9 Survival Tips For A Winter Power Outage

Surviving a week or more without electricity and in freezing temperatures will be difficult if you’re not prepared, but it is possible with careful planning and preparation.  And at the time of recording this video, winter is not too far away, so the time to prepare is now.  This video is a little different as we took the community’s feedback based on the insight you’ve gained from your personal experiences dealing with prolonged outages and incorporated that information into this video.  This video is designed to detail things you should be doing now before winter hits, and we also will walk you through the steps you should take if the power goes out when there are freezing temperatures. So let’s go over the nine steps to help you get ready. 

WHAT TO DO NOW

As with all disaster preparedness, there are steps to take now to prepare for an event in the future, and then there are the actions to take once the event has occurred.  Let’s start with 2 practical things you can begin to do right now to prepare for this coming winter.

1- PRE-PLAN YOUR HOME

Frozen PipeThere’s a lot you could do to prepare your home, but let’s look at the basics that are pretty easy to do and don’t require a whole lot of work.  Let’s start with your pipes.  When the temperature drops significantly below freezing, the water in your pipes can freeze, causing them to burst. This can result in water leaks and a loss of access to running water.

So let’s remedy this issue.  First, insulate vulnerable pipes to prevent them from freezing in the winter. Insulate any water pipes exposed outdoors or in unheated areas of your home, such as basements, garages, crawl spaces, or attics. 

You will also want to seal leaks and gaps in your home to prevent cold air from entering.  There are a few ways to do this.  First, you can look for light coming in around doors.  These are the obvious indicators of a gap and can be fixed by adding a towel.  In some homes, the windows may not close all the way, requiring you to add a weather strip to get a better seal. If you want to take it up a notch, an infrared temperature gauge will allow you to find hot and cold spot variations to show where there’s a large temperature difference indicating an area where there’s a leak.

Finally, know where the water supply comes into your house. If the grid stays down for a prolonged period in freezing temperatures, you’ll want to do 2 things: shut the water line off coming to your house and drain the water lines in your home.  So let’s talk about the water supply line first.  My house has a water meter in the front yard, and I can shut it off there.  Additionally, the main water line coming from the meter into the house is my garage, and I can also shut it off here.  Find these locations now.  I had a subscriber tell me a story about watching their neighbors digging around their front yard, which was covered in snow, trying to find the water meter so they could shut it off.  Identify it now and make sure you know how to shut it off.

Download the Extreme Weather Survival Guide today. I’ll post a link in the description and comment section below, or visit cityprepping.com/weather for a free guide to help you set up your preps to survive even the worst weather events.

2- PRE-PLAN A COLD WEATHER KIT

Camping TentWhen the power goes out during freezing temperatures, you don’t want to be scrambling around your house, struggling to find the basics of what you need to survive. The fortunate part is that you are at home with your preps and regular supplies when this disaster strikes, so your bin can be dedicated to a few added essentials to get you through the unique situation you find yourself in. For this reason, I like to have at least one bin dedicated to the disaster I face. It can be used for many situations, but this bin or kit will have some specific cold-weather items along with an inventory list on the outside. Having it all in one container also allows you to grab it and go if necessary to bug out.  We just did a video recently covering the items you want to get now before Winter hits, and I’ll post a link to it below, but here are some items to consider for your bin:

  • Fire extinguisher and Carbon Monoxide alarm.
  • Wool blankets and sleeping bags. Blankets you don’t use immediately can also be used to build a fort in a warm room to form a microclimate in your home which leads us to our next item: a tent.
  • A small tent can be set up in your designated warm room to provide you with a significantly warmer environment. 
  • LED flashlights and lanterns. 
  • A well-equipped first aid kit along with a tourniquet.
  • An emergency radio to understand the extent of the power outage. Plus you can power small USB devices with the hand crank.
  • Insulated additional clothing, gloves, scarves, hats, and boots suited for your area. When it comes to clothing, remember to layer them.  Multiple thinner layers are better than just one big jacket.
  • Personal hygiene items for if you need to leave your home. 
  • Fire starters and a portable camp stove with cans of propane.
  • Contractor grade, black trash bags, and duct tape for windows, sanitation, and other multi-purposes.
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  • Aluminum wrap and plastic can also be used taped over windows to create a self-contained vapor lock and slow the heat exchange through windows.
  • Water purification and treatment methods because snow and ice may still harbor bacteria or toxins, and municipal treatment facilities may be offline.
  • Shelf-stable food, which will supplement your existing supplies. I prefer keeping freeze-dried food available as it only requires adding hot water.  
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  • Hot water bottle and regular water bottle with hydration, electrolyte-balancing, and flavor powders stored inside.
  • A multi-tool of some type.
  • If you have a backup source of power such as a gas or solar generator, heating pads, a heating blanket, a hotplate, a heating coil, and extension cords for small electronics are all considerations for your pre-made kit.
  • Keep cash on hand (in small bills) in case you have to go to the store to get something and credit card machines are down.  Some stores may still accept cash.

