Sunday, February 21, 2021

75 Items People Needed During the Recent Winter Storm

There were a lot of people in the south who were caught off guard by the massive snow and ice storm that hit Texas and other southern areas of our country last week.  Among the after-storm reports on various social media services were lists of items people wished they had/added to their "to buy" list both during and after the storm.  Needless to say, it is both easier and cheaper to buy these items long before you need them instead of when people are mobbing the stores during the adverse weather event.  Maybe add some of these items to your "to buy" list in case you find yourself in such a situation in the future...

  1. Generator and extra fuel.  This is a very popular item during power outages, on the other hand, these noisy generators certainly draw attention to your place.
  2. A solar panel/storage battery set up.  Quieter than a generator and no need for fuel if you live in a place that gets enough sun even during the winter.
  3. 5 gallon buckets.  There are a million uses for these from hauling and storing water to using it as an impromptu wheelbarrow.
  4. Rags and old towels.  You can pick these up for cheap at thrift stores and they have hundreds of uses during a disaster.
  5. Tarps.  These also have many uses from wrapping the chicken coop to keep the girls warm, to wrapping plants and trees, to making a shelter within your home.
  6. Duct tape.  Again, a million uses during a disaster, from repairs to wrapping insulation around pipes, etc.
  7. Winter clothing.  Many people head south and leave their winter clothes behind; everyone should have at least one complete set of warm winter clothes--jacket, gloves, hat, boots, socks--in storage.
  8. Clothes to keep warm at home.  Big warm socks, long underware, big fleece jackets, onesies for the kids...basically have clothes you can layer to wear at home to keep you warm.
  9. Snow shovel.  People were trying to move snow with Tupperware lids in some reports!
  10. Electric space heaters.  With power or a generator, these small space heaters can be used to keep an entire room warm.
  11. Alternate fuel space heaters and extra fuel.  Portable space heaters which use fuel like kerosene or propane are a great emergency source of heat if the power goes out (be sure to keep the fuel rotated).
  12. Matches and lighters.  Some people who still had gas service but no electricity realized their electric starter didn't work on their stoves and they didn't have a manual way to light them.
  13. Gas patio grill.  These grills (preferably with a side burner) became the only way to cook food and boil water for some people.
  14. Carbon monoxide detectors.  These were extremely valuable as people used alternate ways to heat their homes and cook their food.  Unfortunately a lot of people didn't have these vital detectors and many ended up in the hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning.
  15. Lots of extra stored, easy-to-eat food.  With no power and no way to heat food, people realized that all the beans and rice in the world are less than useful when what they really needed was canned and packaged food that could be easily eaten without cooking or with minimal cooking (granola, cereal, jerky, canned tuna, etc).
  16. Lots of extra stored water.  Most people don't think they will end up at the community water faucet to get water but it happened in some areas.  Having multiple sources of stored water and multiple ways to carry water is a good idea.
  17. Multiple ways to purify water.  Many areas had boil water orders which were problematic for a few reasons--people's water stopped working, they had no way to boil water, and they didn't know how to boil water to purify it.  Learn how to purify water now and have several methods for doing so on hand.
  18. Camping gear.  Even though people were stuck in their homes without heat, many really could have used camping gear--tent, sleeping bags, sleep pads, etc--to create a warm "inner room" in their homes.  As it was, some people didn't even have enough blankets to keep warm!
  19. Alternate ways to clean up.  Wet wipes, hand sanitizer, a spray bottle or garden sprayer...there are many alternate ways to clean yourself up (take a cue from van dwellers on how to do this when you don't have water or power).
  20. Bleach.  From purifying water to sanitizing around the house, bleach has a lot of uses during an emergency so always have some on hand (but never mix it with other cleaning agents!).
  21. Fire extinguisher.  Stopping a fire when it was small would have been preferable to the infernos that happened because all of the hydrants were frozen.
  22. Toilet paper, kleenex, paper towels.  Needless to say, when a storm hits, paper goods are one of the first items to disappear from store shelves.
  23. Cash.  Some stores didn't have electricity so credit cards couldn't be processed, ditto gas stations and ATMs.  It's always a good idea to have emergency cash on hand.
  24. Extra stored fuel.  Gas stations quickly closed during the storm either because they had no electricity to pump the fuel or because they were so overwhelmed with people filling their gas tanks that they ran out.  Never be caught in this situation by having your own (rotated) fuel stock.
