Winter storm Nemo reminded us that we all need to be prepared for extreme weather at all times of the year. Following are some tips that you can use in preparing for a winter storm. Many of the items on the supply list are helpful to have year- round and can be used for other emergencies as well. Keep in mind that having a portable gas-powered generator can make it much easier to provide heat, light and cooking sources in the event of a power outage (watch this video for safety tips when using generators).
Shelter: Stay inside! If temperatures are extremely low and you do not have a way to stay warm (generator,fireplace), it might be a good idea to stay with friends or family, especially if you have younger children or an elderly person in the home. If you do stay home and are concerned about a power outage, prepare as follows: insulate your home from the cold by sealing cracks around windows and doors; do this with window seal tape, blankets and towels. Limit the area to be heated. Select the warmest room in the house. If you have a working wood stove or wood-burning fireplace, this would be the room to use in case the power goes out. Keep doors closed. Hang blankets or heavy drapes over entryways to keep heat in designated areas. Gather pillows, blankets and sleeping bags for extra warmth during the night. If you have space, tents can be used to further add warmth while sleeping. If you have younger kids, you can ease their anxiety by telling them it will be like camping out.
Clothing: Dress in multiple layers of loose, light-weight clothing. Have everyone pack a bag of warm clothing that they can access quickly and easily if the power goes out. Don't forget to include hats and gloves for added warmth. Do laundry and take showers just in case there is a prolonged power outage.
Food: Stock up on non-perishable foods. Canned items including soups, chili, stew, vegetables and meat are good things to have on hand; anything pre-cooked is safe to eat without heating. Other items that store well are crackers, cookies, cereal, granola bars, chips, peanut butter, condensed milk and juice boxes. You can also have some fresh items such as fruit and bread. Instant coffee, cocoa and tea are also good items to have available, provided you have a way to heat water. If you are able to go outside, you can use a grill or camp stove to heat food items. Food can also be warmed and cooked using your wood stove or wood-burning fireplace (see link). Foods in your fridge are safe to eat for a few hours after the electricity goes out. Do not eat food that is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit; have a kitchen thermometer available to check perishable food items if your fridge has no power. Make sure you have plenty of water on hand. Have coolers available to keep food cold. You may also be able to put perishable food outdoors if the temperature is cold enough. Of course, only do this if it is safe to go outside. If you have pets, gather their food as well. Don't forget baby food and formula; it is a good idea to have pre-mixed canned formula in stock for emergency situations so that you do not have to worry about boiling water.
Supplies: A battery-powered radio, battery-powered lanterns, flashlights and extra batteries are good items to have on hand in a power outage. Do not use candles unless this is all you have, as they are a potential fire hazard. When using candles, place away from items that can catch fire. If you have pets or small children, place candles well out of reach. Have a first aid kit that is stocked and available for emergencies. Also gather any prescription or over-the-counter medications that may be needed. If you have a baby or toddler, have plenty of diapers, wipes, clean bottles, etc. Also put together a variety of toys and games that children and teens can use to entertain themselves if the power goes out. Books, cards, board games, coloring books, paper, crayons, etc. Fully charge all cell phones, laptops, iPods, portable DVD players, etc for use. It is helpful to keep a car charger handy as well, although you may or may not have access to your vehicle during or after the storm.
Vehicle: Make sure you have cash on hand in case of an evacuation. Fill your vehicle with gas and make sure it includes the following: a first aid kit, blankets, rope, tire chains, flashlights, canned compressed air with sealant for tire repair, warm clothing, gloves, hats, snacks, battery powered or hand crank radio, emergency whistle, distress flag for emergencies, road salt, sand, booster cables, emergency flares, shovel, windshield scraper.