Having these items ready to go in one place reduces your anxiety of having to scavenge around your house, potentially in the dark, to find these items.  I’ve heard from friends you went through the Texas snowmaggedon who weren’t prepared and struggled to find even a flash light once the power went out.  Have this basic container staged in an accessible area so you can act quickly.

So now that we’ve defined what we can do now let’s discuss what to do after the power goes out during a storm.  

IMPLEMENTING YOUR PLAN AFTER THE DISASTER

Electric Kettle

  1. AIR & WARM AREA STAGING: Once the disaster begins, the first thing we want to do is to stay calm.  You’ve prepared for this moment, so let’s begin to implement some practical steps.  First, we need to select a designated warmer room, like a living room, off of a kitchen and move to that room.  Stay in one room if possible to conserve heat.  Ideally, the smaller the room, the better, as it will be easier to heat up than a large room.  Pitch a tent or build a fort under a table with blankets draped over it to create an area of warmth. The most immediate threat in freezing temperatures is hypothermia.  Inside your fort or tent, use blankets, sleeping bags, a space heater (if you’ve got a power station) or any available insulation to create a warm environment. Stage fire extinguishers in easy-to-access locations where they’re easy to grab, especially if you live in a home connected to other homes or apartments or if you plan to use open flame sources. Bring your cold weather bin and stored water into this designated warm room and seal off doorways with thin plastic and windows with duct tape and black contractor bags. The black bags will absorb any sunlight heat. Even though you are sealing yourself off into your defined room you’ll keep warm, you will still want to ensure that some air is circulating. That may just mean a window cracked ¼ inch, but you need fresh air.  While staying warm is crucial, you must ensure proper ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning if you’re using any type of open flame. If you’re using a portable heater, or any other combustion-based heat source, ensure it’s placed in a well-ventilated area, and use CO detectors.  Most modern portable gas heaters like the Mr. Heater Buddy have sensors that will shut off if oxygen is low, but having CO detectors is crucial.  Additionally, if you have a fireplace, make sure you have wood prepared in advance.  The key here is to find a small enough space you can keep relatively warmer than the rest of the house.  Set up shop here.Water Barrels
  2. WATER:

Once the power goes down, you will want to fill sinks and tubs halfway as having water available can serve many purposes apart from just drinking water such as flushing toilets and cleaning.  While the water may run for day or two, if lines freeze or pumps stop running, you may lose it entirely . In cold weather that drops below freezing, allowing faucets to drip slightly can help prevent them from freezing over by keeping water flowing through the pipes. Keep hydrated by melting snow or ice if necessary for drinking water. Boil it if possible or use water purification tablets to kill any contaminants. When municipal lines fail do to freezing temperatures, you will very likely need to rely upon water you’ve stored in advance.  Bring emergency supplies of water into your warm room. Consider insulating large water containers if stored in an unheated garage by putting insulative materials like blankets around or over them.

Open cabinets under sinks to expose the pipes to warmer air circulation. If the cold temperatures persist for several nights, consider turning off the main water valve or well pumps and draining pipes by open the faucets to let the water all drain out.  This is done to minimize the chance of pipe damage. 

  1. LAYER UP:

Woman In BlanketIt is critical that you stay warm but not sweaty.  We want to keep our core temperatures up. You can accomplish this by several simple means: layering your clothes, drinking hot liquids, staying inside a sleeping bag or under blankets, using a heating pad or hot water bottle, preferably in a sock to prevent it from burning you.  Keep your extremities warm with hats, gloves, wool or merino socks along with hand warmers if you have them. The goal is to keep your core temperature stable without sweating. 

Finding the right combination of layers can be tricky if you aren’t accustomed to cold weather. Generally, start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep sweat away from your skin. This could be thermal or moisture-wicking fabric.  Next, add pants and a shirt.  Then add an insulating middle layer, like a fleece or down jacket, to trap heat and provide insulation.  Be sure to throw on a cap and gloves along with warm socks. That is usually enough for indoors, but adding an outer shell layer might be necessary.

