How to Prepare for a Winter Storm

Two Parts:Preparing for an Immediate EmergencyLong-Term Preparation

Are Mother Nature's snow and ice spectaculars hitting your area hard this year? Having a few emergency supplies on-hand can save you a lot of discomfort and trouble when the storm hits. Keep reading to learn how to get ready.

Part 1
Preparing for an Immediate Emergency

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    Pick up basic survival items. You should have enough supplies to survive without leaving your house for a few days, as well as tools to help you leave if necessary. Stock up on these necessities:
    • A shovel: Even if you live in an apartment you should own a shovel as you may need to dig yourself out before your ground crew gets in, and they are unlikely to dig out your car.
    • Flashlights and batteries. Make sure you have good quality flashlights and lamps with fresh batteries. You can also purchase self-powered flashlights and self-powered radios. Some models will also charge your cell phone.
    • Candles. In case your flashlight suddenly gives out or you run out of batteries, you can light your home the old-fashioned way.
    • Non-perishable food. Stock up on canned soups and vegetables, powdered food, and grains like rice and pasta. Make sure you have enough to last your family at least three or four days. Make sure you have a manual can-opener, as well.
    • Bottled water. If you're worried about the pipes freezing, stock up on some water. You can buy it bottled, or simply purchase a few gallon jugs and fill them from the tap.
    • Blankets and warm clothing. You may already have these items, but remember you will need enough blankets to keep you warm without any heat and in adverse conditions. Consider purchasing mittens, thick woolen socks, and a hooded sweatshirt, if you don't already own these items.
    • A camping stove or grill. A gas-powered camping stove is a wise investment for any emergency situation. If you have an electric stove in the kitchen a camp stove is almost a necessity. Be sure you use it with proper ventilation to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, and have plenty of backup fuel.
    • Matches to light your gas range/camping stove/candles. Do not rely on lighters that can run out of fuel or break down all too easily.
    • A battery operated radio. This way you can get news without wall power. Make sure the batteries are good. It is also possible to buy a motion charging radio, as you can with a flashlight.
    • Prescription medications. Like food, it is always wise to have enough to last you a few days.
    • A first aid kit. You never know what kind of injuries or emergencies will happen, so make sure you have sterile bandages, disinfectant, antibiotic ointment, and over-the-counter painkillers available.
    • A cellphone with a cord, or a portable cellphone charger. Cordless home phones will not work when the power is out. Many states require at least one wall plugged phone, which receives power from the telephone connection, in all households.
    • Anything else vital to your household. You should always have ample supplies of items like diapers, formula, pet food, and so on before the storm hits.
    • Make sure your car is full of gas. You may need to go out before everything is operational.
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    Keep yourself warm. Losing heat is definitely uncomfortable, but you can survive it. Here's what to do:
    • Stop your pipes from freezing. Before you settle into a nest of blankets, go around your house and turn on every faucet so that it's dripping just slightly. Keeping the water moving through the pipes should help prevent them from freezing.
    • Seal up any drafts. Put towels at the bottom of any doors that have a gap, or around loose windows. If your windows are single-paned, close the curtains or pin a blanket up over them to keep the heat in.
    • Dress in layers. Put on a thin layer of cotton clothing close to your skin, and cover as much as your body as you can. (Think old-fashioned long underwear.) For ladies, consider putting on a pair of tights. On top of that, wear as many layers as you need to keep warm, finishing with one (or two) pairs of warm woolen socks and a sweatshirt or coat with a hood.
    • Wear a hood. You lose a lot of heat from the top of your head, so keep it covered. If you don't have hooded clothing, wrap a scarf or towel around your head.
    • Stay in bed. Put as many covers as you have left over onto your bed, and hop in. Keeping your body heat in an enclosed space like the sheets will help you stay as warm as possible.
    • Cuddle up. Join forces with a freezing roommate or family member and huddle under the same blankets — you'll warm up faster.
    • Conserve energy. Don't run around if you don't have to. Take this opportunity to veg out and relax.
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    Stay updated. Having current information is vital in an emergency, so make arrangements to stay informed.
    • Watch updates on the news or listen to the radio for as long as you can before power goes out.
    • Use social media for updates. If you don't have access to a battery-operated radio, follow national and local disaster agencies (such as FEMA) on Facebook and Twitter. Check periodically for updates.
    • Use SMS messaging if land-line service is down. You can send an SMS via basic text messaging, or through Twitter updates. Get the phone numbers or Twitter handles of all your family members, and make sure they know how to reach you.
    • Keep tabs on your family members. Try to find out where everyone is before the storm and make a plan to stay in a safe location. If you're going to be separated from anyone, set up a pre-determined time and method for touching base again, such as connecting via text message every 12 hours.
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    Anticipate a long power outage. By preparing you can make a power outage bearable.
    • Keep the fridge closed. This will help it stay cool in spite of the lack of power, and keep your food from spoiling as quickly. Only open it when it's absolutely necessary, grab what you need, and close it up.
    • Place frozen items outside. Make use of Mother Nature's freezer, and put them in a snowbank outside. If temperatures are below freezing, you could also keep refrigerated items in an enclosed porch.
    • Plan some entertainment. It can help you stave off boredom while you wait for the power to return.
    • Play cards. Use a classic deck for games like Blackjack, Poker, War, Go Fish, Crazy Eights or Egyptian Ratscrew.
    • Read a book (to yourself, or aloud for others). Try to pick an engrossing epic that will keep you engaged and entertained for hours, such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Harry Potter novels, or whatever interesting book you happen to be reading.
    • Get artsy. Draw on pads of paper, or do handcrafts like crocheting or knitting.

Part 2
Long-Term Preparation

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    Winterize your home. Protecting your house and outbuildings from the cold can save you a lot of money and hassle down the line. Insulate walls and attics, caulk and weather-strip doors and windows, and installing storm windows or cover windows with plastic.
    • Clear rain gutters and repair roof leaks in order to avoid clogging and flooding.
    • Cut away tree branches that could fall on a house or other structure during a storm.
    • If necessary hire a contractor to check the structural strength of the roof. Make sure your roof can sustain the unusually heavy weight of snow - or water.
    • Insulate pipes with insulation and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing.
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    Invest in a carbon monoxide detector. If you ever need to run a gas stove inside your home for heat or cooking, you'll definitely want a carbon monoxide detector on-hand. Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, but deadly.
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    Keep your supplies current. Check the batteries in your flashlights every so often, and make sure you have enough potable water and non-perishable food to last your family at least 48 hours. Once every year or two, replace your current stock of canned goods with a fresh batch.


  • Never use charcoal, or a propane heater in an enclosed area without proper ventilation. Carbon monoxide can build up. Silent and odorless, it is deadly. Cook on the back porch or near an open window.

Things You'll Need

  • Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment.
  • Canned food
  • Can opener
  • Battery powered radio
  • Flashlights
  • Batteries
  • A self powered radio and a self powered flashlight. Batteries will run down eventually, especially if you live in a remote area that is iced in. Some models will also charge your cell phone.
  • Coleman stove or grill
  • Enough fuel to run the stove
  • Blankets
  • Lots of clothing
  • Water
  • First aid kit
  • Foot and hand warmer packs
  • Matches
  • Extra hats, socks and mittens
  • Any necessary medications
  • Non-electric entertainment: books, cards, board games, etc.
  • Portable fire extinguisher
  • Pet supplies: food, litter and water for your pet to drink. An emergency shelter lined up (who will take pets) in case you need to evacuate.

Article Info

Categories: Storms | Winter Outdoor Safety