • And make sure you have good windshield wiper blades. Blades that streak should be replaced.
  • Install tires appropriate for winter conditions. Regularly check the tread.
  • Check your tire pressure at least once a month. As temperatures drop, tire pressure decreases. Check when the tires are cold, this will give you the most accurate pressure reading. (And check your spare tire regularly, too.)
  • Installing snow tires on all four wheels will provide a greater amount of traction and control for driving in winter conditions.
  • Wide, high-performance, or low-profile tires, other than those specifically designed as snow tires, are not suitable for use on snow-covered roads.
  • Do not mix snow tires. Use the same make, size and type on all four tires. Different tread patterns can reduce the stability of your vehicle.
  • Choose snow tires marked with a pictograph of a snowflake inside a peaked mountain. This indicates that tire has specifically been designed for use in severe snow conditions.
  • Check the battery.
  • Inspect the brakes.
  • Check head and signal lights.
  • Ensure all engine belts and hoses are in good shape.
  • Make sure the heater and defroster are working properly.
  • Keep your gas tank full to prevent the gas line from freezing and to maximize traction on slick roads.

2. Carry winter safety essentials

  • Keep some emergency items in your car at all times, including an ice scraper, snow brush, shovel, first aid kit, jumper cables, a flashlight and fresh batteries, warm gloves, a warm hat, boots, a good blanket, and some extra winter clothing.
  • If you can afford to purchase snow-chains, do so.
  • Traction mats (such as bits of old carpet) are also useful. So are bags of salt, sand or kitty litter.
  • If you live in area where bad winter conditions are likely, your kit could also include a towing cable, flares, matches and a “survival” candle in a deep can (to warm hands, heat a drink or use as an emergency light). Plus non-perishable foods such as granola bars.

3. Check weather and road conditions along your route before travelling.

4. Before you start the car:

  • Let others know about your route and your expected arrival time.
  • If you have a cell phone, make sure you have it with you, and its battery is charged.
  • Be sure all windows, lights, mirrors and licence plates are free of snow and ice.
  • Clear snow off the hood and roof, too.

5. And use special care when driving:

  • Drive with headlights on.
  • When driving on ice or snow, allow plenty of room to stop and start. And maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and others.
  • Do not use cruise control on slick roads. (More on this below.)
  • Stay on well travelled roads if at all possible.
  • Always wear your seat belt.
  • Be aware that a four-wheel drive vehicle has no more traction on ice than any other type of vehicle.
  • Slow down. Slow down even more before curves and corners.
  • Carefully test your braking and steering at a very slow speed. Brake gently.
  • Accelerate gently and steer smoothly. Be sensitive to how your vehicle is steering.
  • Go down icy hills in a low gear.
  • Avoid passing.
  • If your wheels lock, ease off the brakes then re-apply them to maintain steering control.

TURN OFF CRUISE CONTROL

When the road is slippery, turn off your cruise control system. Snow, ice, slush or even rain can cause wheel-spin and loss of control. The only way to stop this wheel-spin and maintain control is immediately to reduce power. However, an activated cruise control system will continue to apply power, keeping the wheels spinning. By the time you disengage the cruise control, you may have lost control.

HIDDEN DANGERS at ZERO DEGREES

  • Black ice: Normally, you can't see black ice. However, if the pavement looks shiny and black instead of grey-white, be suspicious.
  • Shaded areas: There could be ice there.
  • Bridges and overpasses: Ice tends to form on them before it does elsewhere.
  • Intersections: Car exhaust and packed snow can cause intersections to ice up quickly.

HOW TO HANDLE A SKID

Getting out of a skid can be a little tricky. For one thing, the recommended  techniques depend on whether your car has front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive.

The best bet is to consult your vehicle's owner's manual—before the first snow—and see what advice it gives.

You do need to steer gently "into" the skid. If the rear of your vehicle skids to the right you would steer gently to the right—"into" the skid. If your rear end skids to the left, you would steer gently to the left. Look up and steer where you want to go. If you look in the direction you want to go, you will steer in that direction, and this will help correct the skid.

Should you accelerate or not? Should you brake or not? This is where you need the advice from your owner's manual or manufacturer.

Once you have regained control, proceed with caution.

IF YOU ARE STUCK IN SNOW

  • If you become stuck in snow, you must first carefully and safely assess the situation.
  • In reduced visibility you should make sure your emergency flashers are on, to alert other drivers.
  • Get out of your vehicle—while being very aware of the traffic around you. Determine if you can get your vehicle unstuck on your own or if you will require assistance.
  • If attempting to get unstuck on your own:
  • Clean snow away from the drive wheels.
  • If possible, enhance the traction to the drive wheels by using traction mats, old carpets, salt, sand or kitty litter, spread along in the direction of the drive route you plan to use.
  • Make sure the way is clear and accelerate the vehicle gently. (Do not gun the accelerator, thus causing the tires to spin rapidly).
  • If this doesn't work, you may want to gently rock the vehicle back and forth by shifting from forward to reverse, gradually increasing the distance travelled with each rock.

[Note: Check your owner's manual prior to beginning this procedure. If the instructions are different, follow the steps outlined in your manual.]

IF YOU ARE STRANDED

  • Stay in your vehicle. Do not try to walk for help.
  • Run a stranded car sparingly, for short periods only, first ensuring snow is not blocking the tailpipe.
  • Open a window slightly (on the side of the vehicle sheltered from the wind) when the engine is running. Odourless and tasteless carbon monoxide gas can kill—and you won’t know it’s building up.
  • A candle can provide a little warmth, but, again, keep a window open slightly.
  • Do stretching exercises to maintain blood circulation, and don’t fall asleep.
    Wear a hat; you can lose body heat through your head.
  • Cover exposed skin to avoid frostbite.
  • Do not use alcohol, since this hastens the loss of body heat.
  • During the day, tie a brightly-coloured cloth to your antenna or roofrack (if you have such) to alert police or rescuers to your predicament. At night use your vehicle's emergency flashers.
  • Overuse of headlights will run your battery down.