There’s nothing quite like the announcement of an approaching winter storm to send area residents scrambling to the store for bread, milk, “TP” and other common necessities. While many welcome snowfall, winter storms can be challenging, inconveniencing, and downright daunting if you or your home are not prepared. Last year the greater Washington DC area was pummeled by what was considered the worst storm to hit the area in 90 years. Hopefully this winter there won’t be another “Snowmageddon,” but just in case, below are some tips to help keep your family and home safe.
Have an Alternate Heat Source
Having an alternate, non-electric heat source is especially vital when the temperature drops and the power goes out. These can include a fireplace or wood stove, a kerosene heater, or a backup generator. If using a fireplace, be sure it has been properly maintained and you have plenty of dry wood available. If you have a tank where you store fuel for the system, such as propane or oil, ensure you have a sufficient supply on hand before the storm arrives. If a severe winter storm does occur, your regular fuel carrier may not be able to reach your home for a few days because of demand or roadway conditions. Also, consider buying a camping stove to prepare meals and heat water in case of a power outage, but be sure to only use it in a well-ventilated area.
Keep up-to-date on weather forecasts and plan accordingly. If there is the chance of a storm, it’s better to stock up ahead of time, rather than waiting until the last minute when the stores are full and the shelves are empty. Remember extra formula and diapers if you have small children, and don’t forget about pet food for your four-legged friends. Pickup any prescription medication in advance to ensure you won’t be running low. Keep a supply of rock salt on hand, as well as a sturdy shovel. Arrange in advance for a snowplowing service, since it can be difficult to book one the day after a big storm. In case you do lose power, be sure laptops and cell phones are fully charged ahead of time.
Keep Emergency Supplies on Hand
Keep supplies on hand in an easily accessible place, in the event that you are snowed-in and a lengthy power outage does occur. Essential items include flashlights, batteries, candles, matches, a first aid kit, a portable battery-operated radio, plenty of warm blankets, an old-fashioned corded phone, and bottled water. It is recommended to have enough bottled water (one gallon per day per person in your household) to last a minimum of three days. Stock up on non-perishable food items, particularly high-energy food such as dried fruit and nuts. Have a supply of canned goods, especially ones which don’t require heating – and don’t forget the non-electric can opener!
Caring for Your Home
In addition to following a winterizing checklist prior to the start of the season, there are number of things you can do to help protect your home if inclement weather does occur. For example, if a power outage causes you to lose heat, let your faucets drip slightly to help protect the pipes from freezing. Familiarize yourself with where your home’s main water shut-off valve is located in the event that a pipe does burst or you need it as a preventative measure. Keep your eye out for signs that your pipes may be freezing, such as reduced water pressure, and turn the water off immediately. If you do lose heat, you can put towels under doorways to help isolate the heat in one room, and cover the windows with blankets at night to prevent further heat loss. If you have an automatic ice maker, particularly one with an in-door dispenser, you may want to empty the ice compartment if you lose power. This will not only stop the melted water from dripping out onto the floor, but also prevent it from refreezing inside the dispenser once the power comes back on, which may cause it to break. Lastly, if you do end up stuck inside for a few days, try to make the most out of it. Play games, do arts and crafts projects, and enjoy the quality bonding time you can share with your family.