As summer fades and a familiar chill seeps into the morning air, thoughts naturally turn to the wonders of fall. In those quiet hours, we dream of spectacular foliage, intricately carved pumpkins, and watching our favorite college team dominate the grid iron.
And yet, for many of us, something ominous lurks just beyond the edges of these reveries: Thoughts of the coming winter.
In many parts of the nation, winter can be cruel indeed. Biting temperatures, blankets of snow, and world encased in ice can quickly become the norm. Oh, and rest assured, winter storms followed by power outages are a virtual certainty. If you live in one of these regions, now is the time to ask, “Am I ready?”
If the answer is “No,” then consider these tips:
Keep the Main Things the Main Things
Even in the most extreme weather, our basic needs remain the same. We must have safe food, fresh water, and adequate shelter. Winter doesn’t change that. Assuming that a storm is not powerful enough to damage the structure of your home, even an extended power outage is not going to greatly affect your ability to meet your need for shelter.
It can, however, make eating and drinking rather difficult.
When the lights go out, so does refrigeration and access to many common heat sources for cooking. While the weather might be keeping everything outside cold, you don’t want to take a chance with food safety. If the food in your refrigerator or freezer reaches a temperature of 40° for more, consider it a lost cause. As for water, just be aware that frozen pipes or an inoperable pump can mean that you’re suddenly cut-off from a critical resource.
Your best recourse is to store enough nonperishable foods and drinking water to get every member of your household through several days without electricity.
Of course, you could also consider investing in a solar generator system to provide your family with safe, abundant, and free electricity to get you through until the grid is repaired. These systems won’t let you run every device in your house all at once, but they can certainly help you keep critical equipment working and some LEDs burning on through the night.
Make Provisions for Staying Warm
A winter power outage also means a temporary loss of your home heating system. Obviously, that’s the case if you have electric heat, but a gas heater won’t do you much good either. After all, it’s electricity that controls the unit and powers the fan that forces warm air through your system. Bottom line: When the grid goes down, so does your home’s temperature.
So start making your provisions to stay warm now. At a basic level, that means having plenty of warm clothes and blankets at hand. Chemical hand-warmers are also a great item to have handy. If you are lucky enough to have a working fireplace, be sure that you have wood available to burn. Unfortunately, kerosene space heaters can be both a fire hazard and a deadly producer of carbon monoxide in enclosed spaces, so if you have any thoughts of relying on one of these units during a power outage, give them up now unless your heater is specifically designed for use indoors.
Be Ready to Start Shoveling
Sometimes, the best way to handle a power outage is simply to get away from the situation—preferably by paying a surprise visit to an out-of-town relative with a spare room, stunning culinary skills, and an expensive satellite TV subscription.
Unfortunately, accomplishing that can be difficult if you can hardly get out of the house, let alone the driveway.
Be prepared to dig yourself out. You could take the old-school snow shovel approach, but having a well-maintained snow blower in the garage is a much better choice. No matter what equipment you use, take things slow and easy; overworking yourself during snow removal is a great way to bring on injuries or a heart attack.
Remember, in many parts of the country, prepping for a winter power outage is just commonsense. These outages demand many of the same precautions as any disaster, but the added elements of deep snow and deeper cold can often require special care. Treat winter storms with respect, prepare as you can, and then relax and enjoy the season. You probably won’t face Snowmaggedon any time soon, but if you do, you’ll be ready.