Your Guide to Winter Weather Preparedness

 

Winter weather can strike quickly and fiercely, and it can create an array of issues for homeowners.  When a winter storm causes a power outage, however, things can turn costly and dangerous very quickly.  The most important thing one can do to keep safe during a winter storm and/or power outage is to be prepared.  Here are some things you can do to make sure that you will stay safe and warm.

 

 


Keep these things on hand… And if you don’t have any, get some!

 

Prescriptions and Common Medications

 

If any member of your home takes medication daily, you will want to be sure, first and foremost, that you will not run out of the medications, should inclement weather strike.  It’s also a good idea to keep common over-the-counter medications on hand, just in case you should need them while you are stuck at home.

 

Stock Up on Food

 

It’s important that you have enough food at home to last you at least three days, should a storm leave you stranded at home or cause a power outage.  If the power goes out, make sure that you have a sufficient supply of food that doesn’t need to be cooked before it is consumed. 

If you want to cook while your power is out, and you want to do so with a camping stove or other appliance outside of your kitchen, it is imperative that you take the camping stove outside to cook your meal. 

 

Stock Up on Water

 

To plan for how much water to have on hand in the case of a power outage, account for one gallon per person per day, not including cooking or hygiene purposes.

 

Back-Up Power

Should a storm knock out your power, you should have a back-up source of electricity, if it is financially feasible for you to do so.  If you use a generator, however, keep it outside, and NEVER bring it inside your house or garage.  If you are planning on using a generator, be sure that you have the proper length of outdoor extension cord to bring the power into your house. 

 

Flashlights, Batteries, & Candles

 

Make sure that you have a surplus of batteries, and that you have enough flashlights and battery-operated lamps to get you through.  Flashlights and battery-operated lamps are a lot safer than candles, so be sure that you have enough of them.  Also, gather them and store them in a handy place before the bad weather hits.  Should you run out of batteries, use candles as a last resort.  Exercise all safety precautions when burning candles.  Never leave them unattended, keep them away from anything flammable, keep them out of reach of pets and children, and never leave them burning overnight.

 

Keep a Weather Radio on Hand & Know the Terms

 

If you constantly are checking the weather on your cell phone during a power outage, you will quickly drain your power and have no way to restore it.  To monitor the weather without draining your cell phone battery, purchase a weather radio and check it occasionally for any updates to the forecast.  Here are the weather terms often used during a winter storm and what they mean, for those of you who might not know:

Winter Storm Outlook – Winter storm conditions are possible in the next 2 to 5 days.

Winter Weather Advisory – Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. When caution is used, these situations should not be life threatening.

Winter Storm Watch – Winter storm conditions are possible within the next 36 to 48 hours. People in a watch area should review their winter storm plans and stay informed about weather conditions.

Winter Storm Warning – Life-threatening, severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours. People in a warning area should take precautions immediately.

 

Buy De-Icer and Salt Ahead of Time

 

Keep a stock of salt and de-icer spray on hand in case of icy or snowy conditions.  Even the slightest bit of ice can lead to injury, so it’s better to keep it on hand than to be caught without it.

 

Fire Extinguisher

 

Be sure that your home has a fire extinguisher on hand (that is not past its expiration date).  If the power outage should lead to a fire, for whatever reason, you will be happy that you have it.

 

Heat packs

 

Buy yourself a large pack of heat packs before the storm, in case you lose power and heat.  They can keep the blood flow going, keep you comfortable, and they’re great to stick in your socks or mittens!

 

 

Prepare!

 

Ease of Access

 

Before a storm hits, you should gather all the supplies you may need, as well as the ones you just purchased, and store them in an easily-accessible location.  This way, you won’t be fumbling around in the dark looking for flashlights and batteries before you take the precautions necessary in a winter power outage.

 

Make Sure Carbon Monoxide Detectors Are Working

 

The risk for carbon monoxide poisoning increases drastically in the bitter cold and during winter power outages.  NEVER turn to alternative forms of heating; their use often results in carbon monoxide poisoning or house fires.  If you are without power and your home is cold, contact your local emergency services to find a local community center that is offering warm lodging, rather than trying to heat your home in an unsafe way.

