Cold Weather Disaster Prep (Guest Post)

Ideas to keep you and your family safe this year

By Patricia Shuler

Major storms come every year, and particularly during this season, severe storms cause all kinds of havoc. Keeping your family safe is your number one priority, so it’s important to be informed not only on what severe weather is common to your area and where you might be traveling, but what you can do about it as well. Take a couple of minutes and read this list to ensure you’re ready for whatever might happen this winter season.

1. Know Terminology

You also need to be aware of what specific weather warnings are likely to occur in your area. For example, make sure you know the difference between a Winter Storm Watch and a Winter Storm Warning, and how to prepare appropriately for Wind Chill versus Freezing Rain or Sleet. Once you know what each means, make a plan for each contingency, and be sure your family knows what to do in each case.

2. Winterize Your Home

This is a step that should have been completed during the middle and latter end of the fall months, but it’s not too late to start now. Winterizing allows you to keep your home heated more effectively during severe weather, particularly if there is a power loss and you can only keep the heat you’ve got. Also make sure you’ve insulated your pipes should the weather drop well below freezing, and that you’ve also done a good job at insulating your walls, basement, and attic. You should have your HVAC system inspected by a professional annually, to ensure it’s working at its most efficient, and so to prevent failures that can be expensive and inconvenient at best, and dangerous at worst.

3. Power Outages

Power outages are some of the most common effects of weather disasters around the country, so make sure you’re ready. Keep flashlights and spare batteries where you can find them in the dark. Also, keep a stash of candles, matches, lamps, etc. somewhere easily accessible. The power might be out for days, so invest in portable power solutions to keep phones and other necessary electronics charged.

You might not think of your laptop or smartphone as a survival tool, but they can be invaluable sources of information when the power goes out. Older computers will not run for long, and can actually be damaged by the low output of hand-crank generators; but high-quality ultrabooks or tablet can charge on 20 watts or less, meaning you use less fuel (or elbow grease).

4. Emergency Kits

This is really one of the easiest things you can get ready in case of a weather emergency. FEMA has put together a great list on what to put into your kits. This should include enough water for every member of your family for at least 3 days, blankets, a firstaid kit, canned food and can opener, and other tools. You should also include medicines your family might need, particularly prescriptions you might not be able to fill if a disaster occurs. Most of these things you already have or have access to, so start compiling your emergency kit immediately.

5. Travel Safely

This is the time of year when people are on the road the most, traveling to see family and friends for the holidays, and it comes during the most hazardous weather season. Make sure before you leave you have a good plan in case of severe weather or accidents. If it looks like the weather will be adverse, you really should just not travel. If the weather forecast is good, you should still prepare in case of an emergency. Keep a car emergency kit with you at all times. This includes water and blankets, but also tools, maps, jumper cables and road flares for road-specific hazards. If you’re planning on counting on your GPS, don’t, as bad weather often causes signal loss, so make sure you have appropriate maps for where you’ll be traveling. Get a car charger for your phone as well so you’ll have the ability to keep it charged should you become stranded for an extended period of time. 

Patricia Shuler is a staff writer from Oakland, California. She’s an admitted tech-junkie who’s quick to share her honest opinion on all things consumer electronic—including up-to-date news, user reviews, and “no holds barred” opinions on a variety of social media, tech, computer, and mobile accessories topics.