There are a lot of things people love about winter. The snow provides plenty of seasonal activities, including tobogganing, sledding, and outdoor hockey for you to enjoy. However, these perks don't come without their downsides. The same snow that lets you engage in these activities can also provide plenty of problems.
While you can reduce the dangers you face by staying home more, there's no way to eliminate all winter weather risks. There are severe weather conditions in the winter season that can cause some real problems. These include freezing rain, and the possibility that any winter storm warning could pile up several feet of snow. You might be snowed in and/or face the effects of a power outage. Either of these scenarios or worse, both at once could possibly mean you'll have to live purely with what you have in your home for a few days. Having a winter storm emergency kit could save you.
These days, things are so convenient that we've started to take many things in life for granted. Things such as light, running water, and the ability to leave your home and get what you want from any local store are things everyone assumes will always be available.
However, heavy snowfall can make plenty of these normally very accessible things like electricity and roads almost inaccessible briefly. While local power companies and municipalities do their best to fix these problems, it's on you to hold out until these problems are addressed. A winter storm emergency kit, also known as an emergency preparedness or emergency supply kit, will help you get through a tough couple of days if needed.
Some might see this as an obvious thing you should always have when preparing for cold weather. However, it's common for people to get so caught up in deeper details that they sometimes forget about the basics, like warm clothes and emergency blankets. If your furnace breaks down or the power goes out, you will be cold for a little while.
Make sure that the warm clothing in your winter storm emergency kit is dry. It's also best to have a variety of different thicknesses to layers. Sometimes, adding a t-shirt underneath the sweater that you're already wearing is enough. Other times, you'll need multiple tick layers. However, going as far as needing a winter jacket while inside is unlikely; it's best to be prepared for such a scenario just in case.
Blankets are much the same way, as sometimes you might be able to get away with a thin one, but on other days, a thick one will be needed. If a thick one isn't enough on its own, feel free to stack them. Be sure to have enough extra layers and warm blankets for everyone in your family, with a few spares just in case something happens.
As with any situation, having food and water readily available is helpful. However, you can't just depend on being able to cook anything up, and there's the possibility that things could go bad if your heat source, fridge or freezer goes down. While the idea of a pizza party, fancy lobster dinner or taco Tuesday may seem fun, they're not viable options to have in a winter storm emergency kit. Even healthy grocery staples like refrigerated fruits and vegetables may not last long enough. Meats and meat alternatives like eggs are especially bad at spoiling quickly. Some good examples of non-perishable snacks (or at least foods that last a long time) are:
Please note that this is not an exhaustive list. Also, keep in mind that you need to keep beverages in mind as well when making your winter storm emergency kit. As much as milk and juice taste great, they also go bad quickly and, as a result, are poor choices for an emergency kit. It may be tempting to take Alcoholic beverages since you think they might relax your nerves, but they are also a poor choice for a winter storm preparedness kit. Alcohol can not only impair your judgement, but it can also dehydrate you, often only making things worse. Bottled water is probably the best choice. If you need something to give you a 'kick,' energy drinks with electrolytes will do the job.
It's also best to keep a few days of extra pet food in your winter storm emergency kit for your little furry, scaly or feathery family members if you have any.
Just because your furnace is down doesn't mean you're stuck without any heat source. Having a portable, battery-operated heater or two in your winter storm emergency kit is a really good way to keep the inside temperature somewhat tolerable. Be sure to put them in rooms that face heavy traffic. Living areas are best for the day, with bedrooms being the best for nighttime. However, be sure to keep them away from flammable objects to avoid a fire.
Your appliances aren't the only things you'll lose if the power goes out. You'll also lose access to lights. Dealing with darkness is easy to overcome, as keeping a simple flashlight in your winter storm emergency kit is enough to help you provide you with portable light. Also, ensure you know where your flashlight is, as looking for a flashlight without a flashlight can be difficult.
While keeping up with your group chat with your friends likely isn't your top priority in this situation, having the means to communicate back and forth with the outside world is a needed part of your winter storm emergency kit. Not only do you have a way to contact emergency services in a worst-case scenario, but you can also keep up with the news, allowing you to have better estimates on when the road will be cleared and when the power will be restored. However, be sure to have an emergency charger for your device, as a wall outlet won't be helpful in a power outage. Remember to pay attention to weather reports and any indication from power companies or news stations when power will return.
If the power goes out, having a generator in your winter storm emergency kit can help you get it back to an extent, and if you have enough gas, it can get you through the power outage. However, don't use it recklessly, as there are many things to be aware of.
Firstly, never bring a generator indoors. The reason for this rule is that doing so exposes you and your family to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odourless toxic gas created by generators and other engines. When breathed in, the toxic fumes within CO will replace oxygen in your bloodstream, causing CO poisoning. CO poisoning symptoms include headache, nausea, stomach ache, chest pain, dizziness and weakness, which can cause you to pass out or even kill you.
Even after avoiding bringing it in, you have to be careful. Generators use up gas quickly and might have to last longer than you think, so only use it on things that'll help you power through. For example, don't use it to power a portable TV so that you can watch the season finale of the trending Netflix series or see your favourite hockey team choke away a 3rd period lead again. You'd be better off using it to power a minifridge to make your perishables last a few extra hours or recharge some emergency device and give it more juice.
