Prepare Your House for Winter Storms
Know the supplies and smarts you’ll need when rough weather hits
Are you ready for the next Polar Vortex? Getting prepared means more than just stocking up on bread and milk at the first sign of snow. Here's what you need to know, and do, to keep your home and family safe in the event of a Snowpocalypse.
Shovels, fuel and more
If you live in a place where it snows a lot, you likely have a few snow shovels already. If you also have a snow blower or plow, make sure you have fuel on hand to run it. Be sure to keep it in proper fuel containers in a well-ventilated area separate from the house — not in your basement.
To tackle the elements, you’ll need rock salt or another snow and ice melter like calcium chloride to spread on your steps and sidewalk. If you have pets, check with your vet. Not all of these are safe for animals. To be on the safe side, you might choose to throw down sandbox sand instead. You can find it at toy stores and any large retailer.
If you use a fireplace or wood-burning stove, it’s also wise to stock up on dry, seasoned wood. It may come in handy if your power goes out. It’s fine to keep a small amount of firewood in or next to your house.
Radio and communication smarts
If you live in a storm-prone part of the country, consider buying a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio System radio with a battery backup. They cost from $12-$50 and are available online and in home and hardware stores. The National Weather Service broadcasts around the clock. Be sure the radio has a “specific area message encoder” feature that will alert you when a watch or warning is targeted for your area.
If you don’t want to invest in one of these, at least keep a battery-powered regular radio on hand so you can listen to local news and weather forecasts.
If a storm does hit and some family members aren’t home, you’ll want a way to communicate with each other. Sure, there’s always cell phones — unless service goes down or your battery runs out. Plan alternative ways to get in touch, such as Facebook, Twitter or other social sites. The Red Cross has a “Safe and Well” website that allows family and friends to check on each other after a disaster. Register online or call 1-866-GET-INFO to sign up.
Stock up to hunker down
Because you may be stuck inside for a while, it’s a good idea to load up on pantry and grocery items. Choose food that won’t spoil, such as protein bars, cans of soup, crackers and cereal.
Make sure you also have plenty of batteries, medications, pet food and bottled water. You’ll need one gallon of water per person per day during storms that keep you stranded inside without running water. If you have a baby in the house, you obviously want to stockpile diapers, formula and baby food.
Guard the house from trouble
Winterize your home by making sure walls and attics are insulated, doors and windows are weather-stripped and storm windows (if you have them) are installed. Make sure gutters have been recently cleaned and any roof leaks patched. Inspect trees close to your home and check that any large branches or dead trees that could fall are removed. Have heaters and chimneys cleaned and inspected annually. It’s a good idea to do it right before cold weather moves in.
Also check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure you have working fire extinguishers and that your family knows how to use them. Safety experts say fires in the home can happen in the winter when dangerous heating sources are used during power outages.
During freezing temperatures, keep pipes from freezing by leaving the tap on just a tiny bit. Do this with faucets that come straight from outside or run through an unheated or exposed space. You can also pad pipes with special pipe sleeves or heat tape that will help keep them from freezing, advises the American Red Cross. Know how to shut off your home’s main water valve in case a pipe bursts.
If power goes out, close off any rooms you’re not using and stuff towels under the doors to save heat. Make sure to eat enough to help you stay warm (food helps your body maintain its heat). And of course, bring your pets inside. They can comfort the family and help supply warmth as you ride out the storm together.