 

Fully Charge Your Electronics

 

Devices like your cell phone or tablets should be fully charged before a winter storm hits, so that if the power goes out, you are ahead of the game.  If at all possible, purchase a portable charger and be sure that it is fully charged, as well, so that you can extend the life of your cell phone’s charge.  Your cell phone can be a great tool to have in a winter storm, so that you can keep an eye on conditions, keep up on when power will be restored, and call for help should an emergency situation arise. 

 

Cozy Up!

 

Have a supply of warm blankets and sleeping bags set aside in case you lose heat to your home.  Having these handy, layer them, and stay under them for as long as possible to keep yourself warm.

Sleep together!  The more body heat under a blanket, the better!

Dress in layers to preserve your own body heat.

 

Garage Door

 

Find out how to manually open your garage door before the winter weather hits, especially if that is the primary way that you get in and out of your house.

 

Turn Off Electronics

 

As a precaution, you should turn off and unplug any electronics that do not need to be on before a winter storm hits.  This will help protect your devices in case the power surges.  If your power is already out, and your devices are still plugged in, unplug them.  It’s very common for the power to surge before it is restored fully and back to normal. 


Clean & Inspect Chimney

 

If your home has a chimney, clean and inspect it fully before a winter storm hits, especially if you plan on using it to help heat your home.  An improperly-kept chimney can lead to fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.

If you burn wood to either heat your home or burn in your fireplace, cover your wood pile well before a winter storm hits, so that it can remain dry but accessible.

 

 

Winter Weather/Power Outage Hacks

 

Trap the Heat

 

Even if you are using a generator to heat your home, shut the vents for rooms you don’t use, shut the doors, and lay a towel against the crack at the bottom.  This will help you conserve fuel by heating your house quicker, thus allowing you to turn off the generator faster. 

 

Avoid Frozen Pipes

 

Here is a list of ways to prevent your pipes from freezing in the winter.  Should you lose heat, turn your faucets on a slow drip.

 

Perishable Items

 

After 24 hours, the food in your refrigerator may be compromised.  After 48, the food in your freezer may be compromised.  However, given that this is a winter storm, you have some options to save that food.  Packing refrigerated and frozen foods in ice can help you keep them cooler, longer, so keep a cooler and a few bags of ice on hand.  Pack your food in the cooler with ice, and store the cooler outside.  If the temperatures are below freezing, your ice should last quite a long time.  If the temperatures rise above freezing, your ice will last a long time, as well, but it is a good idea that you occasionally check to see if it needs more, in that case.

 

Drink Coffee! …Or tea! …Or hot chocolate!

 

The important thing is that you occasionally drink a hot beverage.  Drinking a hot beverage raises your body’s core temperature, which helps keep your extremities, especially your fingers and toes, warm. 

 

Cardio to Fight the Chill

 

When you feel yourself becoming very chilled, try doing five minutes’ worth of jumping jacks or high knees.  This increased blood flow helps warm your body’s core temperature.  Be sure not to do so much that you sweat, thus dampening your clothes, as that will lead to you being even colder when your heart rate normalizes again.

 

Know When to Close the Curtains

 

Opening your curtains on a sunny day can bring natural heat into your home.  Even during the winter months, open your curtains when the sun is shining and shut them as it begins to go down, trapping the heat inside.

To really help trap that heat, consider hanging quilts or blankets over your curtain rods during a power outage.  This will help keep the heat in your home.

 

Park Facing East

 

Before a snow or ice storm hits, park your car with your windshield facing east, if at all possible.  This will allow the morning sun to hit your windshield, and it may make your car-clearing project a little easier after the snow or ice hits.

 

Gas Up Your Car

 

You always want to make sure that your car has a full tank of gas before a winter storm, for a number of reasons.  For instance, if you are driving, and you get stuck in a winter storm or in traffic, you will want enough gas to get you home and keep you warm through the ordeal.  Also, a full tank of gas adds some weight to your vehicle, which, in the case of a snow storm, can make your vehicle a lot easier to manage. 

You should also be carrying a winter weather emergency kit in your car.  For some guidance in regards to what is best to keep in these kits, click here.

 

 

As with all of the tips and lists that we post, this is not a completely comprehensive instruction manual, but rather a guide to give you an idea of what to do.  If you experience an emergency, do not hesitate to contact your local emergency services immediately.  Always exercise every safety precaution, and thoroughly read through any instruction manual that came along with any of your equipment.