Winter Prep 101

It’s that time of year again. The forecast is for freezing nights. And here in the Midwest, we all know it’s just a matter of time until we can expect some dangerously cold and slick weather.  So today we’ll focus on taking some proactive steps to reduce the hazards for ourselves and our loved ones. Let’s take a quick look around our house for what we can do.

In the home:

  • Replace smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries. Install carbon monoxide detectors in areas with heaters or appliance that burn fuel.
  • Schedule a furnace checkup, especially if one hasn’t been done in a while
  • Make sure there is a fully charged fire extinguisher readily available.
  • Purchase small electric space heaters to help heat areas with plumbing just in case there is a furnace problem. If you must use an extension cord with a space heater, make sure to get a 12/3 (12 gauge/3 prongs) grounded cord. Never use a light duty cord with a heating device.
  • Solar and/or hand-crank recharging devices with a USB output port
  • Have a flashlight in a known location with fresh batteries. There are now flashlights that can recharge through a USB port.
  • Cell phone chargers and backup power supplies
  • Battery operated or hand-crank radio with replacement batteries
  • Ensure that important documents, information, and heirlooms are stored in a protected location.

Outside the home:

  • Check to make sure outside water faucets and completely off and not dripping. Any leak at all will allow the water to freeze all the way up into the pipe and cause it to burst.
  • Snow shovel and/or blower
  • Salt or ice melt already in containers that are manageable by everyone who might need to use it
  • Backup power supply for medical equipment with fuel for at least 7 days
    • Periodically start and run fuel powered generators
    • Refresh fuel supplies as needed and add fuel stabilizer to gasoline supplies.

In the car:

  • Ice scraper
  • Car charges for phones
  • Flashlight with batteries or charger
  • A small shovel for removing snow or mud from in front of the tires
  • Salt for melting ice and traction
  • Tire chains if you live in an area with frequent, deep snows
  • Warm blankets in case the car is stranded and fuel is in short supply
  • Boots, hats, and gloves in case the car is stranded and you must walk to safety
  • Fuel up automobiles when dangerous weather is forecasted. Especially if they may be needed for evacuation
  • A plastic container big enough to hold all of this

Helping others:

  • Create a plan with a team of family, friends, or neighbors to check on each other during bad weather.
    • Write down a list of conditions for which a check-in should be expected
  • Help your neighbors with snow removal and taking out the trash and morning paper.
  • Leave behind some salt or ice melt already in containers that are manageable by everyone who might need to use it

An Emergency Kit

  • You may want to create and emergency kit containing a minimum of 7 days of resources, depending on the threats in your area. In addition to the above items, it should contain:
    • A team of people who will check-in with each other when the weather turns hazardous
    • Food and water, emergency medical and sanitation supplies, and prescription medications
    • Propane or solar powered refrigerator for medications which must be kept cool
    • Hand operated can opener
    • Matches and/or lighters
    • Rechargeable flashlights and/or battery operated lighting with replacement batteries
    • Alternative heat source such as a kerosene heater or fireplace-ONLY if you know its proper use indoors to avoid the dangers of poisonous gases
    • Make a routine to check your kit and team to make sure their still up to the task. This is as easy as writing a reminder on your calendar to review your plan.
      • Review kit contents twice a year and replace kit batteries
      • Monthly check that battery-powered backup power supplies still hold their charge

Although everyone is exposed to these dangers, we all know someone who is at a greater risk when bad weather comes their way. Please share this message with them. Or better yet, assist them in preparation of their emergency plan and in finding someone who can check on them. Having the reassurance that someone will think of them when bad weather occurs will undoubtedly provide some peace of mind.  And too….some of this would make excellent Christmas presents.

I’m always looking for suggestions and feedback. Please take a moment to suggest any items that you believe should be on this list. And please share this list with anyone highly vulnerable to the effects of bad weather.

As always, thanks for reading.
And remember to take the next step…

More information regarding disaster preparedness can be found at and

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