Tips for Working in Cold Weather

Cold can be just as deadly as extreme heat—prepare now to stay warm, windproof & dry


Dale Stockton | Friday, November 9, 2012

As we head into winter, some parts of the country are already experiencing extreme cold. For police officers, especially those assigned to remote areas, it’s extremely important to properly plan and prepare. Failing to do so can result in serious injury or even death. Cold can be just as deadly as extreme heat.
 
I reached out to two long-term law enforcement professionals who have worked for decades in areas that experience some really challenging cold weather conditions. Those two professionals are Chief (Ret.) Jeff Chudwin, who spent more than three decades working in the Chicago area and Kelly Alzaharna, who recently retired as chief of North Slope Borough Police Department (Alaska), which is the most northern of all U.S. territories and encompasses 88,000 square miles. Winters in this area last 8–10 months and experience the most extreme cold imaginable. When I reached out to Director Alzaharna, she was in Fairbanks, Alaska, and the temperature was -18. She knows cold.
 
Cold-Weather Tips
  1. The most important factor is choosing the right outer gear and wearing it. Just like your other safety equipment, it doesn’t work unless you use it. It’s easy to underestimate the extreme cold when you’re inside a vehicle, but a standard police jacket won’t cut it when you’re out for more than just a few minutes. You can’t count on being able to stay inside your car. When the call comes and you’re outside for a while, that standard police jacket quickly becomes inadequate. Alzaharna says she frequently operated her patrol vehicle wearing a full parka.
  2. Good footwear is also important. Have more than one pair of boots so they’re always dry. In extreme cold, you may need bunny boots. Don’t let the name fool you—they were designed for the military and have about an inch of insulation sandwiched between two waterproof materials. A good pair of galoshes worn over the boots can keep your feet dry and add a layer of protection. 
  3. Socks and undergarments should serve to wick away moisture. Cotton against the skin isn’t a good idea. Battery operated socks can warm your lower extremities. Sounds like a luxury, but they’re priceless when you need them.
  4. The human body loses a lot of warmth through the head area. Head gear including a knit cap and full-face protection when the wind is howling will make a big difference. Chudwin likes the fleece balaclavas with a neck protector.
  5. Rain gear should have removable insulated liners. Again, keeping dry is essential to staying warm. Chudwin’s choice comes from Blauer.
  6. Small packet hand and feet warmers work. Carry a good supply and use them to ward off the extreme cold.
  7. Gloves and more gloves. The colder it gets, the heavier the gloves need to be. You’ll need different levels of protection and operational capability. Whatever you carry, make sure you have trained with the equipment. Gloves will absolutely affect the way you handle a firearm and surprises are the last thing you need.
  8. Keep packets of coffee, tea and hot chocolate in a plastic bag; also the instant soups or packaged noodles. All you need is hot water and you’re good to go. Providing liquid warmth to your inner core helps maintain body temperature and comfort. Make sure you keep a metal spoon in your bag. With the spoon and a good knife (essential) you can eat anything.
  9. Equipment has to be capable of working in the extreme cold. Alzaharna says they really put their firearms to the test and chose Glock handguns and Remington shotguns. “We never had a cold weather malfunction,” she said.
  10. You can mitigate the impact on your gear by keeping items close to your body and underneath outer layers. This will help batteries to last a lot longer.  
 
Train in your cold weather gear. “We trained in the dead of winter wearing all our gear,” said Alzaharna, who worked as a firearms instructor. Prepare now to stay warm, wind proof and dry. All three are important to your comfort and, more importantly, to officer safety.



Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
print share
Author Thumb

Dale StocktonThe editor of Law Officer Magazine, Dale Stockton is a 32-year-veteran of law enforcement.

BROWSE FULL BIO & ARTICLES >

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

 

 

Get LawOfficer in Your Inbox

Terms of Service Privacy Policy