There is never a good time to deal with an emergency. However, having to deal with one during winter can pose some additional challenges. Depending on the crisis, being prepared ahead of time can mean the difference between life and death. Cold weather and power outages mean you can go from comfortable to in danger in a matter of hours. Make sure you know what the plan is, and that you’re supplied to have the best chance at withstanding a disaster.
Make a Plan
Planning is the first step to any preparedness action, and it’s the one people overlook most often. The adults in the home need to have a plan for emergencies, and the kids need to know what it is. The same goes for everything from getting lost in a store to a fire at home to a broken-down car. Even if you’re dealing with an emergency that involves your extended family members, you need to have a plan in mind.
When something bad does happen, people who failed to plan are floundering in the dust as they try to make the best of it. Having a solid idea of what you’ll do and how you’ll do it means you have one less thing to worry about. In emergencies, that can make a huge difference.
For a general plan, make sure everyone in the family has some form of ID. That way, if anyone is separated, rescue teams can find you more quickly. Practice evacuations from your house about every six months, and make sure you know where you’re going. That means knowing where the evacuation routes in your area are, and knowing alternatives in case the primary path is blocked. These straightforward steps can help keep everyone both safe and together.
Keep Supplies in Your Car
There’s always a chance of getting stranded somewhere, but it’s much more dangerous to get stranded during the winter. That means you need to stock up, just in case. Water and some food are necessities, no matter what weather you’re in. A basic roadside kit with emergency flares, a first-aid kit and flashlights are also a good idea year-round.
In the winter, your emergency gear must include ways to stay warm. If your car breaks down and you have to wait, you’ll get cold quickly. Make sure you have blankets, extra gloves and socks and maybe even a pair of spare thermal underwear packed away as well. High-calorie snacks like granola bars can keep kids full for hours without taking up a lot of space or going bad quickly.
You also need to prep your car itself. That means making sure fluids are topped off — including antifreeze — all your lights work and your tires have traction for driving in snow and ice. If you need to, get winter tires and stuff a bag of kitty litter in the back. If you get stuck in the snow, the kitty litter may be able to give you enough traction to get back on the road.
Staying Prepared at Home
The basics for safety at home are flashlights, candles, smoke alarms and fire extinguishers. You also need a strategy for what to do if you have to travel to get to your family. If you might need to pick your kids up from school in the event of a power outage or snowstorm, make sure your bosses know you’ll need to get them. It’s never a good idea to surprise them with that information.
Once everyone is home, make sure to follow the plan. Candles and flashlights are necessities, but everyone, including the kids, should remember to reach for the flashlights first. Candles can be a fire hazard, especially if you have animals or young children. The last thing you want to do is accidentally burn down your home during a power outage!
In addition to light, you need easy access to water and nonperishable foods. Some places will be able to run water without power, but many won’t. It’s always best to stay prepared. A battery-powered radio and a pre-charged cell phone are also important, letting you find out what’s happening and stay in touch with others.
Lastly, make sure you’re stocked up on warm winter clothes and blankets. Keep any pets warm as well, and make sure they’re inside with you and not out in the elements. This might be one time where Fido could curl up with you on the couch, assuming his feet are clean!