Prepping Basics

Survival Planning for Winter Blackouts

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For a couple of years now, consumers have noticed rising prices at the gas pump. More recently, word has begun circulating that various countries are facing a shortage of fuel that could supply homes with the warmth that they need to survive and enjoy comfort through the winter months.

Gas supplies are already low at this time, causing some families to go without the heat they are used to for heating their homes. In New England, the power grid operators are already warning about the need for rolling blackouts to conserve energy during the harsh winter.

Add to this the fact that diesel supplies are on the verge of running out, which means the transportation of fuel will become even more limited, and you have a recipe for disaster that many survival preppers are concerned about.

Government officials and corporations have basically left consumers on their own to try to figure out how to get through cold winter months without any source of heat or electricity at times – telling everyone to simply conserve energy.

Therefore, you need to be prepared for a worst-case scenario this winter, and now is the time to stock up on supplies that can not only help you survive but provide you and your loved ones with the comfort you need to ensure a positive state of mind.

Expect to Be Without Power

While many energy operators have no problem keeping the lights on at an athletic stadium, they won’t hesitate to turn off the grid to millions of homes around the country in an instant.

You never want to rely on the head of a corporation or a government official to make a decision that will keep your home connected to the grid – even in the worst weather conditions.

You want to expect that the power will be shut off at some point this winter. For how long, you don’t know. It might be 15 minutes or 3 hours. It might even be days if the grid is crippled by demand.

Typically, the coldest months aren’t October or November, but December through the end of February instead. This is when you are most at risk for losing power due to a grid-down situation or forced blackout.

Expect certain hours to provide more of a risk than others. Daytime typically isn’t as crucial as the evening and night hours are. This is not only when the temperature begins to dip lower, but it’s also when people come home from work, and begin using the electricity in their home more.

So you want to be ready to take action during the hours of 4 PM to 9 PM, in particular. Because it gets dark earlier, you want to have some form of lighting ready immediately so that you can see enough to put your winter blackout preparation plan into action.

This might include the use of candles, flashlights, or even solar lamps that are fully charged up and ready to be used at a moment’s notice. You also want to keep your phone charged at all times, because this will have a built-in flashlight you can use in an emergency, too.

Think About Everything You’ll Lose the Ability to Use

Being prepared means looking at everything you won’t be able to use. It’s not just about heating, although in the harsh winter climate, this is often the most pressing concern. If the grid is shut off or becomes crippled, you’ll lose much more than the ability to keep warm.

You won’t have any lights, as we’ve discussed. But you also won’t be able to cook with any electric appliances like your oven, stove, microwave, etc. You’ll lose the use of a washing machine, washer and dryer, too.

Bathing will be impossible because you won’t have any hot water, and stepping into an ice cold shower without being able to get warm afterwards would be unwise. In fact, some homes have their water connected to the power, so you may lose running water as well.

Communication will be limited during this time. You won’t be able to turn on the TV and watch the news to see when they expect the grid to be back up. You won’t have the ability to get online and research anything about it on the Internet.

You might be able to use your phone, but unless you have a solar charger, you’ll quickly run out of battery and eventually, that will be useless to you as well. If you have any medical situation that requires oxygen or some sort of machine to survive, you might be excluded from a blackout, but if it’s not a planned one, you may have no assistance there.

If you go out driving anywhere, expect it to be more dangerous. Your traffic lights won’t be in working condition. There will be a big strain on first responders and police, so they may not be readily available.

If you need to buy groceries, don’t expect to be able to swipe your card at the store – or even use an ATM to take money out. You have to have cash on hand or you won’t be picking anything up to help you get through the rough patch.

Start By Winterizing Your Home

You should always have your home in the proper condition to keep it cool or warm, depending on the season. Weatherizing, or in this case winterizing your home starts with securing all of your doors and windows to prevent the heat from escaping.

You can have specific windows installed that will help with the insulation, but you can also put up some thermal window products to help keep the heat in and the cold weather out.

Simple weather stripping can help, as can caulk. But you may want to get a kit that will help trapped the heat in your home. You can also find cellular shades and thermal lined drapes to help keep the heat in and the cold winter air out.

If you are on a budget, you may want to buy some simple bubble wrap to place over the window and frame when a power outage hits so that it keeps the chill from entering the room.

You can also find a film that can be placed over your window to help control the indoor temperatures. While many people use this to keep the sun out, it can also be used to trap the heat inside your home, and keep the temperature stable for a longer period of time.

For your doors, you want to make sure your weather stripping is not falling apart. You can also purchase a draft guard that can be placed below the door to keep any air from escaping or entering your home if there is a gap between the door and the floor.

Make sure you figure out how long it has been since you installed new insulation in your attic. This can help prevent the heat from dissipating through your roof, and during the summer months, it can keep your home cool.

Not only do you want to conserve the heat that you do currently have right before the power goes out, but you also want to have a way to initiate warmth in the home once the temperature drops to an uncomfortable level.

