Winter preparations build fond memories

Ottawa Police Service

Ottawa Police Service

Const. Khoa Hoang is manager of the Somerset Community Police Centre.

Just about every species in Canada prepares extensively for winter. And we are certainly no exception.

The Arctic tern will fly from its summer home near the North Pole all the way to the edges of Antarctica. Even the common squirrel will befriend rodents to huddle together for warmth. And who can blame them? Our winters can be crazy!

I arrived in Ottawa during the winter of 1985. Mom heard it was cold here so she found the thickest pair of sandals sold in Vietnam… SANDALS! Isn’t the North Face factory located somewhere in Asia? Thank goodness for my aunt’s old Pontiac with a heater that could cook hot dogs.

But live here long enough and winter becomes a part of life, used to define our level of toughness which, in turn, has become a source of national pride. 

I had the opportunity to spend two months working in the high arctic last year near the North Pole. No, I didn’t see Santa Claus; but I did observe true Inuit culture which gave me a new perspective and further defined my own character.

The Inuit people living in the Arctic were fascinating, and from them I learned some valuable lessons. They were truly in tune with Mother Nature and part of a resilient culture. Each August when the frozen ocean melted away, large, heavy ships would bring supplies to each hamlet. It was really the only month that the ocean that far north wasn’t covered by ice.

Their preparation for winter was incredibly precise. Survival over the next 11 months depended on it! 

The small town of Resolute Bay, population 200, became my home (look it up), and the bright lights of an urban street quickly changed into shades of winter grey. After the initial shock, the howling winds of minus 70 degrees Celsius temperatures eventually faded into the background of daily life.

To say that I learned a lot living up there would be an understatement. I came home with a new respect for humanity, a better understanding of Inuit culture, and a commitment to winter preparation. September was their time to prepare, as it should be for us city dwellers during the fall season.

“Winter can be very scary,” I told a group of new immigrants to the city of Ottawa.  We start shopping for snow tires and become reacquainted with thick jackets and funny looking toques. 

Police officers carry an extra pad of vehicle collision reports and everyone braces for that first slow drive into work.

But far too many of us overlook and underestimate the effects of winter on others.  It’s not easy for everyone, and my years of policing have seen the challenges many face during the next few months.

The holiday season is known for high rates of depression, and I’ll never forget the difficulties I witnessed working my first set of holidays. It certainly left me feeling quite ignorant, but extremely thankful for what I had.

Police officers respond to a frequent number of family troubles and domestic altercations during the winter months, exacerbated by the fact that we become fearful of the cold and spend more time together indoors. Inactivity and constant face time with the extended family can drive anyone crazy! 

The lack of sun alters our mood and seasonal affective disorder has a way of finding us all.  The days get shorter and my fellow officers on night shift are lucky if they see two hours of sun.

So I’ve prepared my family the best that I can.  Calendars full of outdoor activities, a shelf full of movies, board games and weekend trips to keep the spirit up. 

Truth be told, I’ve always rather enjoyed winter. It promotes families coming together, and if combined with the right amount of positive reinforcement, I have no doubt you’ll have fond memories, too.