Sunday, March 11, 2018

50 Things to Do BEFORE a Winter Storm Hits

A few days ago I wrote a post about what to do during a snow storm if you have no power but it is really important, if you plan to survive an extended power outage during a snowstorm, to prepare ahead of time.  These 50 things should get you ready for the next storm:

  1. Winterize your home.  Some power companies offer free winterization services.  Or you can DIY it by sealing windows and doors, adding insulation, and sealing out drafts.  
  2. Winterize the exterior of your home.  Be sure to keep your gutters, downspouts, and drains clear.  Bring in or tie down outdoor furniture and garbage cans that could be carried off during a windstorm.  Inspect your roof and fix any leaks or damage ahead of a storm.
  3. Winterize your landscaping.  Take down dead trees which could fall in a storm, cover delicate plants or bring them in, put up snow fences if needed, etc.
  4. Plan for alternate power.  Do you need a generator?  You may if your area is subject to repeated storms and loss of power.  Solar panels?  Maybe.  Backup batteries?  These will work in a pinch.
  5. Make sure you have the correct connectors to charge your cell phone/tablet/laptop in your vehicle.  An AC/DC converters works well for this.
  6. Stockpile water.  Some water systems require power to operate (like a well and some municipal systems).  You want to have enough water (1 gallon per person per day) to survive at least two weeks without water coming out of your pipes.
  7. Stockpile food.  Again, you want to be able to feed yourself and your family three good meals a day for several weeks without going to the grocery store.  Note: be sure to rotate this food into your regular food supply so it doesn't go bad.
  8. Make sure you have several flashlights in your home and a lot of batteries for said lights.  A couple of hiker headlamps are also a good idea.  Candles are kerosene lanterns are OK to have as well.
  9. Consider alternate ways to cook.  The backyard grill with a full fuel tank is a good idea as is a camp stove.  Don't use any of these items in an enclosed area.
  10. Everyone in the family should have cold-weather gear.  Boots, heavy socks, long underwear, gloves, parkas, hats, etc.
  11. Everyone in the family should also have extra blankets and/or a sleeping bag to use when there is no heat in the house.
  12. Consider alternate ways to heat a room (not the entire house as this takes A LOT of fuel).  A wood stove with plenty of wood, a propane or kerosene stove with extra fuel, etc.
  13. If you must drive during a storm (and/or live in a storm-prone area) consider making your next vehicle a four-wheel drive.  Also, consider seasonally swapping out your tires for snow tires and/or carrying chains in your vehicle during the winter.
  14. Winterize your vehicle.  Change to winter-weight oil, change up your anti-freeze, always keep at least a half tank of gas, make sure wipers are good and you have topped off your windshield wiper fluid, etc.
  15. Have a good supply of wooden matches on hand.
  16. Have a good supply of books, board games, and other non-electric entertainment options on hand.
  17. Have a battery-powered/crank-powered AM/FM radio.
  18. Buy a weather radio if your area tends to have a lot of weather emergencies.
  19. Make sure your home has working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors as well as fire extinguishers.
  20. Take care of your water pipes.  Consider insulation for outside water valves, insulating water pipes, using heat tape on pipes, letting a trickle of water run in all faucets during particularly freezing weather, etc.
  21. Know how to shut off water and gas coming into your house in case a pipe bursts.
  22. Have a plan to take care of your outdoor animals (farm animals and cattle) during bad storms.
  23. Have a plan to take care of your pets during a bad storm (keep them inside, take care of their feet after they have been outside, etc).
  24. Have a plan to evacuate your home ahead of a storm if you have medically fragile people in your home who can't live without electricity/medical attention/oxygen deliveries/etc.
  25. Know how to work things in your home that require electricity to function (how to open your garage door without the electronic opener, how to secure your home if it has electronic locks, etc).
  26. Know how much snow load your roof can take and have a plan for removing excess snow from your roof.
  27. Have basic tools and equipment on hand before a storm hits: shovels, snow shovels, tarps, duct tape, sand bags and sand, etc.
  28. Make sure your chimney and flues are cleaned before every winter season to avoid chimney fires.
  29. Have a plan, if it will be a long-term storm, to eat perishables/refrigerator food first, then food in the freezer, then canned food.  Toss food that was frozen, thawed out, then refrozen when the power came back on.
  30. Pay attention to local news and emergency alerts.  These will give you the most up-to-date information about when and where the storm should hit.
  31. Sign up for local push-notifications from emergency agencies including your local Department of Emergency Management, news services, weather service, etc.
  32. Everyone in the family should have a BOB in case the family needs to evacuate at the last minute (ie: due to a tree coming through your roof, flooding, etc).
  33. Stockpile waterless cleaning agents such as Wet Wipes, paper towels, hand sanitizer, etc.
  34. Stockpile special items if you have a baby at home: formula and bottles, disposable diapers, medications, Pedialite, etc.
  35. Have a fairly comprehensive first aid kit in your home.
  36. Know where the warming shelters are in your community and have a plan to get to these if needed.
  37. Have basic knowledge of cold-weather health issues such as frostbite, hypothermia, cold-weather asthma issues, etc.
  38. If anyone in your home requires prescription meds, oxygen, etc. try to stockpile these ahead of time in case the local pharmacy is closed.
  39. Review your property insurance to know what is and what isn't covered.  Also know when/how to file a claim if needed.
  40. Prepare ahead of time with your work to determine what to do during a storm.  Are you a critical responder who needs to get to work no matter what?  Can you work from home during snow days?  How and when will you know if your workplaces closes for a storm?
  41. Prepare ahead of time with your children's school to determine what to do during a storm.  How will they get home if the snow storm hits mid day?  How and when will you know if their school plans to close for a storm?
  42. Have a family communication plan so all members will know where each other are at, if they need help or a ride, and where everyone plans to be during the storm.
  43. Encourage family, friends, neighbors, and the elderly to plan ahead for winter storms.  It's easier for them to prepare proactively than have a crisis which requires you to go out in a storm to help them.
  44. Watch for signs of illness in family members.  Heart attacks spike when people who never exercise suddenly go outside and shovel snow.  Carbon monoxide leaks are colorless and odorless and kill people quite often.  Hypothermia can also lead to death during the winter so know what it is and how to treat it.
  45. If at all possible, keep everyone at home during a storm.  Driving in snow and ice can be deadly, as can trees and power lines falling on a person during a storm.  Even slips and falls off the front stairs or walkway when it is snowy or icy can cause injury or even death.
  46. Back up all of your computer files ahead of a storm in case a power surge toasts your computer.
  47. If your area is prone to severe storms, consider getting a HAM radio and HAM license (plus a battery power source).  Cell phones and land lines may not work during a storm.
  48. Do not expect that calling 911 will bring help to your door within minutes like it usually does.  During a bad storm, emergency responders will be stretched thin and may not even be able to access your area so be prepared to be on your own for a while (call them anyway if you need help but just don't expect their usually speedy service).
  49. Try not to travel (by plane, train, bus) if you know that a storm is coming.  You may end up stranded somewhere (airport, train station) with little to no resources.
  50. Consider stocking other winter supplies: chemical hand warmers, cat litter, de icer, non electric can opener, etc.

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