A Winter Power Outage

At some point, most all of us have experienced a short-term power outage. Regardless of when it happens, it’s rarely at a convenient time. Most recently, Hurricane Sandy has left literally millions of people without electrical power, hundreds of thousands without gas and it’s happened at a time of year when warmth is essential to survival. Remember, even a gas furnace won’t work if the electricity is off.

Being comfortably warm in our surroundings is obvious for immediate survival reasons but it also is very important for moral as well as long-term health. Have you ever thought about how you’d stay warm if the electricity went out for days or weeks?

It Can Happen Anywhere, Any Time

The fact is, it can happen anywhere, at any time and for countless reasons. If we’re complacent, living day to day without preparation enough to have the basics of survival & relative comfort, we could find ourselves in a real pickle on any given day.

Considering the way Mother Nature has shown a tendency for decline recently, now is the time to prepare with a plan and the necessary things to make sure you can stay warm enough without electricity or gas when it’s frigid outside.

72-Hour Kits Aren’t Enough

Most experts recommend having 72 hours worth of supplies on hand for emergencies. I strongly recommend having at least 2 months of supplies. A 72 Hour Kit will get you through most very minor emergencies. Any kind of major natural disaster will require you to have much more than that unless you’re planning to “hope” for federal agencies to save you (and as we’ve seen, that can take weeks!). Keep this in mind when it comes to planning to keep warm, too.

So, here are some things to consider when it comes to staying warm during a winter power outage.

Gather ‘Round The Hearth

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  • A fireplace or pellet stove are obvious assets when it comes to heat. If you have one, do you have enough fuel stocked up and stored in a safe place? Figure out how much fuel you’d use every day and work on stocking up several weeks worth.
  • If you run out of wood for a fireplace and your survival depends on it, you can burn paper, cardboard, furniture., etc. Stay away from trying to burn anything plastic or man-made as the exhaust can be fatal even with ventilation that’s normally adequate for a wood fire.
  • When it comes to picking wood for a stove or fireplace, fur, pine & cedar are very common but burn fast and hot. A large stockpile can be burned up pretty quickly when it’s your main source for heat. Hardwoods like aspen, oak, elm, poplar, redwood or mahogany are usually more expensive but burn slower and longer.
  • Most super markets sell 4-hour treated “logs” that burn for several hours to provide a lasting heat. They can cost $3-4 but a pine log the same size only burns 20-30 minutes.
  • Now is the best time to stock up. When the power goes out or a disaster hits, you won’t find these things in stock at the store.

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Winterize Doors & Windows

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  • It’s always a good idea to make sure your doors have efficient weather stripping to seal out cold drafts.
  • Window kits to seal out drafts can be found at most home improvement stores. In a pinch, plastic bags or dropcloth & duct tape will work. Duct tape should be a staple in your preparedness supply kit – you can never have too much of it.
  • Open blinds or curtains to allow the sun to heat the room when direct sunlight is available, closing them again after direct sunlight is gone.
  • Hang extra blankets or towels over shaded windows and all windows at night.

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Pick Your Warm Room

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  • Houses & apartments don’t take much heat to keep from freezing. Plan to keep only one room warm enough for relative comfort. This is where you’ll spend most of your time and probably where you’ll be sleeping until services are restored.
  • Try not to pick the largest room you have but one with ‘enough’ room. Close doors to other rooms and conserve the heat in the “warm room”. If you have a fireplace in one room, that’s probably your warm room even if it means sleeping on the floor on front of the fire.

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Dress The Part

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  • Adding layers of clothing is probably obvious. The point isn’t to keep your warm space comfortable for hanging out in a t-shirt, but warm enough for survival. For outages lasting the night, plan to sleep in layers of warm clothing. Think along the lines of camping in cool weather.

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 Other Sources of Heat

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  • Emergency Candles or the “100-Hour” candles are ideal for keeping warmth in small rooms. (One of these candles can keep a small snow cave around 50 degrees overnight.) They do last for about 4 days of continuous burning but you’ll need several at a time to heat most average rooms adequately for survival. Look for the ones that say “odorless” and specify they’re safe for indoor use. You can usually find them for around $5.
  • Chemical hand warmers are great in a real pinch to keep fingers & toes from getting too cold. They’re expensive and not efficient enough to rely on as a first line of personal warmth but will help in an emergency.
  • Shared body heat has saved many quick-thinking people from freezing to death. Don’t be afraid to huddle up together with other people under the same blankets. Two live bodies are always warmer together than one alone. Help kids stay warm by keeping them close to you.

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  • Be extremely careful using any kind of camp stove or fuel burner indoors. Burning anything indoors outside of a fireplace is very dangerous, as the fumes aren’t vented and can quickly lead to serious health problems – even death.
  • While having windows & doors sealed up helps to keep the heat in, it also really minimizes any fresh air that comes into the room. It’s a good idea to open a door or window at least once a day for a few minutes to ventilate & get fresh, healthy air inside even though it will sacrifice some heat.

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Share Your Ideas

These ideas will definitely help you stay warm during a cold-weather power outage but here’s where you can add your own experiences, ideas & tips for survival & preparedness. Please share your thoughts in the comments area below.