Storing an extra can or two of gas in your winter storm emergency kit is also a good idea if you want to have your generator last longer.
Many of the above items in your winter storm emergency kit will successfully provide you with many substitutes for your most commonly used powerful electric devices. However, they're not magical devices powered by magic; batteries power them. While some batteries are dependable enough to be trusted everywhere, and others keep going, and going, and going, none of them last forever.
Just like how having spare gas for your generator or keeping your devices charged in the first place can add some extra life to these devices, keeping extra batteries in your winter storm emergency kit will also extend the life of certain devices. You should have a backup battery set for each size you use, ensuring that no matter which device runs out of juice, it can still operate.
If this was the first thing that came to mind when you thought of a winter storm emergency kit, nobody would blame you since you should always keep one in case of an emergency. While emergency services and emergency responders don't shut down in winter storm conditions, it is fair to assume that there'll be a much longer wait for them due to a combination of people needing their services more, as well as the snowy conditions making the roads more dangerous. For this reason, simple medical supplies will become critical in helping a sick or injured family member.
You should always keep extras of any medications that family members need on hand before any storm warnings hit. Having a few extra days of medication in your winter storm emergency kit can save someone's life, so there's no excuse for messing around and skipping this step.
A toolbox might surprise some people, but keeping a toolbox in your winter storm emergency kit can help you out of various tough situations. An ice storm creates the perfect conditions for a pipe burst to happen. Maybe your generator will break down. You might even experience something like a heater or other battery operated device breaking. Never underestimate the versatility of situations one of these can handle.
Even if you stocked up as much as you reasonably could, you may have to leave the comfort inside at some point. Even if you have fully supplied your winter storm emergency kit, you'll probably have to shovel yourself out. A heavy hoody with a couple of layers underneath and a comfy pair of thick jeans won't keep you warm enough. Extreme cold can also be dangerous, causing conditions such as hyperthermia and frostbite if you're left exposed for too long. The following are recommended to be included in your winter storm emergency kit:
While heavy snow can be annoying, it's actually ice that's more likely to cause someone to seriously hurt themselves. Since ice is also much harder to get rid of, you will have to find another way to handle the problem. When doing this, you have two main options for your winter storm emergency kit: salt and sand.
Contrary to popular belief, salt does not melt ice. However, it does lower the melting point of ice, meaning that even if the temperature is below zero, the ice should melt, although this stops working at around -10C, although this point does vary. Placed in advance, it can also prevent water from freezing into ice. However, salt is corrosive, which can damage the concrete you sprinkle on if used excessively. Also, if some of the brine gets on your lawn, it can damage it. It also takes some time to work, so when applied afterwards, you'll still need to wait a bit before the ice starts to fade.
Sand doesn't have all these drawbacks and is generally safer for personal property. Like salt, sand can be applied pre-emptively to prevent water from melting, but unlike salt, it starts working right after application. However, sand can't help melt ice; it only makes it less slippery. Also, sand is susceptible to being tracked everywhere after being used, which could result in it getting inside. Leftover sand can also clog up drains in spring.
Ultimately, whether you want to use salt, sand, or both in your winter storm emergency kit is entirely up to you.
This one might seem obvious, but it can easily be forgotten as part of your winter storm emergency kit simply because you assume that you already have one. Shovels are like plungers: buy one before you need one. It also could be beneficial to have a small shovel in your vehicle to begin building a winter emergency car kit also.
Luckily, a shovel isn't the only tool you have that can remove snow. A snow blower might be your better option if the snow gets deep enough. As with the generator, it's best to ensure you have extra gas just in case.
Also, while snow blowers are quite durable, often lasting well over a decade, it's always best to test yours before winter hits. Few things are worse than having a snow blower ready to go and then finding out you'll need to spend an extra 2 hours shoveling because it doesn't work.
Some of the larger items on this list, such as the snow blower, obviously can't fit in a simple package. However, many of your smaller items should be stored together in a safe place so they can be quickly gathered in an emergency. Your winter storm emergency kit should be somewhere that isn't cluttered and easily accessible, and somewhere you'll be able to remember. Close to the middle of your home is advisable, so you never have to go too far.
Since it would be right near some of the more oversized items in the list, the garage would be a good choice, as long as you avoid clutter and keep it on a clear shelf. Another good idea would be to store it in the washroom, which would also be a natural enough place given the medical equipment and likely proximity to the most commonly used rooms in your place, such as the living area. Storing it openly in the living area might also make it the most accessible it could be.
Every home has a different layout and uses each room differently, so there's never going to be a single room that will always be correct. However, you should always ensure that no matter where you are when you need it, you can quickly grab it within a handful of seconds and take out what you need. In the event of an emergency, every second might matter.
While there's no need to run emergency safety drills every month to ensure that you have every detail down, it's best to ensure your entire family knows where and how to access your winter storm emergency kit quickly and use every piece of equipment. In the best-case scenario, you won't need it. However, as the old saying goes, prepare for the worst, hope for the best.
This content is written by our Morison Insurance team. All information posted is merely for educational and informational purposes. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Should you decide to act upon any information in this article, you do so at your own risk. While the information on this website has been verified to the best of our abilities, we cannot guarantee that there are no mistakes or errors.