Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Winter Storm Preparations

I am amazed each year as winter comes along that so many do not take the time to prepare. Here in Oklahoma, it is common to have at least one ice storm that brings power outages that can last anywhere from a couple of days to several weeks. Yet, each year there are reports of families who are caught unprepared for this yearly occurrance.

The greatest concerns during winter is shelter, warm, food, water, and sanitation. These concerns are not just limited to winter, but for the purpose of this blog I am restricting it to winter storm preps. There are numerous things that can be done to get your family ready for power outages. Below are some of the things that we have done.

Shelter: This is a simple one. Keep it simple by staying home when weather is turning bad. Pay attention to radio/tv reports and if possible have a weather radio. Watch the sky. If you see that it looks like a storm is coming, avoid going out on the road. If you can't avoid it, then have an emergency supply kit in your vehicle. Include things like blankets, granola bars or other food that doesn't require cooking, bottled water, a change of clothing in case yours gets wet. Ladies, if you are like me and wear a dress/skirt most of the time, consider having a pair of flannel sleep pants or other warm pant that you can put on under your dress/skirt to keep your legs warm. One thing that I find to be essential is a emergency blanket that can be used both as a source of warmth and a way to help you be seen easier if there is a need for search & rescue.

Staying warm: If you have only one heat source, such as electric heaters, have an alternate source available. Kerosene heaters are reasonably priced and put out a lot of heat. If you use them, be sure to include a couple of containers of kerosene in your storage so that you are not caught without fuel for the heater. I know that seems like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many people have the heat source but no fuel for it. I prefer the kerosene heaters as a back-up heat source due to it's efficiency. In our home, we heat with firewood. There is a large woodstove in the livingroom and a wood cookstove in the kitchen. Using these requires that we have a good supply of wood cut and stored in a dry area. On our porch, Joe stacks a large supply of split firewood for the larger stove and has 2 crates where the smaller pieces used in the cookstove are stored. This makes it easy for me to be able to bring in wood as needed, without having to go out in the weather. We always have a supply of kerosene due to using the oil lamps for lighting, but in winter I am storing an extra 5 gallons which will allow us to use the kerosene heater is needed.

Food & Water: Build up your pantry! Whenever you go to the store, buy a few extra items to be put into the pantry. Watch the sales & pay attention to which stores have the best prices. Recently, I went grocery shopping and bought 11 cases (12 cans each) of various vegetables for $5.20 per case. For under $65 I was able to add a 2-3 month supply of vegetables to the pantry. If you garden or have access to a Farmer's Market, home can your harvest. You can do this also through watching the sales at the grocery store. Last year, we found sweet potatoes at the store for 15 cents per pound. Opportunities like that are excellent for home canning! One note about food - have a plastic tote available in winter for food storage. If the power goes out you can take the food from the refrigerator, put it in the tote, and store it in a garage or other area protected from animals if the weather is cold. The outside temperature is likely cold enough to prevent food from spoiling. Consider having a few cases or gallon containers of water stored in your pantry. If water pipes get frozen, the water will be available for drinking or cooking.

Sanitation: If your water pipes freeze, there is also a chance that the water line to the toilet can freeze. It is a good idea to have a back-up in place in case this should happen. It also makes it nice to have in case the toilet needs a repair. Camp toilets are one good option. If you are in a real emergency, double line a bucket with trash bags and you have a make-shift toilet. A small metal trash can with a good fitting lid is excellent for this! The lid prevents keeps odors down and the metal won't absorb any odors like plastic can tend to do.

There are many more ideas for winter preps. I just wanted to get the topic started in hopes that it will spur others into thinking about these things now before the bad winter weather becomes a problem. Being limited on time at the library computer, I can't write as many ideas as I would have liked. I would love to see your ideas for how you prepare.