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7 Critical Steps To Surviving A Winter Blackout

Image source: WAGMTV

Image source: WAGMTV

Winter seems to have arrived early in most of the United States this year, with the sudden freezing temperatures, icy roads and snow catching many by surprise. Winter storms can be outright dangerous if you aren’t prepared.

Consider the following preparation tips to help you get through the upcoming winter storms:

1. Stock Up on Alternative Light Sources

Americans are so used to having light that being without it can be very scary the first time. Day-to-day life revolves around light, especially in winter when there isn’t much daylight to begin with. Have a nice supply of candles, preferably emergency candles with a long burn life. Invest in oil lamps. They supply much more light and are easier to deal with than candles generally. Get a generator and consider a solar one, which would work even without gasoline when the grid is down. Lastly, invest in some battery-powered lanterns, especially those with LED lights that tend to last longer and provide brighter light. Have plenty of flashlights on hand in easy-to-find places around your home.

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2. Prepare for Backup Heat

If you have a fireplace or a wood-burning stove, you’re set. But if not, consider an alternative source. Look into buying a used wood-burning stove as a backup. They can be installed in your home on a temporary basis by installing a “chimney” through a window, if you know what you’re doing. Learn how to do that here.

3. Check Your Home’s Insulation

Image source: MinnPost.com

Image source: MinnPost.com

A poorly insulated house in a cold climate makes it extremely difficult to effectively stay warm and heat your home. Without it, your electrical bill will be through the roof. Secondly, in the event the power goes out, you are going to lose that heat much more quickly. Aside from completely redoing the insulation in your house (a big job) there are other little things you can do.

First off, you can use a foam spray to fill in any cracks or areas in your home where the cold might be leaking in. Make or buy thick curtains for your windows and use window cling-film kits for an extra insulating boost. Drafts from under doors can let in a surprising amount of cold which can often be fixed by using a long draft stopper that runs along the bottom of the door.

4. Learn How to Cook Food In Your Home

If you have a woodstove or fireplace you can cook with, you are going to be fine. If not, you will need to search for a different method. If you have a generator, you can use a hot plate or electric griddle. You can even use propane gas cook stoves that are popular for camping.

5. Stock Up On Water for Drinking, Cooking and Sanitation Purposes

Americans use a surprising amount of water in their daily lives. Not just drinking water but water to wash our bodies and to flush our toilets. It is recommended that in the event of a severe winter storm in which you lose power, you fill up a bathtub with water. This water will be used for sanitary purposes only. You should also keep clean drinking water on hand.

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6. Prevent Frozen Water Lines

Whether you have a well water system or not, frozen pipes can be a serious problem in a storm. Not only can pipes freeze, but they also can burst under pressure, completely destroying your ability to get water to your house – and causing a wet and soon to be frozen mess under your house. One tip for preventing frozen pipes is to leave your sink faucets and bathtubs on a very slow drip. You should also insulate the pipes as best as you can. If you don’t have access to actual pipe insulation, you can use old blankets or even newspaper. Don’t forget to shut off water lines to the parts of your property that don’t need water access during winter.

7. Get Plenty of Clothes and Blankets

Power outages aren’t fun, especially in winter when you really can’t leave the house. Don’t forget to prepare yourself and your family once the house is taken care of. Ensure you have plenty of blankets on hand and each person in your family has lots of warm clothing. Don’t forget warm mittens and hats. If you have pets or livestock, make sure they are kept warm and have access to water. Conserve your energy as much as possible and stay indoors.

What are your winter home survival tips? Share them in the section below:  

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19 comments

  1. My family and I live out in a rural area and power outages are a strong possibility during the winter. I always stock up on alternative fuel (kerosene, propane canister (camp stove). This year, I am having new double-hung insulated windows put in and setting up solar panels to supply a good deal of our electrical needs. I also am planning to put in a wood-burning stove.

    • I’m on the same page as Daniel with most except we’re planning everything around no electricity again.. I grew up w/o a lot of electrical things and we can continue to survive w/o them. Everything is manual in our preps.
      My wife is actually on my case to get a wood stove installed that we can heat and cook off of, I love that woman…:)

  2. In agreement with you folks, heading into the dead of Winter one should finish your preps now. We are in the sticks and make good use of our wood stoves, for heat and cooking when needed. Lots of brands and styles out there, do some shopping. We have an Ashley and a Country Hearth, both well built, plus lined with fire-brick. Can even burn coal if you can find it. Merry Christmas to ya’ll…….

    • Need some advice. We are in planning stages on wood stoves Since we are a small Wisconsin city, we need something that is frugal yet practical for cooking and heating. How much did the Ashley cost if I can ask? Note: The city has given the go ahead on the stove…

      • Lorraine Rezentes

        What does your insurance company say? In our area, I think our insurance would really go up! We have a little wood stove out in the garage but not hooked up. Needs pipe and damper

  3. As I recall the Ashley ended up costing about $700 new including the flue pipe. We’ve got 2 places and it heats one of about 1700 sq. ft. pretty well and has a large firebox. They are good to cook on, just lift the cabinet top and you have a good size cook-top. Not an Ashley salesman, but lot’s of folks here in Arkiesaw use them for primary heat. Got a Country Hearth stove in the basement of our other place and it does a good job of heating the whole house, heat does rise. It cost about $900 to get setup, but is a bit fancier looks wise. I’d shop on line for a good buy and even consider a used one. Good hunting

  4. I saved and saved and finally got a wood cook stove. Dearly love it. It helps heat the house and you can cook like a pro. on it. Food just seems to taste better cooked on a wood stove.

