When people think “disaster”, they’re usually imagining hurricanes, tornadoes, global thermonuclear war—but having your car break down in the middle of a snowstorm, or losing power when a tree falls on the lines, can also be a real danger for unprepared families. With many of us making travel plans, and harsh weather coming on, it’s important to plan early in case of cold weather related emergencies—and when you’re done, you can kick back and enjoy the holidays worry-free.
1. Emergency Kits
You might have a box labeled “First Aid Kit” somewhere in the house with some Band-Aids and calamine lotion, but a real emergency will likely ask more of you than that. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has provided some solid guidelines on what to put into a survival kit, including: Water (1 gallon per person per day for 3 days), a complete first aid kit, tools, maps, and canned food. There is actually quite a bit more so take a look, and start gathering items tonight. It isn’t hard to do, and you can make a fun family night of it.
For extra credit, divide your emergency kits into two types: one for 72-hour, in-home emergencies like being snowed in or losing power, and “bug-out bags” for longer-term emergencies like evacuations. Keep at least one 72-hour kit in your car; they’re easy to make, and if you’re ever caught in a blizzard on an isolated stretch of highway, it could save your life.
2. Road Safety
If you’re like the millions of families planning to travel this Holiday season, you’ll want to plan ahead for your travel. Even if the weather forecasts are great for your planned travel day, things always can change and accidents happen. Prepare a smaller version of your at home emergency kit, with blankets and food and water. Also make sure you have road flares and the tools needed for basic roadside repairs (tire irons, wrenches, etc). Keep a map with you at all times that has local roads to where you’ll be visiting and driving through, your GPS might not be able to get a signal during adverse weather conditions.
3. Prepare for a Power Outage
Especially if you live in a wooded area, one thing you can count on in a heavy snowstorm is a power outage. As part of your emergency supplies, include a couple of flashlights and spare batteries for each—and make sure they’re accessible in the dark! Keep candles and matches handy, and if you have a fire-place, wood for burning. Store blankets near your emergency kit, especially if you don’t have a wood-burning fire place. Power might be out for a couple of days, so consider investing in small solar power solutions for your cell phones and small electronics. You might not think of cell phones or tablet computers as a survival tool, but if you’re snowed in with no power, they might be your only link to outside help and information. Unlike desktops or laptops, they require significantly less power, and can hook into cell signals either directly or via a wifi-tethered connection.
4. Winterize Your Home
During severe cold weather, it is important that you have already completed winterizing your home as it will enable your home to retain heat more effectively, and so you can count on it to deliver clean water and generally shelter you from the environment. Make sure your heating equipment is inspected yearly (if it hasn’t been yet, get on that), and that you have properly insulated your walls, attic, and basement and that your doors and windows have working weather-stripping. Insulate your pipes, and make sure that you know how to shut off water valves and specifically the main water supply.
However, winterizing you can cost a lot. Fortunately, winter is also the month of balance. This is why I recommend you this article: How to Cut Costs with Off-Seasons Shopping?.
5. Know your terminology
A great way to help your family to be prepared for the worst is to make sure you understand severe weather warnings and how they apply to you. These terms include:
- Freezing Rain: Rain that freezes when it hits the ground (road hazard).
- Winter Weather Advisory: Winter weather conditions that can be hazardous are expected.
- Winter Storm Watch: A winter storm is possible for your general area
- Blizzard Warming: Sustained gusts of 35+ MPH and considerable amounts of falling snow expected.
Make sure you know which of these are likely in your area and how to prepare in case of each.