How to Prepare for a Cold Weather Home Emergency
BY: Marnie Oursler
Happy November! Can you believe we’re closing in on the end of yet another year? This time of year is my absolute favorite (after beach season, of course!) because it’s chock full of opportunities to gather with friends and loved ones. And with colder temps driving everyone indoors, it’s also the perfect time to get cozy at home. But this time of year also brings with it the threat of snow, ice, and damaging storms that can wreak havoc on your home – and your family – if you’re not prepared. To help you navigate the extreme weather ahead, I’ve compiled an emergency survival guide of all the essentials for a safe, happy, and healthy season.
Know your home’s infrastructure
The first and simplest step in ensuring the safety of your family and home is knowing how to shut down the infrastructure of your home. Make sure you and at least one other member of your household can locate the water and gas shutoff valves, and what parts of the house are controlled by which circuit breakers. This basic knowledge can help neutralize a situation before it turns into an emergency.
Have an alternative heat source
Winter ice often leads to power outages that can leave your household not only in the dark, but in the cold, too. Consider adding non-electrical heat sources to your home to keep you warm while you wait for the power to come back on. Fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, kerosene space heater, and, ideally, a back-up generator are all great options for keeping toasty.
Prepare an emergency kit
It’s always wise to have an emergency kit on hand and at the ready (not only in the winter!). Ready.gov has a full list of all items that should be included in your kit, including basic medical supplies, prescription medications (for the humans and pets in your household), water, fire extinguisher, hand-crank radio, matches in a waterproof container, sanitation supplies, extra blankets, and a change of season-appropriate clothing. It’s also smart to keep your cell phone fully charged and a portable charger ready for back-up.
Keep a well-stocked pantry
In addition to having at least a three-day supple of one gallon of water per person (and animal), stock your pantry with a variety of non-perishable canned and preserved foods and snacks that don’t require heat to consume. If a particularly bad storm or bout of winter weather is heading your way, freshen your supplies well in advance of the crowds. And while these items will keep for a long time, they won’t last forever. Keep your pantry fresh by rotating items, placing newer ones in the back and older ones up front. And don’t forget a manual can-opener, as well as disposable plates, cups, napkins, and utensils.
Stock up on flashlights and batteries
Having a variety light sources on hand is important in any emergency, but even more so in the colder months when days are shorter and darker. Store flashlights with fresh batteries in several places throughout your home so one is always nearby no matter where you are when you lose power. Keep those flashlights running with plenty of spare batteries stored in one central location. Candles can be used in emergency situations if flashlights and lanterns aren’t available, but be extremely cautious – an unsupervised candle can quickly cause a fire.
Be ready for emergency repairs
In cases of severe cold and extreme weather, even minor damage can be dangerous. For example, a broken window in the summer is a nuisance; a broken window in the middle of a winter storm can cause inside temps to quickly drop below freezing. Have tools and materials for emergency repairs – such as duct tape and heavy duty plastic sheeting – on hand at all times.
Take care of four-legged family members
Remember: Having a pet is a commitment to their well-being and safety, too. Have at least a three-day supply of food, water, and medication stocked up to keep your pets safe in an emergency. Stash extra blankets, towels, and bedding in pet carriers to keep your fur babies warm and cozy. Keep leashes, litter, litter boxes, and puppy pads available to make them comfortable. And don’t forget toys and treats to keep them entertained.
To a happy and healthy season ahead,