  5. Be proud of your new toy Mary, it will serve you for years. Something to mention, even if one lives in town, firewood isn’t hard to come by. Old pallets, limbs, logs, old lumber, even old furniture can be a wood source. Heat and a place to cook, might be a bit important in these times and it will pay for itself……

    • hikabilly. thanks for the advice. I’ll toss the ideas around with my wife.

      • Nam Vet, was thinking about a more affordable stove my wife’s uncle uses in his smaller 3 room place. It’s called a boxwood stove and it’s a bit old-school, but does a good job and cooks too. Made from cast iron like an old pot belly, but a good cook surface and produces a lot of heat. I think he got his from Harbor Freight and it didn’t cost him much. In the dead of Winter you can go in his place and he has the doors open to regulate the heat and it holds a decent load of wood……

  6. One nice thing about candles is they also provide heat. Once you get your house taken care of, put everyone into a room with about six to ten thick wick candles and you will be surprised how warm it can be. We have wood heat so we don’t worry much about all that, but if you get stuck out in a car, a few candles and some blankets will keep you warm. Always carry extra gear and food and water with you in the winter, it can and has saved lives. Stay prepared my friends!

  7. If you don’t have access to alternative heat, like a wood stove or heater, pick a single room in the house or apartment that will be your warm room. The one with the fewest outside walls is best. Stock up on the sterno type chafing fuel canisters that are under a dollar. Get a brick or ceramic tile to set it/them on. Two can heat a small space. Use space blankets to cover any window and reflect heat back into the room. Keep the door shut.

    If you must, make a tent out of your dining or kitchen table, using sheets and pile all your blankets and towels in it to burrow in. Your body heat will make that small area warm enough. Space blankets, again, are invaluable. You can get ten for under $10 on Amazon.

  8. Using a self standing camping tent in the house makes it easier to stay warm, especially for sleeping.

  9. Two tips here:

    I just bought this from Amazon: CAFRAMO ECOFAN ORIGINAL BLACK BLADE HEAT POWERED STOVE FAN for about a $100.

    The reason I bought it is that it requires absolutely no power to run and it moves the heat from my woodstove to the center of the room.

    When I have power, I use two ceiling fans to push the heat from my main room to the outer rooms and this works great. When I don’t have power, my living room (where the woodstove is located is really warm and my bathroom (which is the farthest away is cold). I wanted this fan as a backup way of moving air because we can lose power for long periods of time.

    This fan sits on top of the stove and serves two purposes. The first as I said, it moves air into the center of the room and secondly, it serves as a clear visual that the fire is going out if I haven’t noticed otherwise as it spins faster when the stove is hot and slowly when it’s cool.

    Next tip: EMERGENCY HEAT for your house or car

    To make this you need the following:

    1 metal canister of Pepperidge Farm Pirouette Cookies (or something in that size – see below)
    1 roll of toilet paper (not the double roll)
    1 bottle of isopropyl alcohol
    matches or some kind of lighter (not all lighters work well in extreme cold)

    a brick or tile or something heatproof to sit this on

    1. Remove the cookies (eat them they’re great!)
    2. Remove the cardboard core from the toilet paper and smoosh the roll until you can push it down into the cookie tin.
    3. Pour alcohol into the tin until the toilet paper is saturated.

    This works like one of those sterno heaters without the smell. The output is water vapor and CO2 so you need to have a cracked (open) window (especially in a car). One of these can burn for several hours and will heat a small cabin to a bearable temperature here in AK in an emergency.

    I keep several “kits” of these in the house and one in each pick-up so if we’re stranded on the Al-Can, we can survive the cold. You only need to do short burns and you can cover it with the metal lid to put it out.

    The cookie canister measures 4″ across the top and about 7″ high. I have seen these cookies in a cardboard package so I’m not sure if they’ve stopped putting out the metal canisters. I bought mine a couple of years back. You want the toilet paper to be in there REAL tight so it’s not burning. It’s just acting as a “wick”.

    • my husband made a heater similar to this. he cut a strip of cardboard from a large box, rolled it very tight, poured melted wax over it. this burns very well, and lasts a long time.

  10. We learned a few tricks, during the ice storm in 08, in Arkansas, use the ice outside to preserve food, build an igloo, for a frig, also conserve space in your home, close off all unnecessary rooms, and camp out in as small of an area as possible, 4 – 5 people in one room sleeping conserves body heat.

    • Yup Electrickman, we were there too and it was big fun, no power for 3 1/2 weeks. We had woodstoves and lucked-out there. The outdoor ice helped save our food too. I’m still burning firewood from all our busted-up trees. Hope we don’t have a repeat any time soon……

  11. The number one rule….especially in light (no pun intended) of the photo accompanying the article, DO NOT, DO NOT, go near downed power lines. EVER!
    Sister of a lineman.

  12. Be very aware of your local government lapdogs. We are constantly fighting with ours here in interior Alaska of all places. They are continuously trying ban all solid fuel burners. Supposed air quality problems. EPA puts on some pressure for federal grant money and the locals roll over and wet themselves. Keep aware

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