A power outage in any season is a challenge, but winter blackouts are especially difficult. Freezing temperatures can burst pipes, conjure hypothermia and make comfort a distant memory.
Being prepared and thinking smart will take the edge off a winter blackout. Here are a few tips.
Before the Winter Blackout
* First and foremost, having blankets, sleeping bags and warm clothes ready is essential.
* Create a home survival kit. That might seem like Living Ready‘s catch-all answer to everything, but it really is that important. Winter blackouts, holiday tornadoes, catastrophic hurricanes, solar flares, wildfires, it doesn't matter. Home survival kits are the best way to be prepared prior to any routine-disrupting event. Click here for how to make a home survival kit.
* Figure out what to do about refrigerated medicine. It's tempting to think cold-storage medicines (insulin, for example) can be put outside during a winter blackout. That's not the best idea if the medicine must not freeze.
One idea is to have a small cooler on hand for storing the medicine in the fridge. That extra insulation will extend the life of the medicine until the power comes back.
* Identify a warm room. This would be a room with a door that shuts and space for everyone to sleep. Bedrooms and offices are the best options.
Sleeping together in one room with the door shut concentrates body heat. Even without a heater, this could make all the difference.
* Insulate windows. The old trick of using a hairdryer and plastic wrapping will go a long way during a winter blackout.
* Plan for how a heater will be used, if at all. Is there enough firewood in reserve for that wood stove? Are there extension cords for that electric heater drawing from the generator? Do you understand why bringing a portable gas stove indoors is a bad idea?
* Learn how to make a basic candle heater. This is perfect for warming hands indoors. Turn a ceramic gardening pot upside down and place it on three glass jars of equal height. Light a candle under the pot. The heat trapped by the pot is ideal for warming cold, stiff hands. This simple trick is surprisingly effective.
During the Winter Blackout
* As with any blackout, it's a good idea to unplug appliances and electronics. When the power is restored, the surge could knock out those items.
* Don't sweat it, both literally and figuratively. Moving around gets warm blood flowing, but don't overexert. Break a sweat and you'll get cold in a hurry.
Also, cold weather survival is a state of mind. Know that everything will be OK. Stay positive. Chances are only made worse by negative thinking.
* Don't open doors to the outside unless absolutely necessary. That may mean people and pets go to the bathroom indoors. If it makes the difference between freezing and not, the mess is worth it.
* Try to enjoy the positives of a winter blackout. It's time for family activities, minus the gadgets. Play games, prepare food together or just talk.
A journey outside can be rewarding, too. Ever seen the International Space Station traverse the western sky through Orion just before dawn? Or appreciated how incredible Venus or Mars look in the east each morning? Cosmic sights may have been obscured by light pollution prior to the winter blackout. Take advantage of the opportunity.
After the Winter Blackout
* Hindsight is 20/20. Make a list of everything that went well. Then make one of the things that did not. Update emergency plans accordingly.
* Appreciate the fact it's over. As stated before, survival is a state of mind. Getting through a winter blackout provides a frame of reference for other events. If a winter blackout can be managed, other emergencies may seem less potent.