Try to prevent family members from opening and closing the door to go in and out of the home, because this is when the hot air escapes and cold winter air rushes in to fill its space.

This is also the time that you want to have a safety check done on your fireplace. The last thing you want to do is rely on your fireplace for warmth, only to discover it is inoperable when you need it most.

Make sure you also protect your pipes before the possibility of a grid down situation occurs. If your water relies on electricity, you may not be able to turn the faucet slightly on so that it drips and prevents the pipes from freezing and bursting.

Gather Supplies You Need to Function Without Power

Next, it’s time to stock up on supplies that you may need if and when the power goes down. This is separate from the food supplies, which we will discuss next. You have to think about supplies that will come in handy when there is no electricity.

If you have the funds, you may want to purchase a generator for your home. They have both fuel and solar generators that you can invest in. The larger the generator, the more you will be able to provide energy to your appliances.

Don’t wait until the last minute to try to purchase a generator, because they often dwindle in supply whenever there is a forecast for treacherous weather conditions such as a blizzard or freezing temperatures.

You also want to make sure you have plenty of batteries on hand for anything that relies on them. Whether it’s your flashlights, a radio, or something else – you want to find good deals on various sizes of batteries so that you are well stocked up when you need it.

You may not have energy during a winter hazard, but you do have the sun in most cases. Even if the sun is not shining brightly, you can use a solar charger to provide energy for small gadgets such as a smartphone.

There are other solar tools you may want to have on hand, such as a solar oven or solar cooker that will allow you to cook food if you do not have electricity to power up your stove or oven.

You also want to get a radio so that you can have a method to listen to communications about the winter weather as well as any efforts to restore power to the grid. With a survival radio, it can be powered with batteries, with solar power, but also through the use of a hand crank.

In an effort to see during the nighttime hours, you will want to have a variety of options such as a kerosene lamp, a solar lamp that you can charge during the day so that you can see at night, and even candles – as long as they are used safely and properly.

Make sure you have plenty of blankets that you and your loved ones, as well as your pets can get under to keep warm. You may want to get a winter weather sleeping bag that is rated for freezing temperatures.

Make sure you get one for each member of your family. You will also survive better if you have an indoor tent that you can erect so that all of the family members can get inside and use the warmth from their body to keep it trapped in a small space.

Don’t forget to stock up on wood for your fireplace. You may or may not be able to find any or even get out of your driveway to go get some, so it’s always best to have a cord of firewood on hand in case you need it.

Stock Up on Foods You Can Use Without Electricity

The next thing you want to do to prepare for winter blackouts is to stock up on foods that you can eat without using electricity or even having to go outside and cook. One thing you may want to get plenty of are meals ready to eat (MREs).

These survival packages include a flameless ration heater(FRH) that will heat up the foods and make them warm without you having to ignite any kind of fire in order to cook it.

For these, you basically add water to your meal and then allow the heating element to take over until it fully heats your food for you. These are not dangerous and can give you and your family a boost of warmth in a miserable situation.

You also want to get things like soups and hearty stews that you can open and warm up over a tool like canned heat or even through the creation of a tea light oven. If you have a fireplace, you can also cook foods in your fireplace if you have the right equipment.

Make sure you have plenty of foods that do not require any kind of cooking, too. For example, you can purchase fruit that is pre packaged in its own juices. Breakfast bars or protein bars can come in handy to keep energy levels up.

You’ll want to have nut butters and bread on hand, as well as many snacks. You can also stock up on cereal and use powdered milk with water. For protein, you can find meat that comes in a can or in pouches.

Warm oatmeal, or cereals that can be heated, can also be a welcomed option for your family members who want to warm up from the inside with a hot meal. Any kind of hot meal will do.

Make sure you also take into consideration the beverages that your family will need and want during a winter situation. Warm drinks such as cocoa, coffee, and even tea can bring a sense of comfort and enjoyment during an otherwise harsh situation.

While some people may grab a bottle of liquor because it immediately provides you with a warming sensation, make sure you steer clear of the alcohol when the grid is down. It actually lowers your body temperature and can cause more harm than good if you are in freezing temperatures.

Keep in mind that if you stock up on canned goods, you won’t be able to use an electric can opener. You need to have a hand operated can opener if you want to consume these goods.

If you have a grill or smoker outside, you can also take some of your frozen goods that may or may not begin to spoil and go ahead and cook those outside so that your family can consume them before they go bad.

Don’t be afraid to feed your family easy foods that will satisfy their hunger and keep their energy up, even if they aren’t necessarily the most nutritious meals. A simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich or peanut butter and crackers can work wonders.

Keep Your Gas Tank Full

Keeping your gas tank full during the winter months, is always a smart idea if you are commuting or driving anywhere. You don’t want to break down when it is freezing outside Because you ran out of gas.

