If you’ve been watching the news, you’re well aware that a winter storm is bearing down on most of the United States. We’ve been warned of plummeting temperatures, ice, and lots of snow, even in places that don’t normally receive such weather.
Are you ready to be snowed in for a few days? If not, there’s no time like the present to get prepared. Once you see how well you fare during the upcoming storm, you’ll be hooked on the feeling of security that you get from planning ahead. This article is written with those who are new to preparedness in mind, so for the more experienced readers, please chime in with your tips in the comments section!
Keep in mind that with the holidays approaching, you could get snowed in with extra guests. Be sure you have enough supplies to keep everyone fed, hydrated, and warm.
Often, heavy snow, high winds, and ice can take down power lines and it can take a couple of weeks to get it restored, so plan for a two week emergency. What would you need if the power went out and you couldn’t leave your home for 14 days? Once you begin creating your plan, you may be surprised to discover that you already have most of what you need to batten down the hatches for a couple of weeks. It’s just a matter of organizing it so you can see what you need.
Use the following information to create your personal 2 week preparedness plan. Modify the suggestions to adapt them to your particular home, family, and climate.
Everyone knows that clean drinking water is something you can’t live without. In the event of a blizzard and power outage, the water may not run from the taps. The pipes could freeze, or, in the event of grid failure, an electrically driven pump will not work.
Each family should store a two week supply of water. The rule of thumb for drinking water is 1 gallon per day, per person. Don’t forget to stock water for your pets, also.
You can create your water supply very inexpensively. Many people use clean 2 liter soda pop bottles to store tap water. Others purchase the large 5 gallon jugs of filtered water from the grocery store. Consider a gravity fed water filtration device and water purification tablets as well.
Food and a way to prepare it
There are two schools of thought regarding food during a power outage. One: you need a cooking method that does not require the grid to be functioning. Two: you can store food that doesn’t require cooking.
If you opt for a secondary cooking method, be sure that you have enough fuel for two weeks. Store foods that do not require long cooking times – for example, dried beans would use a great deal of fuel, but canned beans could be warmed up, or even eaten cold.
Click HERE for a short term food storage list
Click HERE to find a list of foods that require no cooking.
The need for heat is a given in the midst of a winter storm. During the first 24 hours after a power outage, you can stay fairly warm if you block off one room of the house for everyone to group together in. Keep the door closed and keep a towel or blanket folded along the bottom of the door to conserve warmth. You can safely burn a couple of candles also, and in the enclosed space, your body heat will keep it relatively warm. As well, dress in layers and keep everything covered – wear a hat, gloves (fingerless ones allow you to still function), and a scarf.
Click HERE to learn how to stay warm with less heat.
However, after about 48 hours, that’s not going to be enough in very cold weather. You will require back-up heat at this point. If you are lucky enough to have a source of heat like a fireplace or woodstove, you’ll be just fine as long as you have a supply of dry, seasoned firewood.
Consider a portable propane heater (and propane) or an oil heater. You have to be very careful what type of backup heat you plan on using, as many of them can cause carbon monoxide poisoning if used in a poorly ventilated area.
Learn more about off-grid heat options HERE.
A common cause of illness, and even death, during a down-grid situation is lack of sanitation. We’ve discussed the importance of clean drinking water, but you won’t want to use your drinking water to keep things clean or to flush the toilet. If the pipes are frozen or you have no running water for other reasons during a winter storm, you’ll need to consider sanitation needs.
For cleaning, reduce your need to wash things. Stock up on paper plates, paper towels, and disposable cups and flatware. Keep some disinfecting cleaning wipes and sprays (I don’t recommend using antibacterial products on a regular basis, however in the event of an emergency they can help to keep you healthy.) Use hand sanitizer after using the bathroom and before handing food or beverages – there may be a lot more germs afoot in a disaster.
