This post may contain affiliate links for products I recommend. If you click a link and buy something I may receive some compensation. This does not change the price you would pay.
Knowing how to prepare for a winter storm is especially important for people in live in Northern regions. If you’ve ever been through a bad winter storm (like the one in early 2016), you probably know how potentially-deadly they can be. In this article, we’re going to talk all about winter safety. Specifically, we’re going to show you tips, tactics, and strategies for surviving a heavy winter storm. There are a lot of things that you can do in advance (as well as in the moment) to increase your chances of survival. Let’s take a look at what they are.
- 1 Biggest Threats of a Winter Storm
- 2 Staying Warm
- 3 How to Build a Winter Survival Kit
- 4 Communication
- 5 What Type of Food Should You Stock Up On?
- 6 Light
- 7 How to Prepare for a Winter Storm – Bottom Line
Biggest Threats of a Winter Storm
Winter storms, especially the bad ones, are no joke. They’re not nearly as dangerous as earthquakes or tornadoes, but they can still kill, so you’ll need to pay attention to these winter safety tips. Here are some of the biggest threats associated with severe winter storms:
The first threat you’ll need to worry about are power outages. For whatever reason, a severe winter storm can cause you to lose all power to your home. For this reason, you’ll need a backup plan. A generator will allow you to power your home after the power grid has temporarily gone down, so investing in one of these might be a good idea. Without power, it will be way more difficult to keep yourself warm. This is something to think about when learning how to prepare for a winter storm.
CAR ACCIDENTSUnless you’ve been there or seen it on TV, you wouldn’t believe how many accidents occur during bad winter storms. Cars lose all control on ice and snow. One minute you’re in control of your vehicle, and the next you’re being thrown straight into a light pole or another vehicle. We wrote a handy guide on winter driving. I highly recommend that you check it out. It will show you everything you need to know about driving on snow and ice.
Prolonged exposure to the cold can lead to hypothermia, which can kill in as little as a few hours. Most people who die from hypothermia are older people over the age of 60 years old. This could be due to slipping in the snow or ice and not being able to get up, or simply passing out from exertion while shoveling snow in their driveway or sidewalk. Either way, hypothermia is something you’ll need to worry about when learning how to survive a winter storm.
First and foremost, let’s talk about how to stay warm. As far as winter safety tips are concerned, being able to keep yourself warm is arguably the most important. It doesn’t matter how many supplies you stock up on- if you can’t keep yourself warm, you’ll die. Fortunately, there are many things that you can do to ensure that you and your family remain insulated from the cold.
If you have a fireplace you’re in a good position to keep yourself warm. Fireplaces take care of most of your cold-related issues. Just make sure that you have enough wood to keep your fire going. The good news is that this isn’t too difficult. I recommend investing in a fire extinguisher or two just in case something happens. It would be really bad if your house burnt down while learning how to prepare for a winter storm. And if you think it can’t happen to you, think again (it happened to these people).
If you don’t have a fireplace in your home, then a space heater is a great alternative. They’re cheap, space-efficient, and do a great job at heating up the surrounding area. As far as winter safety is concerned, you can’t get much better than a space heater. They’re incredibly convenient with their “plug-and-use” technology. One of the best models you can buy today is the Mr. Heater Portable Buddy Propane Heater. This particular model is great for heating up an average 10×20 room. It’s powered by propane gas and costs less than $80. When learning how to prepare for a winter storm, you should definitely consider investing in one of these.
Aside from a fireplace and/or space heaters, you can insulate yourself from the cold by wearing the right clothing. The layers you choose will play a big role in how warm you feel. Wool is an excellent material to wear during the water. It does a good job at insulating, and won’t absorb sweat like cotton does (which can lead to hypothermia). Wool socks and wool underwear are things you should also invest in when preparing.
Insulating Your Home
The final thing you can do to stay warm is to insulate your home. No, this doesn’t mean randomly stuffing things into your walls. There are in fact simpler things you to do that actually work. For example, you can buy a 3M Indoor Window Insulator Kit. This single kit will cover 5 windows, and does a pretty good job at keeping the cold out. Plus, it’s not that expensive.
You can also invest in the 3M Indoor Patio Door Insulator Kit. This is a little more expensive, but it also works very well at keeping the cold out. Another thing you can do is place towels underneath the doors of rooms you won’t be entering. This will help “trap” the heat in areas where you and your family will be spending most of your time. Here’s a segment from CBS on how to prepare for a winter storm by insulating your home:
How to Build a Winter Survival Kit
A winter survival kit is a kit that contains all of the essentials for surviving a bad winter storm. You should have one built before the winter storm arrives. You don’t want to be scrambling for essential items only to realize that you forget to buy them when the time was right. In no particular order, here are some items to pack away in your winter survival kit:
For convenience, you can keep all of your items in a plastic bin or tote. Depending on the severity of the winter storm, you might not need to rely on these survival items. But if the storm gets really bad, and you lose power, these items will be indispensable. It goes back to the fundamental of learning how to prepare for a winter storm: the more you prepare now, the more likely you’ll be to thrive/survive later.
