Extreme cold weather can be harmful to your patient’s health. Exposure to extreme cold weather can increase the immediate risk of cold-related injuries including hypothermia and frostbite. Cold weather, even with moderate temperature changes, can also increase the risk of cardiovascular-related mortality for up to several days after exposure.

Groups At Increased Risk for Cold-Related Health Effects Include:

  • Infants and young children
  • Persons with pre-existing health conditions
  • Persons taking certain medications, such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, sedative-hypnotics, narcotics, and antithyroid agents
  • Persons who work or do physical activities outside for extended periods
  • Persons who are marginally housed or homeless

Services During Extreme Cold Weather Alerts

Call 311 if you see someone on the street who needs outreach assistance. 311 operators will contact outreach workers for follow-up as soon as possible. This is not an emergency service. In an emergency, always call 911.

When Extreme Cold Weather Alerts Are Issued

  • The Medical Officer of Health will issue an Extreme Cold Weather Alert when Environment Canada forecasts a temperature of -15°C or colder, or a wind chill of -20°C or colder, for the city of Toronto.
  • Extreme cold weather alerts may also be issued when the forecast includes factors that increase the impact of cold weather on health. These include precipitation, low daytime temperatures, or several days and nights of cold weather in a row.
  • Sign up to receive notifications of Extreme Cold Weather Alerts by contacting Toronto Health Connections at 416-338-7600.

Homelessness Services During Extreme Cold Weather Alerts

To support homeless and vulnerable individuals when an Extreme Cold Weather Alert is called, the following additional homelessness services are initiated:

  • Additional outreach teams are put on patrol to contact individuals on the street and check on their condition. Offers of service are made or transportation to a shelter, the SHARC, a Winter Respite Service, or their home is arranged.
  • Shelters extend their hours of operation to allow clients to stay indoors. This is intended to ensure that clients are out of the cold weather until other services in the area are open.
  • Extreme Weather beds are activated in the shelter system.
  • Shelters relax admission and service restriction criteria to allow clients more access to shelter programs. This is a Shelter Standards expectation and is intended to ensure that clients are not left without shelter during extreme weather conditions.
  • TTC tokens are distributed to individuals at Drop-In Centers to reach shelters, Out of the Cold locations, 24-hour Women’s and Winter Respite Drop-ins.
  • Community organizations and agencies that work with vulnerable population (more than 100) are notified by SSHA to prepare for Extreme Cold Weather Alerts and made aware of available enhanced services offered by SSHA.

Cold Weather Tips for Vulnerable Patients & Caregivers