Monday, November 7, 2011

Emergency Kit for Winter Power Outage

With the early winter peeking its head here in the northeast, we're already getting some supplies stocked up as well as replenishing our emergency kit. With the possibility of extreme weather conditions, you just never know when a power outage will happen.

I still remember the record breaking snow accumulations from last year. The roads were completely impassable - hell, you can barely walk a few houses down. People were running out of places to dump the shoveled snow. Pipes were freezing and when the snow did start to melt the basement would flood. Fun times.

As for the emergency plan, of course, this'll vary depending on your situation as well as location. Either way here are some useful things to keep handy for the winter season with a power outage specifically in mind
  • A battery or hand cranked powered radio (to keep track of weather reports, emergency information,) flashlights, and plenty of batteries.
  • Plenty of extra blankets and towels (you can use the towels to seal up any drafts from windows and doors to keep heat in)
  • Paper plates, plastic utensils - you won't have to use up stored water for cleanup
  • Fill spare containers with water for washing, and plenty of bottled water – one gallon per person per day (Most emergency preparedness experts recommend having at least a three-day supply on hand.)
  • non-perishable food items, along with a manual hand opener for canned food.
  • first aid kit - always keep in mind any special medical & dietary needs of those in your household. 
  • If you have a fireplace, be sure to have enough wood stocked up someplace safe from the elements
  • a firestarter - you'd be surprised how easily you can forget the little things such as matches and lighters.
  • a pack of cards / boardgame for entertainment (esp. if you have kids)
  • Shovels and plenty of sidewalk salt (ice melter)
  • Don't forget about supplies for your pets as well.
You can pretty much place most of these in a centralized location and the smaller items can be kept in a footlocker or a plastic bin where it's easily accessible.

During outage:
Dress for the season, wearing several layers of loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing, rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent
Avoid drinking coffee and/or alcohol - will promote dehydration & chills

Wear a hat since most body heat is lost through the top of the head
You can always use the snow as an extra temporary water source or to keep items from your fridge cold (place in ice chest/cooler)

Before an outage:
It's always good to anticipate potential problems so in addition to stocking up you might also want to
prepare one or two rooms to be your hub. By that I mean setting it up in a way that it's the most insulated spot in the house prior to any major snow storms. You can do this by hanging up thick drapes in front of the windows. You can even add additional weather stripping. Keep the area/s clutter free - easier to move furniture around and set up sleeping arrangements.
Know where your primary and secondary water valves are in case you have to shut it off. It's always a good idea to shut off the pipes that are leading out to external fixtures (back yard or side of the house). 

If your water supply could be affected (a well-water pump system), fill your bathtub and spare containers with water. Water in the bathtub should be used for sanitation purposes only, not as drinking water. Pouring a pail of water from the tub directly into the bowl can flush a toilet.
Set your refrigerator and freezer to their coldest settings (remember to reset them back to normal once power is restored). During an outage, do not open the refrigerator or freezer door. Food can stay cold in a full refrigerator for up to 24 hours, and in a well-packed freezer for 48 hours (24 hours if it is half-packed).
If you have medication that requires refrigeration (such as insulin), check with your pharmacist for guidance on proper storage during an extended outage.
Review the process for manually operating an electric garage door. (Not that you'll be able to pull the car out but it's still good to know how to do this.)

To prevent water pipes from freezing, keep faucets turned on slightly so that water drips from the tap
Our experience with a winter power outage: Rural setting
Middle of a harsh winter in the hill country of Texas - it's not so much the accumulation of snow that was hazardous, it was the fact that everything outside had iced over.  Thankfully we had a wood-burning fireplace then and we stocked up on a lot of wood. 

You can never have enough firewood and kindling. 
The pipes didn't freeze but we were pretty much homebound for several days.
We ended up filling up some bins with water in case the pipes freeze. 
We had plenty of food so that wasn't an issue. 
The main issue was keeping warm. The house wasn't well insulated so keeping the heat in and the cold out was the challenge. We turned the family room as the main hub since the fireplace was there.
It took maybe 3-4 days until power was back on. 

So this year, since we're now in a metropolitan urban setting with no fireplace, our current emergency kit / plan reflects that. 

Hope that helps and be safe.

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