But it’s also smart to keep your gas tank topped off even if you are hunkered down at home, and not planning on going anywhere. You never know if and when you’ll need to make a quick trip to the store or even go somewhere in an emergency if there is a grid down situation.

If you are at home, your car can serve as a source for you to get through the harsh winter conditions. For example, if the weather has dropped a significant amount inside your home, you can pop into your car and turn the heater on.

While it may take a few minutes for it to warm up, you and your family can thaw out for a few minutes and get a reprieve from the freezing conditions that are making life miserable inside and out.

Another thing you can do if you have a car filled with gas that you can start is charge your phone app. If you haven’t had the chance to get a backup charger or solar charger, you may have a phone charger in your car that you can plug into your phone to get it to a full charge.

Being able to start your car in a grid down situation will also allow you to listen to the radio. If you haven’t gotten a NOAA weather radio for emergency purposes, you will be able to start your car and listen to the local AM stations that will inform you about the progress that the electric company is making on getting your grade up and functional.

Make sure you do not start your car and sit inside of it if it is in your garage. It must be outside or under a carport so that you are not in danger of suffocating from too much carbon monoxide.

Conserve Warmth and Hunker Down for a Cold Spell

Once you have all of your supplies, you want to learn how to immediately conserve the heat in your home and prepare for more than just a few minutes without electricity. You want to be able to put your plan into action as soon as you get notice that there will be a blackout, or the minute the electricity shuts off.

Make sure you have a list of everything you need to gather at that time. Start by taking out a tent that is big enough for your family and pets to all fit in. You want to set it up on top of some warm blankets or even on top of a large bed.

Get your winter weather sleeping bags inside the tent, along with any other items you may want, such as books or games. These will help prevent the family from feeling bored and nervous about the situation.

If you have not winterized your windows and doors, take action to quickly put up the bubble wrap and prevent the draft from allowing heat to escape from your doors or letting the cold weather in.

You want to close off your winter survival area from the rest of the house, and keep it as warm as possible. You don’t want to put your tent in the middle of a large living room in an open space home, but instead place it strategically in one small room such as a bedroom where the heat will stay trapped longer.

If you have an upstairs part of your home, make sure you go there to hunker down for the winter weather. Heat rises, and you will be warmer in that situation than staying downstairs or in a basement.

If you have some rooms that have carpet, and other rooms that have wood floors, choose a room that has carpet so that you have an extra layer of insulation below the tent.

If you have gotten word that the grid will be down for a significant period of time, such as hours or days, you may want to go ahead and start your grill or other outdoor cooking method and begin cooking the meat that thaws out.

Make sure you have quick access to the snacks and foods that you will want to eat so that you don’t have to continually open and close the door to the tent that your family is staying in.

Get up and move around to keep the blood flowing and to raise the temperature of your body. It doesn’t take much – some jumping jacks or running in place is fine, or you could even play a game that involves exercise.

Make sure everyone has layers of clothing to put on. You want to be able to remove clothes if you get too hot so that you aren’t sweating and then freezing, and you also want to be able to add layers if you start to feel a chill.

You only have about 8 to 10 hours of warmth in your home once the electricity fully goes out. That’s not much time to get everything ready. Get your generator ready, but make sure it is kept outdoors so that it does not cause a buildup of carbon monoxide.

What to Do Once the Power Is Restored

Check for damage and spoiled items once the power comes back on. You don’t want to simply continue eating foods that were in the refrigerator or freezer, even if it felt cold in your home.

Unless it was freezing inside, your food may have spoiled, and you will need to replace anything that has gone bad. Keep in mind that your home may have stayed warm for up to 10 or more hours, and in that time, some of your food may have spoiled.

You should immediately go and restock all of the supplies that you went through during the winter weather. This may include survival foods that kept you fed, but it can also include things like batteries that you used, candles, and so on.

Also take time to recharge your solar gadgets. You want everything to be charged up and ready to be used again. Typically, during winter weather spells, these winter blackouts will not just happen once, but multiple times over the course of the season.

Make sure all of your appliances are in working order, including your hot water heater. If you notice any issues in that or in your plumbing and pipes, you need to immediately call a professional to check on it so that you don’t incur long term damage.

If anyone in your family suffered any sort of health condition from the outage, make sure you get them to a medical center immediately. Hypothermia and frostbite can come on quickly, so you may need to seek help quickly, even before the grid is restored if first responders can get to you.

Clean out your fireplace if it was used during the outage so that it will be ready for the next blackout or even a simple the evening of enjoyment. Restock any of the wood supplies that you went through.

Make a list of supplies that you wish you had had during the power outage. Sometimes, you will be in the middle of a situation and then have an eye-opening experience that you were not prepared in some way.

Immediately make a list of supplies that you need to get or actions that you need to take in case this were to happen again and make plans to take care of those items as soon as possible so that you are well prepared before the next winter blackout.

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