Watching the sun rise over a blanket of freshly fallen snow with a warm cup of hot chocolate in hand can seem like the perfect start to a weekend morning. But if the backdrop to that cup of hot chocolate is that you’re drinking it to stay warm because the power was knocked out, the scene becomes less idyllic. To prevent that situation from happening, it’s important to have a winter emergency plan in place.

Preparing Your Emergency Kit

A good winter emergency plan requires adequate preparation. Having a well-stocked emergency kit is vital to handling the challenges of winter. To prepare for winter, your emergency kit should include the following:

  • First aid kit
  • Rock salt to help melt ice on concrete or asphalt
  • Sand to assist with traction on slippery surfaces
  • Snow shovels and other tools to assist with removing snow
  • Wood or oil as a source of heating fuel
  • Warm clothing and blankets
  • Cell phone with a portable charger or extra batteries
  • Battery-powered radio with extra batteries or a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio receiver to listen to updates from the National Weather Service
  • Battery-powered flashlights or lanterns instead of candles, since they can cause house fires

How to Stay Warm

In preparation of frigid temperatures, winterizing your home is essential to keeping your home protected from the elements. Before the temperatures start to fall, seal any leaks and ensure that your home is properly insulated. 

If you happen to lose power during a winter storm, avoid using the stove to heat your home. Instead, keep extra blankets, sleeping bags, and winter coats on hand. If you have a fireplace, make sure that you have firewood or gas logs available. If you don’t have a fireplace, purchase a portable space heater or kerosene heater (if permitted) to add some extra warmth to your home. When using a space heater, follow these safety precautions:

  • Keep heaters at least three feet away from furniture or drapes
  • Use heaters with automatic shut-off switches and nonglowing elements to avoid potential fires
  • Keep children away from unattended heaters

If using an electric generator, avoid using it indoors or near any vents where carbon monoxide could leak into the home. Also, avoid using the generator or an appliance if it is wet, and store gas for the generator in a safe place where fumes cannot ignite.

How to Stay Safe

During a harsh winter storm, experts discourage going outside unless necessary. Even walking outside can be dangerous when the ground is covered in ice. If you need to travel outside of your home, bring an emergency kit along with the following:

  • General helpful items: windshield scraper, flashlight with additional batteries, food and water,  extra clothing and blankets, road maps, a compass, waterproof matches, and paper towels
  • Items in case your car breaks down or gets stuck: emergency tire repair kit, tool kit, chains or rope, booster cables, and tire chains
  • Items to signal for help: brightly colored flag, help signs, or emergency flares

Another major component of keeping you and your family safe is to have at least a week’s worth of food on hand. Experts advise homeowners without close neighbors to have a little more than a week’s supply of food. Along with canned goods and foods that don’t require cooking, make sure you have drinking water, prescription drugs, other medicine, and baby food, if necessary.

Once you’ve assembled your emergency kit and developed your emergency plan, inform your family about what they should do when a disaster strikes. Also, make sure that you sign up for severe weather alerts so that you’re ready for any upcoming storms.

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Sources: CDC; Ready; Red Cross.

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