Re-posted from Dec 2013, as the latest "polar vortex" looms:
The first step in preparing for extremely cold weather consists of deciding whether you can make it to Florida before the storm hits.
In the alternative, the first step should consist of making plans well in advance of any storm.
Let's say you are in one of those states in which extreme winter weather is common or where ice storms and/or a few inches of snow are show stoppers. You may be housebound for several days. Electricity may go off. Your house will get cold and you may have to acknowledge that those little annoying creatures you have seen intermittently around are, in fact, your children.
A simple plan:
(1) Have enough water (see here
). 3 gallons per person per day. Maybe a shelf with a cases of bottled water is a good idea.
(2) Have non-perishable food. Peanut butter and honey. Canned soups (get the kind that don't need to have water added!). . . tins of sardines, tuna fish, canned chicken, chili, mac and cheese . Plan on 5 days of living on your supplies including feeding those kids. Better make sure the kids will eat whatever you set aside. As a treat you can drink warm Jello
. Buy a hand-powered can opener.
(3) Have some sort of alternate means of heating food and boiling water for coffee, tea or warm Jello. A camp stove is a good idea (use in well-ventilated areas). If you can get out to the charcoal grill or have a gas grill and can cook outside, well, there you go. Never ever use charcoal inside the house. If you use a camp stove, have some spare propane cylinders. Budget the use of the stove, because you may need it for a few days.
(4) Have flashlights, candle lantern (see here
) and other light sources ready and have extra batteries and candles. Get an emergency radio
- one with a "crank" to charge it and perhaps with a cell phone battery charger feature.
(5) Have plans to set up a "warm room" in which you and yours can huddle together while closing off the rest of your home. If you have an adequate supply of firewood (5 days?) then that might be the room with the fireplace in it. If you don't have enough firewood set aside, remember that when the fire goes out, lots of warm air goes up the chimney. Gather plenty of blankets, sleeping bags, comforters and the like. If you have space, it is not a bad idea to set up a camping tent as an internal shelter where you and yours (include the dogs and cats- they generate heat) can huddle together. Share sleeping bags or covers. Cuddle for warmth. As noted here
If the power goes and you don’t have an alternative source of heat, then it’s time to go camping. Set up a tent in your living room and pile your family and pets inside under sleeping bags and blankets. The tent will keep your body heat trapped inside, and you’ll stay much warmer than you would in a large room. If you don’t have a tent, then you can easily make one out of blankets and furniture.
(6) Have lots of thick plastic sheeting, duct tape and nails. Just in case you lose a window or door or part of your roof, you can create an emergency patch.
(7) Have a supply of hand warmer packets
. I like these especially if, for some reason, your kids are at home without your expert guidance because you can't get home. These things can generate some serious heat to help them hunker down until help arrives.
(8) Have practiced what to do well in advance of a storm so that even the kids understand how to protect themselves from freezing to death. The basics of setting up an inside the home camp ought to be easy enough- kids understand making tents using blankets and with an LED lantern and experience using hand warmer packets they ought to do fine. Make sure every knows how to change batteries in the lights and have a couple of spares about. Most kids old enough to be home alone can make up a warm bed and be taught that having drinking water and some food is vital (peanut butter is your friend). They do not need to light fires or use camp stoves unless they are old enough to do so safely. Having a Boy Scout in the house is a good thing. Also, it will help if the kids know that "old Mrs. Smith" is next door if they need an adult - in fact, Mrs. Smith may welcome the company. Probably a good idea to set up that relationship before the need arises, though.
(9) For goodness sake, ahead of time buy or create a cheap emergency toilet kit
. Make sure you have toilet bags, wipes, etc. The alternatives are . . . poor.
(10) Take care of your pets. Food, water and the like. Dogs and cats are easier to deal with than fish and turtles given their habitats.
(11) Have fire extinguishers available. Nothing good happens when burning down the house in winter.
(12) Be smart.
NOAA and Red Cross Winter Storm Preparedness Guide: