Cold storms at this time of year can be mild, lasting several hours, or severe, lasting several days. Strong winds and subzero temperatures often accompany these cold weather events. Knowing how to prepare for these events is important to your and your family’s safety. Here are some things you can do to prepare for bad weather in a cold climate like Michigan.
According to FEMA, there are three phases to dealing with a cold weather emergency. These are preparation, survival and recovery.
What defines a cold weather emergency?
The state of emergency was intended to encourage Michigan residents to take cold weather warnings seriously. A good definition of a cold weather emergency would help. After checking several reliable sources, I found this rule of thumb used by local governments in the Midwest. Still a little confused.
Cold weather emergencies seem to stem from other related weather emergencies. American Red Cross Note two things: winter storm warning is life threatening, Severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours, and blizzard warning Sustained winds of 35 mph or more or frequent gusts, along with significant snowfall or blizzards will reduce visibility to less than a quarter mile and is expected to last 3 hours or more.
When harsh winter weather arrives, it can culminate in chills driven by extremely low temperatures and life-threatening winds.a wind chill alarm Means life-threatening cold, calculated below -40 degrees for at least 3 hours. Exposure to this combination of high winds and low temperatures without protective clothing can quickly lead to frostbite and hypothermia. Long exposure can be fatal. So, while no criteria can be found to indicate a cold weather emergency, all these factors come into play as local and state governments deal with the climate crisis.
Prepare for cold weather emergencies
The first thing you can do to prepare for storms and extreme cold is to gather supplies. We recommend stocking up on a few must-haves (and a few non-essential items) before the next cold front arrives.
#1 First Aid Kit
A first aid kit is an absolute must, especially when the roads are bad and emergency assistance is out of reach. Have a first aid manual and consider taking a first aid certification course like the one offered by the American Red Cross.
#2 Hand-cranked flashlight with NOAA radio and USB port
The great thing about these devices is that they allow you to receive emergency notifications, as well as providing a light and a way to charge your phone in the event of a power outage. It’s also okay to have two batteries that will last you 5 years for your spare LED flashlight.
#3 Easy to drink and practical water
Make sure you have 1 gallon of water per person each day for at least 3 days. Also, ensure a source of tap water for toilets and laundry. You can save your stockpile by filling the tub with water. If you have a source of water nearby and a way to thaw the water if it’s frozen, you can substitute a water filter or purification method.
#Four Prepared food, pantry inventory management
Stock up on foods that are easy to store and prepare for the week. Make sure you have a manual can opener handy.
MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) was originally developed for military use, but many varieties are now available designed for civilian use. They are dehydrated in pouches – add hot water. If you can’t boil water, you can make it with cold water. It’s not particularly appealing, but at least you won’t go hungry!
#Five Sterno Fuel Candle/Can
These provide enough light and enough heat to boil water or heat food. Also, have some boxes of dry matches or lighters ready. If you have outdoor skills, consider purchasing a small camp stove powered by white gas. You can continue cooking even if the power goes out. When cooking on a gas stove, be sure to ventilate the area.
Other Items to Survive Cold-Weather Emergencies
fuel, If you have a fireplace, wood stove, or pellet stove, make sure you have enough fuel to burn. If the electricity goes out, this is a great way to stay warm.
dosageIt is helpful to always have at least a week’s supply of any prescription medications you are using.
Spare diapers and formula if you have a baby.
extra pet food if you have pets.
Adequate winter clothing and bedding. We’re from Michigan, so this should already be covered! For extra warmth and comfort, use a sleeping bag if you have one.
salt Or any other product that melts ice. Road salt is useful to avoid slipping on sidewalks and driveways when digging.
shoveling snowChoose one of the more expensive ergonomic shovels. Trust me, it’s a good investment and your hips will thank you later!
- craft beer. Good to have your MRE with you when the storm is raging outside!
- games and books. After a power outage, you need to do something other than sleep.
Best to refuel yourself so you don’t have to drive. In addition to stocking up on essentials, you should develop a communication plan with your family, including those who do not live in your area. If you have a home generator, make sure it’s in good working order and make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries are fresh. Finally, bring your pet indoors to protect it from the storm.
Cold weather emergency
FEMA recommends staying indoors and off the road during storms. Limit outdoor exposure as much as possible. If you must go outdoors, dress appropriately and wear layers to cover as much skin as possible.
To avoid freezing pipes, do not turn off the thermostat during extreme cold nights and let the faucet drip. It might cost a little more to keep your home warm, but it’s a lot cheaper than fixing frozen pipes and the water damage that comes with it.
When the heat goes down, close the rooms you aren’t using and turn on all the faucets so they’re dripping. If you have a fireplace or wood stove, camp in that room to stay warm. Additionally, do not heat your home with a grill, propane heater, camp stove, or kitchen range.You risk carbon monoxide poisoning.
After the occurrence of a cold region emergency
If the heating or electricity is off for an extended period of time, consider going to a friend or relative’s house (who has electricity), hotel, or community shelter. If temperatures are consistently well below freezing, move the contents of your refrigerator and freezer to the garage or unheated service pouch to prevent food from spoiling.
Please be careful when shoveling snow. Push the snow rather than lift it, take frequent breaks (go inside to warm up), and dress appropriately. Also, be aware of the symptoms of frostbite.
Ensure safety before and after cold weather emergencies
When the next cold front arrives, keep these cold weather emergency preparations in mind. That way, you and your loved ones will feel safe and comfortable even if the weather turns bad. You can find additional information about preparing for winter storms from the Department of Homeland Security and RedCross.org.
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Image credits via Flickr Creative Commons: photojo2005, Simon L., jmannm8400