Our nation’s infrastructure is aging. Power outages that are merely annoying in summer can become life-threatening in winter. Use these hints and tips to protect you from the impact of winter weather on your home insurance and home and help you stay safe and warm when winter storms take out the power.
Be prepared. Have an emergency kit ready when you need it. Stock it with a supply of fresh batteries, flash lights for every family member, safety matches, a radio (the kind with a manual crank is ideal and it can also charge your cell phone in a pinch), sterno for cooking, high protein canned goods, hard candy and chocolate, a manual can opener, and a couple cases of bottled water. A couple decks of cards and a board game or two will help pass the time and prevent boredom while you wait for the power to be restored.
If the heat goes out, do what you can to preserve what heat is left in the house. Close off all unused rooms, hang blankets on windows and doors and close all the curtains. Basically, stuff up any drafts such as those that come under doors. If you have a fireplace, light it, but make sure the damper is open and the chimney is drawing properly. We can’t repeat this often enough: DO NOT use a gas or charcoal barbecue or hibachi, kerosene heaters, or gas generator indoors. It will suck all the oxygen out of the air.
Now bundle up. Put on layers of warm clothing including a hat and gloves to prevent heat loss. If you don’t have adequate clothing, insulate your torso with layers of dry newspaper to keep your core temperature up. Infants and the elderly lose heat quickly, so be sure they’re kept warm.
Prevent your home from winter dangers. Prevent frozen and burst pipes by turning all your faucets onto to a slow, steady drip. If your service line, pipes or water meter do freeze and you have electrical power, first open a faucet near the frozen point to release vapor from melting ice. If you have electrical power, use a hair dryer to thaw the frozen section. NEVER use a candle, match or any open flame to thaw a frozen pipe as this could lead to a steam explosion.
If the lights go out, too, rely on flashlights or battery-powered lanterns. Use candles only if there’s no other light source and be sure that they are contained in a tip-proof holder (clean glass jars with a layer of rock salt in the bottom to securely hold the candle make good emergency lanterns). Conserve battery-operated radios and laptops for emergency use, only.
Eat so that your body has the energy it needs to stay warm and drink water to prevent dehydration.