Winter storms can be rough, but blizzards can be deadly if you are not prepared. Are you ready for a whiteout? Take a look at the following scenario and see if you could survive.
From Bad to Worse
The news has been warning of a major winter storm moving towards you for a few days now. You used your time well, insulating your pipes, sealing the doors with weatherstripping and setting your faucets to drip (which helps your pipes resist freezing). You stocked up with a few days worth of food and wood for the fireplace. You think you are ready to ride the storm out with some apple cider, card games and a good book next to a toasty fire with your family.
That was before the lights went out, along with the power. Your heater is no longer working and the temperature is dropping fast. At least you still have the hearth to keep you and your family warm, you think to yourself. Unfortunately, you failed to trim the big oak in your front yard. A loud snap rings through the air, followed by a boom as a branch from the tree breaks off, crashes through your roof and ends up in your living room. What do you do now? How could you have avoided this in the first place?
Take It One Step at a Time
You now have a gaping hole in your roof thanks to a weak branch and freezing temperatures. The first thing you need to realize is that this room is now unsafe. It is open to the elements and you will likely freeze if you stay here. Also, the fire you were enjoying moments ago is now a threat, as the branch is dangerously close and the wind is starting to blow into the room. You are going to have to triage the situation and make sure a bad situation doesn’t snowball into something far worse.
Start by extinguishing the fire in the fireplace; if the branch catches fire it could endanger your home and force you outside into the storm. Next, shut the power off to the house. Yes, the power is already out, but you do not want a fire to break out from damaged lines when it comes back on. Lastly, get the family out of the room ASAP, including the furry members (cats, dogs, etc.).
Once everyone is safe and together, you can move on to making sure you keep the cold at bay through the storm.
At this point, you need to gather your family into one room of the house to conserve heat. A master bedroom would seem to be a good choice due to the attached bathroom; however, this is not the case. Large rooms will be harder to keep warm. Pick a small room in the house (preferably one with few to no windows) and set up your family there. Make sure everyone has layers of clothing on, including thermals, hats, multiple socks, and gloves. Frostbite is a real threat in this scenario.
Candles can provide a source of both light and heat, but be careful to keep them in safe locations away from blankets. If you have access to it, use duct tape and plastic to cover the windows in the room. In a pinch, a trash bag can be used here. Use towels to block drafts from under the door. If you are burning candles don’t seal the room completely — leave some airflow to prevent carbon monoxide buildup.
Drink hot liquids if you can make them. Coffee or hot cocoa will not only warm you up, but can also raise your spirits. Avoid alcohol, though; it may fool you into thinking you are warming up, but you are not.
If you have space for it, you can set up a tent in the room to make an even smaller space to trap in heat. Even if you don’t have room for a tent, your sleeping bags will be of great use here. Make sure to pile up the blankets as well. Lastly, snuggle up! Body heat will help to stave off the cold.
Now that everyone is secure and warm, you can try to call for help. Remember, if the power is out you may have a hard time contacting any rescue services as they are likely busy dealing with thousands of calls. Do not count on them coming to save the day.
How to Prevent This Scenario
How could this situation have been avoided? The power going out is likely beyond your control, but the tree limb becoming an uninvited guest isn’t. Before winter hits, make sure you trim back any limbs that could potentially break off in a storm and damage your home. In this scenario, you would have still been able to use the fireplace had the branch not come crashing down. This would have helped you stay warm through the storm and increased your chances of surviving the situation.
Here are some tips to help you prepare for and ride out a blizzard:
- Insulate your water pipes
- Make sure your attic and walls are insulated
- Weather-proof your windows and doors with caulking and weather strips
- Cover your windows with plastic on the inside to help conserve heat
- Trim branches that may pose a threat to your home should they freeze and break
- Install a battery-operated carbon monoxide sensor in your home
- Have your furnace and fireplace or woodburning stove inspected each year by a professional
- Avoid the roads if at all possible, but if you must travel keep an emergency kit in your vehicle specifically designed for winter conditions (windshield scraper, tow cables, kitty litter, etc)
The best thing you can do before bad weather hits is to prepare for the worst.
~To Your Survival!
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