With the East Coast inundated with rain, sleet, and snow—and the West Coast not faring much better—now would be a good time to make sure your cold weather emergency kit is topped off with fresh supplies. Wait—you don't have a cold weather go-bag? Here's what you'll need to make it through the winter without shivering in the dark every time a storm knocks out the power.
Walk the (Front) Walk Without Breaking Your Neck
Getting from your driveway to your front door can be a treacherous trek in the dead of winter. Rather than slip and slide your way up frozen steps or trudge through hip-high snow banks, keep a portable snow shovel as well as a bag of deicing compound (aka road salt) in your car trunk. Granted, nobody want to shovel their way up the front walk after a hard day at the office—but it sure beats spending the holidays in a hard cast.
Once you make it to the front door, don't waste your time fiddling with frozen locks. Pick up a Kevo Smart Deadbolt and get into your house without having to take your keys out of your pocket. And don't go tracking water and slush through your foyer. Lay down a solid, waterproof floor mat at the first sign of inclement weather and save your floors.
Know How Your House Works Before Disaster Strikes
Your house might be sturdy enough to withstand the bellowing of big bad wolves, but when winter's fury sends a tree branch crashing through your living room window or causes your pipes to explode, knowing where and how your home's infrastructure works is paramount. So before the next storm hits, take a moment to learn about how your utilities work.
At the very least, know how and where to turn off your water, power, and gas supplies. Additionally, keep the tools necessary to manipulate each utility nearby and keep the path to each utility clear—so you don't spend precious time digging for a wrench when you really need it. And don't keep this information to yourself; be sure every member of the family is comfortable with the shutoff process as well.
You'll do well to also maintain a basic emergency repair kit, including plywood boarding and plastic sheets to cover broken windows, nails and a hammer to secure them, slip-jaw pliers and a pair of manual screwdrivers to access and manipulate the plumbing and power supplies, as well as flashlights with spare batteries (or better yet, a hand-cranked universal power supply) to see what you're doing down there. Remember, it doesn't need to be an expansive kit; you're making emergency repairs, not remodeling the master bath.
It's Getting Cold in Here, So Put on All Your Clothes
When you aren't running around making emergency repairs, your first priority is keeping warm. And depending on how cold it is outside, you have a couple of options. If it's only California cold—30 degrees and warmer—don a few extra layers of clothing and swaddle yourself in a thick blanket. Be sure to keep an adequate supply of extra clothes and blankets for every member of the family in your emergency kit—and rotate that clothing out annually if your kids are going through a growth spurt. Hit up your local military surplus store for blankets—they're designed for to work in the field and therefore should be more than adequate for home use.
For extreme cold—when the mercury dips to freezing or below—clothing and blankets may not be sufficient. That's where the kerosene space heaters come in. You'll have to decide for yourself how many BTU's are necessary, but The Wirecutter has assembled a helpful list of the most effective models to get you started.
But man cannot survive on warmth alone. Your cold weather emergency kit absolutely must include at least 72 hours worth of non- (or at least semi-)perishable food and water for every member of the family. And since power may be spotty during a storm, your stores should be edible without cooking: canned meats, vegetables, soups, and stews (don't forget that can opener) should do fine. Cereals and energy bars are a solid choice for your carbohydrate needs, and everybody in the house should get at least a gallon of drinking water per day. Just be sure to rotate the food stock regularly so you aren't stuck eating questionably fresh mystery meats during the next outage. The same goes for any pets you might have—they'll need at least three days worth of food and water too.
And, this should go without saying, your emergency bag isn't complete without a First Aid kit. If you take prescription medications, make sure that it includes at least a four day supply.
Keep in Touch
If the storm is bad enough to knock out the power, cell phone service will likely be spotty at best. When voice calls and mobile data fail to connect, try sending a text—they'll often transmit even if other methods don't. Your smart phone, even if it can't make calls, is a vital resource in an emergency, so it's essential you keep it charged and at the ready at all times. But don't rely on the grid—pick up a hand-cranked mobile generator instead. You'll spend a good amount of time winding it, but the physical exertion will keep you good and warm. It's a win-win.
What else do you keep on hand when winter storms strike? Let us know in the discussion below. [Organized Home - Lifehacker - Images: Jo Ann Snover, Kotenko Oleksandr, Alexey Stiop Top Image Gif-ified by Ben Zvan]