  25. Snow chains.  Most people leave their tire chains behind when they head south.  Obviously these would have come in handy during this once-in-a-decade storm.
  26. Battery banks.  It seems like most cell service kept working during the storm but with no power people were trying all sorts of ways to keep their cell phones charged.  Having several power banks on hand and keeping them charged up when you have access to power is a very good idea.
  27. Extension cords.  These were useful for everything from running power from a generator to sharing power with the neighbors.
  28. Alternate ways to cook food.  If your electric stove doesn't work, how will you cook food?  Some people used their patio grills, some people broke out their Coleman camp stoves, some people cooked over their tiny backpacking stoves or used their fireplace.
  29. Fireplaces.  How useful is your fireplace during a power outage?  If you have a fireplace insert and lots of cured wood, you would have been set during the storm.  A gas fireplace, not so much as gas service cut out in many places.
  30. Firewood.  People ended up burning furniture and books to keep warm!  Even if you just have a small bonfire pit in the back yard, having firewood on hand is a much better option than buying it piece by piece at the grocery store (many of which ran out of wood almost immediately).
  31. Propane cylinders.  It's always a good idea to have an extra cylinder or three on hand to use with your gas grill or propane heater.  These sold out quickly at stores in the storm-affected areas.
  32. Pipe wrap.  Again, in cold places wrapping heat tape around exposed pipes is a given but this isn't done in warmer areas.  Have a way to insulate your pipes so they don't burst during a hard freeze.
  33. Duct tape.  Literally a hundred uses during a disaster.
  34. Plastic sheeting.  People with poorly insulated windows put up plastic sheeting to keep cold and drafts out of their homes during the storm (again, this stuff sold out quickly at home stores during the storm).
  35. Flashlights and extra batteries.  Flashlights and headlamps were extremely valuable when the power was out for days.  Be sure you have enough batteries on hand to keep these light sources going.
  36. Candles.  If you run out of batteries for your flashlights you can use candles.
  37. Lanterns.  Lanterns are an even better idea if you want to provide light for an entire room.  These can be powered with rechargeable batteries or fuel.
  38. Entertainment options.  Preferably of the non-electric variety.  There were many days of just waiting and hanging out and without power people had to resort to old fashioned ways of entertaining themselves from books and games to puzzles and crafts.  Have plenty of these supplies on hand.
  39. Hot water bottles.  These are another old fashioned item that were invaluable for keeping warm when the power went out.  Boil water, fill the bottle, put the bottle in the bottom of your sleeping bag and you will stay warm for hours.
  40. Extra specialized food--for babies, for pets, for livestock, etc.  People couldn't get out to the stores/the stores were closed, but everyone still needs to eat so always keep your specialized food (baby formula, baby food, pet food, livestock feed, etc) topped off.
  41. Chemical hand warmers.  If you have to wait in line in the freezing weather for food/water/store entry/etc, having these chemical hand warmers in your pockets are a nice treat.
  42. Battery powered radio and extra batteries.  These were great for getting information from the outside when TV and radios didn't work.  Note that the emergency radios which can be powered by batteries, regular power, and hand crank are even better in case you run out of batteries and these often have a port for charging your cell phone as well.
  43. Extra blankets and bedding.  Some people had unexpected guests during the storm (friends, family, a delivery driver) so it makes sense to have enough extra bedding and blankets for everyone.  Also, blankets can be used to make an impromptu tent for the family, can be used over windows to doorways to seal out the cold, etc.
  44. A way to protect yourself.  I actually didn't hear about people taking advantage of the power outage to rob people's homes but no power means no security system and at the height of the storm first responders were few and far between so people were on their own when it came to their own security and protection.
  45. Thermos.  Again, an old fashioned concept since there is a Starbucks on every corner, but a thermos is the best way to have already made hot coffee/water all day.
  46. Basic tools.  Hammer, saw, nails, wrench, plumbing supplies, staple gun...if any damage was done during the storm, people needed to mend the mess and wait, often for days or weeks, for professional help.  If you could cap off a broken pipe, hang tarps, and use a chainsaw to clear downed trees, you were miles ahead of the general public, especially in the cities that were hard hit by the storm.
  47. Cast iron pans/Dutch oven.  These are the best pans to use when you have to move your indoor cooking to the gas grill/fire pit/fireplace.  
