I remember my dad telling me about the winter of ’49 that swept across Wyoming the day after New Year’s Day. It hung around for weeks, crippling life in the little town of Basin. It affected several states and a dozen people died in what would turn out to be the worst storm of the 20th century.
We are trying to make sure we have everything we need well ahead of the coming winter, just in case fate decides to gift us with the worst storm of the 21st century. Because you just never know. I’m sure my family who lived through the blizzard of 1949 weren’t expecting record snow and cold, but I do know they were ready because they were always ready for an emergency.
It’s where I learned how to be prepared.
It’s one thing to have a power outage during spring, summer or fall, but with winters that can be deadly in just a few minutes or hours of exposure like we can have here, it’s really important for us to be ready to face that sudden reality.
So how are we preparing?
- Food & ways to cook it without power (grill, solar oven, etc)
- Medicines & First aid supplies
- Blankets & sleeping bags
- Extra cold weather clothing (wool socks, gloves, scarves, snow suits & boots, etc)
- Snow shovels & ice scrapers
- Tire chains, jumper cables, incendiary flares, spare tire
- Fuel for cooking, lighting and heating (firewood, kerosene, propane, coal)
- Candles, lighters/matches, batteries
- Solar powered phone charger & emergency radio
Some helpful hints I’ve learned over the years from friends, family and just doing general research on prepping for surviving a bad winter emergency may come in handy, too.
Helpful Tips for Surviving Winter Emergencies:
- Buy winter boots and coats that are one size bigger than you normally wear to give plenty of room for layering
- Get a battery powered carbon monoxide detector for when you are using an indoor propane heater and make sure you can ventilate the room you use it in
- Pitch a tent in one room and cover it with blankets to create a warm place so you don’t have to try to heat the entire room or house
- Use Reflectix or several inexpensive reflective blankets to insulate the walls of one room of your home and cover the windows with heavy blankets to keep the cold out *remember to leave access for ventilation though if you use a space heater*
- Invest in a high quality sleeping bag for each family member – they can literally save your life
- Keep a hot water bottle for each family member to put in their sleeping bag or under the blanket at the foot of the bed to keep warm. If you don’t have a hot water bottle, you can wrap a brick in tin foil and set it next to your propane heater or fire to warm it and use it carefully the same way you would a water bottle (my grandmother used baked potatoes!)
- Drain your hot water tank so it doesn’t freeze, turn off water main and open taps to prevent bursting pipes
- Keep the gas tank in your vehicle(s) full at all times during winter in case you have to use it to warm up in
- Keep your propane regulator free of ice by making sure the vent hole points downwards all the time. Sometimes the vent is under a sticker. Remove sticker.
- Boil a pot of water on your cook stove if you have one indoors – moist air retains heat
- Place a block of ice or a bucket of frozen water in the fridge and use it as an old-fashioned icebox
- If you have pets, make sure you bring them in (their body heat can work well to keep you toasty!) or use straw to insulate their area.
We have firewood as a backup and are considering adding a wood stove to the house but then I found a comment on a prepper video and found it to be very helpful:
As far as stoves, always a coal stove. Coal stoves burn wood, coal, and anything up to and including witches, very well, but wood stoves will only burn wood. Coal doesn’t go bad, you can leave it out in the weather and it doesn’t matter, it has been stable for millions of years and will continue to be stable well beyond human extinction. Coal is relatively inexpensive, about $250-300 CAD per ton. A ton of coal is equivalent to several cords of hard wood and stores in a significantly smaller footprint. The stoves cost about the same. In winter put a bucket of frozen water in the fridge and use it like an old school ice box. If people are worried about how to function, perhaps it would be a better use of their time to look into how the Victorians or Edwardians lived. At that time, the population as a whole, lived well without any significant electrification. I would suggest the BBC Victorian Farm series.
I also recommend all of those BBC farm series as well as the Victorian pharmacy ones, too! They are brilliant and so well made. We own all of them and watch them over and over.
You can buy coal at your local Tractor Supply or hardware store from what I can find so it’s definitely something to consider. We are looking at stoves with cook tops on them and we’re also interested in antiques so if we can find one that is a working antique coal stove, then that’s probably what we’ll get. Maybe not a full sized one because our house is quite small, but they come in all different sizes so it shouldn’t be too hard to find the right one. Not far from us is a place that restores and sells those types of antique stoves, so we’re going to be paying them a visit soon.
If you have any other tips to add, feel free to drop a comment. I’m always looking for ways to prepare for winter survival!