One of the more important winter survival tips to know is to have a way to communicate with the outside world. By far the best thing you can do is invest in a quality emergency weather radio (like the iRonsnow IS-088 Dynamo Emergency Radio). Anything that’s crank- or solar-powered is great because you won’t need to worry about buying extra batteries.
Another thing you can do is buy a ham radio. That way, if you get trapped in your home, you’ll still be able to maintain contact with the outside world. The Baofeng Two-Way Ham Radio is an excellent model in my opinion. It’s cheap (less than $50) and recommended for learning how to prepare for a winter storm. Here’s a video on the basics of using a ham radio:
What Type of Food Should You Stock Up On?
As a general rule of thumb, you want to stock up on foods that don’t rely on refrigeration to stay fresh. So if you have to choose between a can of beans and a steak, the can of beans is the better choice. If you buy a dehydrator, you’ll be able to dehydrate any food- fruits, vegetables, meats, etc. When you dehydrate food, you dramatically increase its lifespan. Dehydration is super-easy, and can be done with literally no experience.
Another option is to stock up on canned foods. These includes canned vegetables, canned fruits, and yes, even canned meats (tuna, spam, etc.). Since most winter storms are short lived, you won’t really need to worry about investing in foods that have a lifespan of many years, although there’s nothing wrong with that. Finally, when learning how to prepare for a winter storm, consider investing in MREs. They’re cheap when you buy them in bulk, and don’t require refrigeration to stay fresh and safe to eat.
Some people reading this may think, “Severe winter storms can’t be that bad. I’ll just wait it out and be okay”. This is a dangerous mindset to have. Back in 2013, a severe winter storm caused supermarkets to close at 4 P.M. in Georgia. Also, look at what happened to Chicago in 1967. Thousands of people were left stranded during a severe winter storm. This just goes to show the importance of stocking up on plenty of food when learning how to prepare for a winter storm.
Finally, I want to talk about light. If the power goes out, and you don’t have a reliable light source, you’ll be forced to operate in the dark, which is no good. In general, there are
three FOUR main types of lighting that you can rely on once the power goes out. These forms of lighting include:
- Flashlights: As you can recall from a previous article, I absolutely love flashlights. I carry them with me literally everywhere. From a winter safety standpoint, they are an indispensable tool to have (in fact, invest in several of them). Remember- humans are very inefficient in the dark, so don’t get caught off guard without a good flashlight.
- Candles: I have mixed feelings about candles. On one hand, they are cheap, portable, and do a pretty good job at lighting up small areas within your home. But they can be a big fire hazard, which makes me uneasy about using them. Plus, if there’s a gas leak for whatever reason, they can put you at a serious risk of dying. Still, they’re an option to consider.
- Oil Lamps: These produce more light than candles, which is a plus. When learning how to prepare for a winter storm, you want to save as much money as possible (and oil lamps will help you do it). In fact, the cheaper ones only cost about $10 or so, while the more expensive ones will cost you about $40, which is still a fair deal.
- Luci Solar Air Lanterns: May 2019: This is an addition to the original list which David created in 2016. Since then, we were introduced to the Luci by fellow backpackers and hikers, and have completely fallen in love with the Luci. The photo here is our own Luci - we seriously believe that this should be in everyone's emergency kit. When you know a storm is coming, just make sure you've charged up a few of these lightweight (and inexpensive) lights, and keep them handy. Check out the Luci here!
These are some of the main ways to keep your home lit after the power goes out. The best option is a generator, but not everyone has one, nor can everyone afford one. Of all the options on this list, flashlights are the best due to their simplicity and convenience. You can even buy a hand crank flashlight (like the Meco Emergency Flashlight) so that you don’t need to buy a lot of spare batteries.
6 Reasons to Carry a Flashlight Everywhere
How to Prepare for a Winter Storm – Bottom Line
Hopefully, this article has given you a solid foundation for how to prepare for a winter storm. The biggest thing to focus on is warmth. People don’t usually die from starvation in winter storms– they usually die from hypothermia. By layering yourself correctly, and taking the time to properly insulate your home, this will be less of an issue. Also, be sure to build your winter survival kit to have in case of an emergency. Thanks for reading.