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16 winter weather tips for on and off-duty cops

Remember to prepare for the conditions you might find yourself outside in for several hours


Winter is upon us, and regardless of where you work in North America the weather will change dramatically. Cold can mean different things to officers around the country. For the cops in the Southwest, winter is a break from the sweltering 120-degree weather. For cops in the Midwest and Northeast, it means being prepared for double-digit, minus temperatures and minus triple-digit wind chill factors. Regardless of where you’re working, here are some cold weather habits to keep you safe both  off and on-duty.

Off-Duty

1. When “No Travel Is Advised” you still have to get to and from work. Have you had a good pair of winter tires installed on your car if snow is a probability where you work? If not, you better do that soon.

(Photo/Pixabay)
(Photo/Pixabay)

2. Do you have jumper cables, tow rope and a shovel along for the drive? Do you have some method of improving traction if things get very icy or you get stuck? A bag of chicken grit, kitty litter or sand can give you the added traction you may need if you get stuck in slippery conditions.

3. Make sure you chain up, if tire chains are allowed. Do you have a set?

4. Have you had your car serviced to make sure it is ready for winter? How about your home furnace? Worrying about your family in a cold house can be a distraction while you work. An annual service check will be cheaper than an emergency maintenance call. 

5. Have your practiced with your off-duty weapon and carry rig in low temperatures? I had a holster that would shrink in the cold and not release my weapon while at the range, until I brought it back inside the car to warm it up. The temperature that day was -20 degrees.

On-Duty

1. In order to prepare for the weather, you have to know what the future holds. Install a weather app on your phone so you have that information available at the touch of a finger.

2. Staying warm means starting with your feet. Depending on where you work, an insulated pair of duty boots is a must.

3. Good socks will help keep you warm. Wool will retain heat even when it is wet. Layer your socks with a polypropylene base layer that will wick sweat away.

4. Buy a supply of foot and hand warmers. There are chemical packs, battery operated socks and glove units that will do the trick.

5. Insulated long underwear is a must in most parts of the country. It comes in different weights, so pick the weight according to the temperature you have to work in. Remember to dress for the conditions you might find yourself outside in for several hours, not for the walk to the car.

6. An insulated vest can fit under your duty jacket, keep your core warm, but not add any additional bulk to affect the movement of your arms.

7. A good set of gloves is essential. Again, they come in different weights to adapt to change from cold to extreme cold conditions. Shooting practice is essential to prepare to save your life or the life of another in cold temperatures. Gloves can change your grip and the feel of the trigger. Don’t let that ultimate moment be the first time you have fired your weapon in your winter gear.

8. Practice drawing all of your tools of arrest and control while wearing your winter kit. Jackets can change your draw and presentation, and gloves can affect your ability to deploy your baton, TASER, OC, handcuffs, magazines and pistol.

9. An insulated hat and face mask is an essential part of your equipment if you have to spend an extended time outside. On more than one occasion, I have been glad that I brought a duffle bag stuffed with winter gear when I had to take a perimeter or direct traffic for extended periods of time at -35 degrees.

10. If the roads are icy and chains are advised for vehicles, then make sure you have a pair of shoe chains to slip on your boots to make sure you can move quickly and effectively if you have to dodge an out-of-control oncoming car that didn’t heed this advice.

11. All weapon lubes work great at normal temperatures. Are you sure that the lubricant used on your trigger bar will operate correctly at low temperatures? Fortunately, I was practicing with my pistol in extremely cold weather when I found out the lubricant I was using literally froze the trigger in place until I applied enough force to break the ice

These are just a few tricks learned from practical experience working patrol during the winters of Minnesota. It may not get as cold where you work, but cold is relative, based on what you are used to. Stay safe, stay strong, stay true and stay warm.

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