Look at your options for sanitation. Does your toilet still flush when the electricity is out? Many people discovered the hard way that the toilets didn’t work when the sewage backed up in the highrises in New York City in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. At our old cabin, the toilet wouldn’t flush without power because the pump was electric.
If you are on a septic system, with no risk of the toilet backing up into the house, simply store some water for flushing in the bathroom. At the first sign of a storm, fill the bathtub for this purpose. Add the water to the tank so that you can flush.
If this is not an option, another solution is to stock up on extremely heavy duty garbage bags (like the kind that contractors use at construction sites) and kitty litter. Place a bag either in your drained toilet or in a bucket. Sprinkle some kitty litter in the bottom of the bag. Each time someone uses the bathroom, add another handful of litter. Be very careful that the bag doesn’t get too heavy for you to handle it. Tie it up very securely and store it outside until services are restored.
Lighting is absolutely vital, especially if there are children in the house. Nothing is more frightening than being completely in the dark during a stressful situation. Fortunately, it’s one of the easiest things to plan for, as well as one of the least expensive.
Some lighting solutions are:
- Garden stake solar lights
- Kerosene lamps
- Flashlights (don’t forget batteries)
- Hand crank camping lantern
- Don’t forget matches or lighters
Outdoor tools and supplies
In the event of a winter storm, you’ll need some special supplies in order to keep walkways and steps clear and less hazardous.
- Snow shovel
- Snow blower
Exercise that you’re unaccustomed to is one of the most frequent causes of death in the aftermath of a snow storm. Many people drop dead of a heart attack shoveling their driveways. If you aren’t in shape, be sure that you use good sense when performing strenuous tasks. Take frequent breaks, stop when your out of breath, and do only a little bit at a time. Be sure also to dress appropriately for the weather.
Other tools and supplies
Some basic items will make your life much easier during an emergency. Here are some things that are essential in the event of a power outage:
- Lighter/waterproof matches
- Batteries in various sizes
- Manual can opener
- Basic tools: Pliers, screwdriver, wrench, hammer
- Duct tape
- Crazy glue
- Sewing supplies
- Bungee cords
If you’d like to expand on the basic supplies, a more detailed list of tools and hardware can be found HERE.
First Aid kit
It’s important to have a basic first aid kit on hand at all times, but particularly in the event of an emergency. Your kit should include basic wound care items like bandages, antibiotic ointments, and sprays. As well, if you use them, keep on hand a supply of basic over-the-counter medications, like pain relief capsules, cold medicine, cough syrup, anti-nausea pills, and allergy medication. Particularly important if sanitation is a problem are anti-diarheal medications.
If you want to put together a more advanced medical kit, you can find a list HERE.
This is something that will be unique to every family. Consider the things that are needed on a daily basis in your household. It might be prescription medications, diapers, or special foods. If you have pets, you’ll need supplies for them too. The best way to figure out what you need is to jot things down as you use them over the course of a week or so.
Stock your car
You should always keep an emergency kit in your vehicle but it’s especially important in bad winter weather. Your kit should include:
- Extra hats and gloves
- Dry socks
- Weatherproof footwear
- Winter coat and snow pants
- Water (this will most likely be frozen and you’ll have to thaw it to drink it – it’s best to bring water with you each time you leave the house)
- Matches or lighter
- Space blanket
- Heavy duty sleeping bag
- Sand or salt (to help you get unstuck)
- First aid kit
- Map and compass
- Windshield scraper
Preparedness is just common sense
Don’t feel like you are crossing over to the tinfoil hat side by preparing for all eventualities during a winter storm. This doesn’t mean you’re loading your car with gas masks and decontamination suits. It doesn’t mean your house is stacked to the rafters with ammo and body armor. It’s just plain old-fashioned common sense to keep a naturally occurring event from becoming a crisis.
It’s far better to have your supplies and never need them than to need them and not have them.
As for us, we can’t wait to have a snowball fight and make cocoa on the woodstove! Bring it on, Mother Nature!