Every winter, we encounter storms that surprise everyone with their duration and ferocity. And yet, every year people fail to take the proper steps to ensure that their family stays warm, comfortable, fed and entertained if the power goes out. Obviously, if the grid stays up, a lot of the problems you need to anticipate won't occur.
But let's assume that the power will go off, maybe for several days or more. For most people, it won't be more than a few hours before it starts to get cold, the cell phone or computer batteries run low and everyone begins to get restless.
Here's what you need to know to be prepared when bad winter blizzards or ice storms hit.
Having a backup power source is a huge safety net should the lines go down in a snow or ice storm. A generator sitting safely in the garage will help you sleep better as winter approaches. What size generator is right for you? Everyone's requirements vary, but to find the minimum wattage you'll need, calculate the amount of wattage necessary to provide backup power to run the furnace, refrigerator, some lights and phone charging.
Make sure you have several red storage containers of gasoline on hand with fuel stabilizer added to keep it fresh. You'll also want to have an electrician wire a proper connection for the generator into your breaker board so you don't back feed the electric lines and accidentally electrocute someone from the power company working on downed electrical lines.
If a generator is not in your budget, you'll still need an alternative heating source to keep your pipes from freezing. Consider purchasing a heater buddy and several one pound propane cylinders to fuel it. Those canisters will also serve in your propane camp stove, should a power outage render your electric stove useless.
Have your chimney flue cleaned and inspected regularly so your fireplace can be used to full advantage as a back-up heat source. And make sure you have plenty of dry wood laid in for the winter.
In addition to adequate food and water, make sure you have a well-stocked first aid kit on a high shelf in the pantry, away from the inquisitive hands of children. You may also want to pick up a few board games, coloring books and crayons for the little ones.
For backup lights, choose a powerful LED battery powered lantern and make sure you have plenty of spare batteries on hand well before the winter storm season hits. Redundancy is key, especially where flashlights are concerned. Make sure you have several flashlights and headlamps on hand for the entire family.
Prep Your Home
Outside your home, be sure to clean the gutters in the fall to provide adequate drainage and to prevent ice dams from damaging your roof. Inspect the roof to ensure that there are no loose shingles. Beat the rush and stock up on ice melt while it is still stacked chest high at the store. The snow shovel needs to be placed beside the front door and your warm, waterproof boots, coat, hat, and gloves should be in close proximity.
A sharp bow saw and a small axe can be very helpful in clearing your yard or driveway should limbs or branches need to be cleaned up after a big storm.
Prep Your Vehicle
Your car or truck should also be prepared. Have your local mechanic verify that the antifreeze/coolant has a temperature rating low enough for your locale. And have them check your battery. If it's old, replace it to ensure positive starts on those sub-zero mornings. Your tires need to be in good condition and properly inflated. You may decide to go one step further and install snow tires or studded tires if your state allows them.
Jumper cables should always be in the trunk along with the jack, inflated spare tire, flares, and emergency tire sealant and tire-changing tools. If the snow or ice is severe, a set of chains can be a huge advantage. Just check with your local and state regulations to make sure that you can use them.
In winter, always maintain a half tank of gas and when a storm is predicted, top off the tank so you know that it's full. The added weight will help provide better traction, too.
Be Car Safe
When powerful winter storms hit, the best advice is to stay off the roads. If you must venture out, drive slowly and avoid touching the brakes on icy road surfaces. If you do get stuck on the side of the road, place a red bandana or bright survey's tape on your antennae so that snowplows or other vehicles can see you.
Only run the car for 10 minutes every hour to heat up the interior and to charge your cell phone. Above all, keep the exhaust pipe of your car clear of snow and ice so that you don't get carbon monoxide poisoning from running the engine.
Your vehicle should be equipped with proper survival gear and you need to be dressed for a storm every time you leave the house, so that if you do get stuck on the side of the road and need to walk to safety or warmth, you can. Keeping some extra clothes, a few sleeping bags and some food in the trunk is an excellent idea.
Follow these tips and the next time that winter storm begins to breathe its icy blast, you won't have to worry. You can sit back and enjoy it. Let it snow! You know just what to do.
So your list looks something like this:
10 Essential Items For Your Home:
- Generator with enough fuel for several days
- Alternate source of heat, (fireplace, wood stove or heater buddy)
- Weather alert radio with extra batteries
- LED lantern, flashlights and headlamps with extra batteries
- Alternate source for cooking, (propane camp stove)
- Several days' worth of canned food, heater meals, dried fruits, nuts, and beef jerky
- Several cases of bottled water
- Winter rated sleeping bags for the entire family
- Coats, hats, gloves, thermal underwear and waterproof/insulated boots for the entire family
- Battery powered carbon monoxide detector
10 Essential Items For Your Vehicle:
- Wool blankets or winter-rated sleeping bags that can be unzipped
- Chemical hand/body warmers
- LED flashlights and flashers to alert other drivers
- High energy snacks, (dried fruits, nuts, and beef jerky)
- Bottled energy drinks with electrolytes (they have a lower freezing point)
- Cell phone charger or extra battery
- Collapsible shovel
- Sand or kitty litter for extra traction
- Tow strap or chain
- Any medications or medical items you might need