Maintaining Your Winter Storm Kit

Bokeh Snow tree branches in Massachusetts blizzardArtists often depict winter as a cranky old man – and for good reason. Winter weather can be harsh and unforgiving, and it isn’t unusual for severe winter storms to wipe out electricity and isolate families in their homes. During such emergencies, preparation is key. Read on to learn how to maintain your winter emergency kit and keep your family happy and safe while Old Man Winter rages outside.

Review Basic Emergency Preparedness Kit

At a minimum, your winter preparedness kit should include extra food, blankets, warm clothing and water for each member of your household. Experts generally recommend that you keep three to five days’ worth of supplies on hand for winter emergencies. Your emergency food should be non-perishable, since your refrigerator won’t be operational if the power is out. If you already have these items assembled, check that the expiration dates haven’t passed, that stockpiled water is still fresh and that winter clothing and blankets are clean and pest-free.

Include an LED Lantern and Flashlights

A reliable source of light is crucial in emergency situations, so make sure you have at least one LED lantern or flashlight in your winter preparedness kit. For one thing, you might need that LED flashlight when cooking food and completing home maintenance tasks, such as turning off the water main. (This is the best way to prevent frozen, burst pipes.) Additionally, there is a psychological benefit to having functional flashlights and lanterns around in an emergency. Light brings a sense of security. From toddlers to seniors, all humans feel safer when they have a reliable light source.

As you assess the items in your emergency kit, consider upgrading to LED lanterns and flashlights. For several reasons, it’s better to have an LED lantern or flashlight in your kit rather than a torch with an incandescent bulb. First, LED bulbs require very little energy, so they will last longer on a single set of batteries. Second, LED lights are extremely long lasting – many an LED flashlight can run for thousands of hours without requiring bulb replacement. Both of these qualities are ideal in emergency situations, when you may not be able to get to the store to buy more batteries and bulbs.

Test Battery Powered Devices

An LED lantern can turn a scary storm into a fun indoor camping trip – if the batteries are working, that is. As part of your winter emergency kit maintenance, check the batteries on any devices you will need during a severe winter storm, including flashlights, lanterns and radios. Include extra batteries in your emergency kit, just in case some batteries are duds. Finally, it’s smart to select devices that can be recharged with a hand-crank so you’ll never be left in the lurch because your batteries pooped out.

Arrange Alternative Heat Sources

It’s easy for overburdened furnaces to fail during extreme storms. In especially hazardous winter weather, you may be isolated in your home with no way to arrange for furnace repair. Therefore, you should maintain a stash of alternative fuel. For instance, if your home has a fireplace, ensure that the chimney is clean, the flue is operational, and you have enough firewood to heat the house for at least five days. Additionally, ensure that you have fire extinguishers on hand and that every member of your house knows how to use them. Finally, check that alternative sources of fuel are good to go – for instance, firewood should be dry, cured and seasoned.

Cooking without Electricity

Never cook with a charcoal or gas grill inside your home. Doing so puts you at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. If you will require a source of heat for cooking your emergency food, plan to use a portable propane or gas stove outdoors. If this is your plan, be sure your cooking setup is in good working order before winter storms hit. Finally, because it can be tricky to operate such stoves during dark winter nights, it’s smart to have an LED flashlight nearby to help you see what you’re doing.

Don’t Forget the Pets!

Remember the furry members of your family as you prepare for winter storms. Stock up on extra food, treats, water and comfortable places to curl up while winter’s fury rages outside. Again, be sure that pet food hasn’t expired.

Gather Tools for Dealing with Snow and Ice

Don’t wait until snowflakes fall to assemble your snow and ice removal kit. At such times, prices are sky high, supplies are hard to come by, and you may not even be able to leave your home to fetch the things you need. To be ready for whatever winter throws your way, stockpile kitty litter or sand to increase traction, rock salt to melt ice on walkways, and snow shovels to remove snow.

Following the tips listed above will ensure that you and your loved ones will emerge none the worse for wear from the next severe storm.

[ photo by: Pink Sherbet Photography ]

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