Wintertime Home-Emergency Prep

Winter can bring on power outages that are unexpected and can prove costly financially as well as emotionally. For example, last February saw a huge storm in North America that ravaged states coast to coast and even the South. At one point, half of the country was under weather alerts. The storm caused hundreds of billions in damage.

This was an extreme case of winter’s wrath. It’s an example of how winter’s wrath can strike anywhere, so it’s worth being prepared. These strategies will ensure that your family is safe this winter.

Food and drink

Food

If you lose power, it’s impossible to predict when it will be restored, particularly in the winter. You should always keep a supply of nonperishable food, particularly those that do not need to be heated.

Ready-to-eat canned and boxed food are the best choices. However, if you plan to stock up on the latter, you will need a manual can opener. To keep food fresh, seal these products after they are opened. And keep in mind that you can access your refrigerator for food items, but, for safety, you must be extra careful that your fridge’s internal temperature doesn’t go above 40 degrees.

Water

It’s even more important to have a supply of drinking water. Although you may be able get hot water from your pipes, it won’t last very long if the power goes out. While cold water can keep you hydrated, it won’t warm your house if it is already cold. The CDC recommends keeping at least three days worth of store-bought bottled bottled water in your home. One gallon per household member should be kept for drinking.

Other Items

Be aware of people in your home who might need special care. This includes babies, elderly, or those with diabetes. You should consider their medical needs during an outage.

Don’t forget your pets! You don’t want them to eat human food, so make sure you have pet food in your home.

Warmth

Now you must consider your climate. Losing power in areas that are susceptible to cold winters can cause serious problems. Your home’s heat could quickly be cut off. There are simple ways to keep everyone warm.

The basics

Certain heat sources such as blankets are easily available. You just need to have them on hand. It is also wise to have matches and candles on hand for warmth and light. For easy access, keep a large supply of wood near your stove or wood-burning fireplace. The hearth can be used to heat the house or as an emergency cooking device.

Finally, be careful with what you wear. Layers of blankets and coats are a good idea. Also, make sure to cover your head with thick socks, gloves and other coverings. Extremities tend to get the coldest. The CDC also recommends that elderly people be monitored with a thermometer during an emergency, as their heat regulation process may not allow them feel how cold it feels.

Beyond the basics

Although they are expensive and heavy, generators have become a popular piece of equipment. They provide power for a short time and can be used for emergency purposes. You need to know how to use a generator safely, and where you can place it outside to be ready for an emergency. If your generator is gas-powered, make sure you have enough gasoline.

Using gasoline to warm up can temporarily solve the problem. In winter, it is best to make sure your tank is full. Check that your exhaust pipe is clear. Next, warm the car up in the driveway until it reaches a temperature between hot and cold.

Other considerations

Being prepared in the winter storm means looking beyond the usual box, especially when it is everyday items we don’t often think twice about.

Medicine and aid

If you have a medical condition or are close to one, it can cause severe side effects if your medication supplies run low. Make a habit of filling all prescriptions as soon as the new year starts. Don’t wait until they run out. Make sure you always have a first aid kit on hand.

Lights and batteries

Light might not keep your family warm but it can make them feel safe. It will also prevent people from getting hurt by walking in the dark. One handheld light source such as a flashlight, lantern or battery-operated lantern should be kept on hand for each person. You should also keep extra batteries in your bag for these items as well as any other devices such as portable radios or carbon monoxide detectors.

Communication

Being able to reach others during an emergency can be crucial. Keep a copy of your emergency contact list on paper and create a list. Sign up for emergency alerts from your utility company and the weather service to be notified of bad weather and when power will be restored. Finally, to keep that communication channel open, consider purchasing a portable phone charger, which will keep your phones charged for longer without needing an outlet.

Pipe protection

It’s important to prepare for a winter emergency. If the power goes out for a prolonged period, temperatures can drop below freezing indoors in many areas. If you haven’t already, turn off your outside water, and make sure your pipes are protected with slip-on foam insulation to prevent them from freezing and possibly bursting.

During winter, survival basics are a top priority. You can be sure that your family will be safe by planning and thinking through it.

To learn more, visit www.cdc.gov/disasters/winter

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