Sunday, November 14, 2010

Winter Preparedness

It's just now starting to get cold here.  We haven't yet turned on our heat, but I know it won't be too long until we do.  I know that last year we turned it on sometime after Veteran's Day.  This year, we're going to hold out as long as possible.  Winter gets me in a preparedness mood, so as the cold sets in, my thoughts turn to prepping.

Where I live, the biggest emergencies that happen are winter storms.  We get ice storms and snow storms that can leave people stranded for days or weeks.  To make it even better, people here don't know how to drive in snow, and so they tend to get stranded pretty often.  To that point, a couple thoughts on winter needs.

In the Home - Everyday
Blankets are indispensable commodities at home during the cold season.  I don't believe I've ever been able to let myself get rid of a blanket.  Even right now, we're using spare blankets to keep the cats out from under our bed.  We keep a blanket permanently on the couch to prevent the desire to turn up the heat.  It's kind of like drinking a glass of water when getting hunger pangs.  If you put on the blanket and you're still cold 20 minutes later, then you can do something more about it.  The next step is preferably adding more clothing, but heat can be adjusted as well.

We tend to close off unused rooms in the winter.  Our basement door is closed, but we don't seal it off because our turtles, food, and laundry is down there.  Our office, though, does not get much use.  Starting in December, we close it off and put a draft dodger in front of the door.  Draft dodgers come in all shapes and sizes.  We tend to use an old towel, but I intend on making my own dodger by stitching a drawstring back with scraps and rags in it.  Both work equally well.  Since we have electric, baseboard heat, we close off rooms with heaters so that we're not heating a hallway.  This keeps the power usage to a minimum.  We even put foam covers inside of our electrical sockets to make sure that air could not enter that way.

Exterior pipes should be turned off and drained before the cold sets in.  On days when the temperature is above 40 degrees F, windows can be caulked and weatherstripping can be applied.  If snow is likely in your area, make sure that you have a working snow shovel, ice scrapers, and some salt in your house.  When we got snow last year, our shovel was in our shed at the back of our yard.  Fat lot of good that did out there.  Shovels and snow blowers went for a premium and sold out almost immediately when we got hit by the blizzard last year.

In the Home - Emergencies
If the power goes out for long periods of time, as tends to happen around here, there are things that can be done to keep heat in.  Blankets can be used to keep heat in one room by hanging them across doorways.  One can either set up a tent for the family to sleep in, or bring mattresses into one room to help consolidate warmth.  Be wary of creating your own heat sources in your house.  Houses burn down and people get poisoned from improperly used heat sources.  For those with gas stoves in their kitchens, the stove could be used to heat up a small area while preparing meals.

Every time there's a snow warning out here, Safeway floods with people and runs out of stock of major items.  Most mainstream stores use a just-in-time inventory strategy so that they only order as much as they think they'll sell before another truck comes in .  This is good for product rotation, bad for emergencies.  To combat this problem, we keep major necessities stocked.  Your necessities depend on your family, but toilet paper, road salt, and water are always big ones.  We make sure to always have cat food and litter, crackers, soup, cereals, and long term storage (grains).  Other pantry items vary, but those are staples for us.

In the Car - Every Day
Every day, summer or winter, I have a car kit.  My kit is in two crates - one for automotive needs, and one for human needs.  In my automotive needs crate, I have shop towels, antifreeze, windshield washer fluid, oil, car fluids, a turkey baster, a siphon, jumper cables, a jack, a lug wrench, and a 1 gallon gas tank (empty).  In my human needs crate, I have a change of clothes top to bottom, gloves, a hat, water bottles, granola bars, pen and paper, a pocket knife, an emergency blanket or two, a few flashlights, a large bath towel and a first aid kit. 

I'm actively trying to keep my gas tank at half full or above now.  Not only is it is smart so that you don't run out of gas, it keeps the engine running better.  Letting the gas get down to empty allows debris to collect and get stuck in the tank.

In the Car - Emergencies
I stocked my car kit so that it could be used in case of stranding or as a supplement to my work kit.  By keeping the kits stocked, I have supplies at the ready.  My car is a hatchback, so I don't have to worry about getting out of the car for supplies, I can just lift the lid.  I keep a flashlight and a window breaker/seat belt cutter in the well next to my seat.  They were Christmas presents one year, and I'm very grateful for them.  In keeping them next to my seat, I can use them if I somehow get stuck in the car.  I make sure that my supplies keep me warm, full, healthy, and in communication with the outside world.

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