Burglar

  1. SECURITY & SAFETY: While I debated putting this section into the video, the reality is that some individuals, who are not prepared, will look to either take from others or simply capitalize on the situation. When it comes to security, thieves look for easy opportunities.  We can take a few simple steps to reduce drawing attention.  Let’s secure the perimeter of your home by bringing in any propane tanks attached to grills or firepits. Make sure all ground-level or accessible second-level windows are securely locked. Because of the risk of carbon monoxide buildup, you will want to vent at least one window slightly, preferably on an upper level. A functioning carbon monoxide detector and smoke alarm that can run on batteries are essential when cooking or heating indoors with any open flame, but these detectors should already be a part of your home. 
  1. FOOD

Homecooked FoodPlan your meals to cook perishable foods first. If you’re kitchen will be one of the areas you’ll be trying to keep warm, you’ll want to place frozen foods in a cooler in a secure location outside, on a balcony, or in an unheated garage. Since you already have food preps in addition to the food you live on daily, plan out meals based on the number of people, calories required, and perishability of your food. Break out the camp stove to cook on if your regular stovetop and oven are inoperable. If you have non-perishable food supplies, ration them to make them last longer. In the first few days, you will be eating well because you may need to consume your perishable food supply. You want to minimize cooking time and preparation. Favor stews that can simply be warmed once cooked but will contain many ingredients. If your oven is still working in the early hours and days, bake as much as possible. Bread and cookies will keep for a long time, provide carbohydrates, and cooking them will contribute to the home’s warmth. It is a misconception that natural gas will continue to flow in a power outage. While some main pumping stations do run generators and pumps on the natural gas they are pumping, the sensors, safety features, and equipment further down the line rely on the electrical grid. Use your resources wisely. Begin preparing meals with an eye toward conserving and rationing your prepping food supply.

Ham Radio

  1. COMMUNICATION: Try to maintain communication with the outside world, especially if you may need emergency assistance. If your cell phone is working, keep it charged using portable chargers and backup batteries or by periodically running your car in a well-ventilated area. A battery-powered or hand-crank emergency radio can also provide important information. If the power outage is extensive and you anticipate being without power for an extended period, contact local emergency services and community resources for assistance. / They may be able to provide shelter, food, or medical help if your house becomes inhospitable. Knowing your neighbor on a first-name basis is always beneficial because communities thrive together. Remember to do what you can for any neighbors with special needs or who are elderly. Even a small care package for them might make a tremendous differerence.
  1. ENERGY: Portable EnergyWe’ve become so accustomed to on-demand power in our modern world that the moment our electricity goes offline, for many, it’s easy to feel vulnerable.  With an aging powergrid challenged by weather extremes, having some type of backup power source has become more commonplace.  I’d recommend you check out my annual review I released this year which shows how they stack up against each other. Traditional gas generators have been the solution for many and it has its place, but with the advancements in solar and battery technology, these options are becoming more affordable than just a few years ago. Even the smallest of systems will provide you with potential days of power for emergency lighting, radios, and communication devices, personal heating devices like blankets or heating pads, necessary medical equipment, cooking equipment, and much more. A low-wattage heating pad running a meager 44 watts will operate for days and can provide heat and warmth to a well-contained and insulated area like your tent or warm zone. Even a few degrees over several hours will keep the cold away. If you ration usage and trickle charge these units back up with solar, you could have a near-limitless energy supply.

Be sure to check out our new video, 23 Affordable Winter Survival Items to Get Now.  You can click here on the side of your screen and I’ll also post a link in the description and comment section below. What’s your best winter advice? Share it in the comments below, and let’s learn from each other.

As always, stay safe out there.

LINKS: 

Warning! This Winter May be One of The Worst in Years

4 Critical Rules to Survive A Winter Power Outage

24 Affordable Winter Survival Items to Get Now (How to Survive a Winter Power Outage)

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Kay H.
Kay H.
7 months ago

Thanks for all the good advice. I always fill large thermos bottles with hot water if a storm is predicted that might cause a power outage. I can have tea, cocoa or instant soups etc with minimal effort. And I turn up the furnace. I have cement floors with radiant heat. The house can stay comfortable for a couple of days without power .

homebear88
7 months ago

Thanks for this detailed and helpful summary. Much appreciated.
Something to consider is unplugging all your electrical appliances when the power goes down. I believe this helps protect them from voltage surges should the power suddenly come back on unexpectedly. I’m not sure how reliable surge protectors can be in that event? I guess it depends on the quality of the surge protector as a product? You can easily test the power status in the meantime by briefly switching a light on and off at any time.

Last edited 7 months ago by homebear88

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