  48. Silcock key.  Rumor has it that while household water went down there was still plenty of water to be had in commercial building water systems.  YMMV
  49. Extra medication.  While the best course of action for people in severe medical distress (on a ventilator, dependent on oxygen, on dialysis, etc) would have been evacuating far from the storm, people with general medical issues were still on their own for a while so things like having as stockpile of prescription medication is a good idea when stores/pharmacies are shut down.
  50. Power strips/surge protectors.  With the rolling blackouts that happened in many storm affected areas, many people had to both charge as many devices as quickly as possible and ensure that their delicate electronics didn't get toasted when there were power surges.  These two devices take care of both problems.
  51. Shop vac.  These durable vacuums are great for storm clean up (or any kind of clean up that the spouse would object to you using the Dyson on).
  52. Yaktrax or spikes for your shoes/boots.  If you must be out and about in a snow and ice storm, having traction devices on your shoes is a good idea for your safety.
  53. Car BOB.  Many people got stuck in their cars in the storm in the middle of the freeway.  For hours on end.  Having a car bug out bag makes this situation much more bearable.
  54. Materials to extricate your vehicle from the ditch.  If you do drive during a storm and get stuck in the snow, there are several things to have with you to get yourself out of your predicament including a shovel, cat litter,  car traction mats, gloves, winch/come-along, etc.
  55. Funnels.  These can be used for transferring fuel from storage containers to car tank, from storage to heater, water from storage to pitchers in the refrigerator, etc.
  56. Hand pump/siphon.  For people who have difficulty lifting heavy gas or water storage containers, being able to pump or siphon the water out of these and into smaller containers is a good idea.
  57. Ice scraper and snow brush.  In south Texas no one keeps an ice scraper in their vehicle so people were using credit cards, knives(!), and even fire to clear ice and snow from their vehicles.
  58. Coolers.  These can be filled with snow to keep food cold if the fridge has been out of power for too long.
  59. HAM radios.  Some people reported using their HAM radios during the storm to connect with other people and receive local information.  When cell towers go down, this may be your only communication option.
  60. Thermometers.  People kept these in their fridge and freezers to know what temperatures these appliances got up to--too long in the danger zone and the food would spoil.
  61. Car USB charger.  As a last resort, people would use these to charge their cell phones in their vehicles.
  62. Down.  Down throws, down sleeping bags, down long as it doesn't get wet, down items are really warm and really lightweight.
  63. Tools to turn off water, gas, and electricity in your home.  Electricity is pretty simple as you just flip the main breaker, gas shut off should be done with a special non-sparking tool, water shut off is usually done by flipping a lever in your home or using a tool to access the water shut off at the street.
  64. French press.  A simpler way to make coffee than electricity-intensive coffee makers.  Instant coffee was an even easier option.
  65. Paper plates/napkins/plastic cutlery/aluminum foil/plastic wrap.  When there was no hot water to wash dishes, using paper products became pretty popular in the storm-affected area.
  66. Mylar emergency blankets.  Pretty good for another insulative layer, pretty noisy if you are trying to sleep in one.
  67. Drain cover/water BOB.  For people who filled up their bathtubs with water before their water was shut off, having a drain cover was a good idea (one guy filled up his tub only to find the built in drain plug didn't seal well and the water drained out).  A WaterBOB is an even better idea.
  68. A good first aid kit.  Accidents can happen any time but when 911 response is slowed or even unavailable, having the supplies on hand to deal with basic medical emergencies is a good idea.
  69. Ways to preserve meat.  When it looked like the power outage would last for quite a while, people went online looking for information on preserving meat via dehydrator, smoker, salt preservation, canning, etc.  Needless to say, having the supplies on hand to do this is necessary especially when local stores are all shut down.
  70. Gutters and rain barrels.  When the water is off long-term, rain and melting snow funneled into a rain barrel can be another source of emergency water.
  71. Disposable diapers.  For babies or for the infirm/elderly.  People may be OK using cloth diapers under normal circumstances but when there is no water and no power, disposable is the way to go.
  72. Garbage bags.  Small, medium, and large plastic bags have a number of uses during a disaster.
  73. Spare parts.  For your generator (spark plugs, oil), for your lanterns (wicks), basically any part you would have to run to the home store and buy should be stocked at home since during a disaster these stores will probably be shut down.
  74. Treats.  Treats have a positive psychological impact during trying times.  New toys or coloring books for the kids, quality chocolates for the spouse, favorite can buy these during regular times then bring them out during a disaster and make everyone's day.
  75. And here is a list of more items that disappear first in an emergency.

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