Today, the winds are howling and the snow is flying around. We are cozy at home, safe and sound. I was inspired to write this post by Red, Round or Green’s post about this storm. She makes a great point – why are people clear the shelves at the mention of snow? I still laugh at the “Gotta Get the Bread and Milk” video (16 million views!).
If you’re prepared and use common sense for these types of storms, you’ll be just fine.
Humor aside, I thought it was a good chance to talk about how you should actually prepare your home and family in the event of an emergency.
No matter where you live, there will is the potential for big storms or disaster. There are natural disasters in every part of the world and it’s important to plan for their potential, especially as you head into the associated season. If you’re traveling to another region or country, it would be good to check out the potential emergency situations in your destination.
This isn’t a post about panic nor does it encourage you to live in fear. Preparation and common sense are your best assets in emergencies.
Throughout my childhood, I have vivid memories of camping out in front of the fireplace since the power was out and we had no heat. Mom and Dad would dutifully fill up the 5-gallon buckets of water to use for flushing the toilet. We ate PB&J sandwiches or soup. It seemed a lot of fun for us, probably less so for our parents.
While the power does not go out nearly as often as it did 20 years ago, there have still been huge events.
Between 2011-2012, my corner of the earth experienced major storm events Irene, “Snowtober”, and Sandy. For the first two, we were out of power about 10 days. Since we are far from an urban area or emergency facility like a hospital, we were some of the last ones to get power back. One power company (not ours unfortunately!) gave out dry ice to their customers in hopes of keeping the food in their fridge/freezers from going bad. We showered at the local school. (Volunteering for shelter shifts is actually a great way to meet some “neighbors” as you huddle around cups of treasured coffee.)
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You need to plan for different types of disasters, whether it’s hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and floods. Luckily, mobile alerts and meteorological advances allow use to know about a lot of these events in advance, some may happen without warning or rapidly worsen.
In these events, you must prepare for two possibilities: hunker down or evacuate. Evacuation may be an unlikely circumstance for events like a blizzard or a tornado but please listen to authorities if they even suggest evacuation, especially if someone in your family requires special supervision. should be considered if the authorities are suggesting it.
For most snow storms for us, it’s about having hot cocoa, snow ice cream (snow, vanilla, milk, and sugar), and wearing our pajamas most of the day. We go out and play too if the wind isn’t too bad. There isn’t any reason to panic if you have a source of heat, food, and a good roof.
Things to Buy
You should have these around most of the time. You shouldn’t have to rush out to get them.
- Batteries for your flashlights (usually Cs or Ds)
- 5-gallon bucket
- Large reusable water bottle or water filter
- Case(s) of bottled water
- Canned food or emergency dehydrated food
- Emergency phone chargers that don’t need wall outlets
- Candles (even battery operated)
- Non-essentials that may help: playing cards, French Press to make coffee, wine/chocolate, electrolyte water mixes like powdered Gatorade or Nuun, DVD player (but do not waste new batteries or mobile charger if it dies)
Things to do days, preferably weeks before emergency
- Learn how to use additional heat sources
- Maintain HVAC systems and learn where vents are
- Put together home and car emergency kits. (You should always have these, not just in dangerous weather seasons.)
- Identify emergency route and meeting point in case you have to evacuate.
- Regularly inspect roof
- Get flood or wind protection equipment for the house (i.e. pumps, hurricane shutters, etc.)
- Identify news services (radio stations and TV stations) for reliable reporting on situation
- Consider switching from electric to gas stove as they can be used when electricity is out
- Check on regular fuel delivery (if not on city services)
- Put ax in attic (for flood prone areas, to get out on the roof)
- Scan important documents or put in safe deposit box (house deed, social security cards, marriage license, passports, insurance papers)
- Figure our where your local emergency shelter is and if they allow pets. Many don’t. So make a plan to keep them safe too.
Things to Do Just before storm
- Fill bucket with water in bathtub for your toilets
- Check outdoor vents for furnace (if they aren’t on the roof)
- Make sure you have back up fuel (wood for woodstove, propane/oil for generator)
- Fill up reusable water bottle (Do not count on being able to access water from your refrigerator either on the door or from a water pitcher like a Brita)
- Charge your cell phone
- Put gallon-size bags of water in the freezer
- Top up your car’s gas tank
- Keep checking vents to make sure that snow or water are not covering them
- Tune into your selected news service for evacuation and/or emergency announcements
- Check on your exit strategy (Can you get to the main road? Can you get to your roof? Can you get to your car?)
- Refill water bottle as needed
- Keep cell phone charged
- Call your neighbors by phone see if they are OK
After Storm if large-scale disaster
- First check if everyone is in good health
- Let family know you’re OK
- Get copies of important papers from your safe location
- Call home insurance agent if there’s property damage and make claims as necessary
- If major flooding, have well water tested for contamination
- Hire contractor to clean up (ask town for recommendations, do not let scammers take advantage of you
- Have home inspected
Things NOT to do
- If the power is out, do NOT open the refrigerator or freezer. Most fridges these days will keep your food safe for hours after an outage. Check out https://www.foodsafety.gov/blog/power_outages.html for more information.
- Do not burn fuel sources inside unless properly vented. There is a significant risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning if you burn wood, gasoline, kerosene, etc. inside. Hundreds of people die every year from these accidents.
- Don’t PANIC. If you are well prepared and monitor the situation, you will have a much better chance to come through the situation well. Keep your head about you.
- Don’t be too proud to stay in a shelter if it’ll keep your family safe.
- Don’t ride out the storm if you’re told to evacuate.
Do you have any advice to share? What has helped you in the past?