Winter safety warning: how to protect your health, home, and vehicle

stormy road ahead

Nicola Dowse and Jessica Taylor Yates

Posted June 01, 2022

Winter is the most hazardous time for Victorians, not just on the roads but in the home as well. Here is everything you need to know to stay safe this winter.

According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM), 150 separate severe weather events impacted Victorians in 2021, a figure that is likely to increase in 2022 due to the La Niña weather phase.

RACV encourages all Victorians to stay safe this winter by taking the necessary precautions for themselves, their family, and their property.

“When it comes to avoiding serious damage to your home and your possessions in a severe weather event, it’s often the simple things that make the biggest difference,” says RACV General Manager Home Portfolio, Darren Turner.

While it’s common for Victoria to experience blasts of cold air, with strong cold fronts impacting roads, rivers, and regions, this may mean a slew of potential hazards to your property, person, and vehicle.

RACV Policy Lead - Safety, Elvira Lazar has issued the warning to Victorians “whether it’s a severe storm, powerful winds or just light rain, a change in conditions on the road and home can have a significant impact,”

“Victorians are aware of how quickly weather conditions can change, so it’s important to plan ahead wherever possible and have safety at the forefront of your mind.”

Here’s how to adequately prepare your home, vehicle, and person to stay safe during severe weather in the winter months. 


What is a cold front?

A cold front is exactly what it sounds like: it’s the advancing edge (the ‘front’) of a cold air mass as it moves into a particular region. They’re a common weather feature in southern parts of Australia, Victoria in particular.

Joanna Hewes, Duty Forecaster at the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM), says that while cold fronts are “fairly typical” for late autumn and early winter, the run of cold weather has gone on for longer than usual.

“Melbourne is forecast for temperatures below 14 degrees Celsius for 10 days in a row, which hasn’t happened since 1998,” she says. In addition, snow was found in areas other than the mountain regions, including Trentham, Daylesford, and The Grampians.

When a cold front moves through, it often brings with it rain, strong winds, and cloud. This is because as the cold air moves into an area, it displaces the area’s existing warmer air, pushing it up into the atmosphere where it can condense into clouds and rain. Cold fronts also bring a sudden and marked drop in temperature. This sudden drop is what is often described as a ‘cold snap’.

Cold fronts aren’t just a winter phenomenon either. They occur all year round, but their effects vary depending on the season. In winter they can bring heavy rain, damaging winds, and even snow, while in summer, they can increase bushfire danger due to the strong wind gusts and chances of lightning.

In Victoria, Hewes attributes this cold front to a mass of cold hair from the Southern Ocean that has pushed up over the state, with low clouds and features in the atmosphere that are “hanging around” and “keeping temperatures low.”

Over winter, the BoM has predicted above-average rainfall, which may be linked to La Niña and the Indian Ocean Dipole (Indian Niño). That said, Hewes says we can expect temperatures in Victoria, particularly around coastal regions, to have “an 80 per cent chance of exceeding median maximum temperatures.” We just have to get through the cold snap first! 

What are the winter health risks?

No matter whether you are a fit and healthy young person, or have a myriad of health concerns, cold winters pose significant health risks to all Victorians. As the mercury drops lower, the dangers of health risks rise.

Research has found that every year in Australia, more deaths are associated with moderate cold than heat or extreme cold.

If your body temperature drops, this can lead to physical illness which can include coughs, hypothermia, headaches, and poor blood circulation. But the winter months can also impact mental health with reduced sunlight and tendencies to stay indoors.

It is advised for all Victorians during the winter months to take extra precautions to look after their physical and mental health, including:

  • Follow severe weather warnings from the Bureau of Meteorology
  • Make sure your flu and COVID-19 vaccines are up to date
  • Cover your extremities with layered clothing, and cover your feet and hands with gloves and warm socks
  • Eat well, keep moving, and exercise - even if it’s just around the house
  • Keep in contact with friends and family to stay sociable
  • Seek medical advice from an expert if you feel ill
winter in melbourne

Victoria has been hit with severe weather warnings with an early start to winter. Image: Getty. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Feeling blue in winter? You’re not alone. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or 'SAD,' is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons. The onset usually presents during autumn or early winter, with symptoms easing in spring or summer.

In winter these symptoms include changes in sleep (such as sleeping too much or finding it hard to wake up), a lack of energy or interest in regular activities, and overeating. Often SAD is treated with phototherapy, where you’re exposed to a special type of light over a period of time.

To help prevent SAD, it’s recommended you get outside, exercise and experience sunlight as often as possible during the colder months.

If you or someone you know feels overwhelmed or in need of support, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 at any time of the day or night.

Preparing your home and contents for winter 

Before any major storms or cold fronts hit, make sure you are ahead of the curve by keeping up-to-date with the Bureau of Meteorology’s latest weather warnings.

Always contact emergency services on 000 in the event of an emergency. 

Severe weather such as strong winds, hail, storms, or flash flooding can wreak havoc on your home, vehicles, and household contents. Make sure you and your home are ‘storm safe’ and prepare your home:

  • Keep gutters clean to avoid blockages and damage

  • Trim your trees to decrease the chance of storm or wind damage

  • Secure any large items, such as a bookcase that can cause damage in a storm

  • Have any roof damage, including broken or missing tiles fixed by a professional  

Home Insurance Types - Explained | RACV

How to protect your car from severe weather

In inclement or severe weather, make sure you are taking the necessary precautions to ensure you and your vehicle are safe on the road. Every year extreme winds, hail, cold, storms, and flooding increase the risk of damage and accidents with motor vehicles. 

Be prepared by taking the following precautions:

  • Ensure you are covered for any damages with adequate Motor Insurance and Emergency Roadside Assist should you get stuck
  • Keep up to date with the Bureau of Meteorology’s Victorian Warnings Summary
  • If a storm is on the horizon, look to move vehicles under shelter if available, or under a tarpaulin. 
  • If you are looking to drive in the snow, check out our guide to know how to prepare your vehicle for driving and parking 

If you are caught in a rainstorm while driving: 

  • Turn on your lights to improve visibility
  • Avoid parking under trees or loose branches
  • Avoid driving into flooded waters
  • Keep away from mud, debris, damaged roads, and fallen items like trees and powerlines
  • If your vehicle is a victim of hail damage, read our guide

RACV also has a dedicated resource for preparing for severe weather in Victoria here.

Be prepared this winter
Protect your home and car with RACV Insurance

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