How to Survive a Winter Power Outage

by Becky BlantonDecember 27, 2017

Chances are you’ve experienced a power outage thanks to winter weather. Most power outages last a few hours, but others can last for days or weeks. If you’re not prepared for them, or can’t afford to relocate to a hotel or area with power, a long outage can be miserable. Now’s the time to beat the rush to the store in preparation of the first winter outage!
Electronics battery

Stay warm

The first thing you notice when the power goes out, is so does your heat. Unless you heat with gas, the cold is the first thing you and your family will notice. Here are some ways to bring heat into your home:
Carbon Monoxide Detector

  1. Hang dark colored blankets in the windows. The dark color will pull in heat, making things a little less unbearable. Unfortunately, this only works during the day.
  2. Buy Privacy Pop tents for all your beds. These bed tents are designed to shut out light for better sleep, but they also hold in warmth from body heat. They’re great for kids, who get the sense of “camping out,” but adults also benefit from warmth and privacy.
  3. Invest in extra batteries to charge all your electronic devices. Your home power may be out, but your cell phone will still work. Having a laptop, tablet or other battery-powered device may help you stay in touch with family, and friends. Kids can also stay busy and entertained with tablets – but you need to refresh them. Invest in several cell phone batteries and keep them charged. Consider a portable battery charger for your car too. Cold weather can often sap or kill weak or aging car batteries and an electric trickle charger just won’t work without power.
  4. Buy a Mr. Heater Big Buddy propane heater. These camping heaters are rated for indoor/outdoor use and when properly used are a great way to warm a room. They come in two sizes and are designed to provide temporary heat for barns, sheds, cabins, campers, patios, garages, sporting events, hunting blinds, and power outages. They combine radiant heat with convection heat airflow for maximum heating efficiency. Depending on their size, they have 4,000, 9,000 or 18,000 BTU with the capacity to heat up to 450 square feet for up to 108 hours on 20-lb. propane tank. Don’t forget to buy the propane and any accompanying hoses. Follow instructions for proper ventilation. While they can be safely used indoors, they do need to have proper ventilation – including an open door or window.
  5. Equip your home with battery powered carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. Face it, when you’re “freezing to death,” or feel like you are, the temptation to heat your home with your propane grill, stove, or even a fire in a flowerpot seems like a good idea. The problem is, the carbon monoxide from emergency heating hacks kills hundreds of people every year. Having a battery powered carbon monoxide detector, and a smoke detector, can alert you to dangerously low oxygen levels before they kill you.
  6. Make sure every family member has a good warm knit cap (great for sleeping), a sleeping bag rated to zero degrees, warm gloves, a good scarf, and thick wool socks. Learn how to dress in layers to stay warm.

Outdoor stove

Stay fed

Okay, a winter storm and a power outage is not the apocalypse, even if it may feel like it. The good news is, if it’s cold outside, your food is likely to stay cold too. If you’re worried about it, keep several coolers on hand to move your food into, then store the coolers on a back porch, deck, or somewhere temps range from 40° F or below for refrigerated foods, and below 32° F for frozen foods. The only change you’ll see in eating really, is what you cook and where.

  1. Invest in something to cook or heat food and water on. This is where camping gear can be a lifesaver. Again, you need to be very careful about carbon monoxide buildup. Things like a Jetboil cooking systems are affordable, boil water or cook rapidly and safely, and are small enough to store in a kitchen cabinet.
  2. Stockpile water. If you start buying a couple of cases of water, or the larger 5-gallon water bottles now, (usually $4-$7 at your local grocery store) you’ll have a stockpile of water (3 gallons per day per person) if your power goes out. In some areas water is not immediately affected by a power outage, but eventually your pipes will freeze unless you leave water trickling from your spigots. Either way, you’ll need water.
  3. Keep a large supply plastic forks, spoons, cups, and plates on hand. You can heat water for washing dishes, but it’s much easier to eat off of paper plates and toss everything instead.
  4. Keep a variety of non-refrigerated foods available. This includes packs of food you eat regularly, canned soups, canned tuna, crackers, cookies, rice, beans, etc.
  5. Consider a portable wood burning stove. If you’re afraid of gas or propane cookers, consider a portable camping wood-burning stove. Not only can you cook, heat and even bake on these stoves, you can buy them with an accompanying water attachment to heat up to 5 gallons of water for bathing or other uses. These stoves can be easily and quickly set up so they vent out an open window, or can be used outdoors as well. Most cost around $59 to $75 on Amazon, or camping sites.
  6. And finally, plan on having at least two five gallon buckets on hand in case your toilet stops flushing. Top the bucket with a standard toilet seat, available from any home store. Line the bucket with a double layer of trash bags. Close and dispose of the bags in a large outdoor trash can or area when used. You can also buy camping toilets at Walmart or any camping store. Don’t forget hand cleaners (you can use plain old vinegar if you don’t have cleaners), body wipes, tissues, and trash bags.

Don’t see a power outage as a negative thing. Consider it an adventure and enjoy it. It’s easier to get through when you’re prepared, so act now.

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About The Author
Becky Blanton
Becky Blanton is a full-time ghostwriter and writing coach for Fortune 500 companies, CEOs, and business speakers. In 2009 she spoke at TED Global at Oxford University, her first ever public speaking gig. When she's not writing, she's kayaking in the Chesapeake Bay. Her dream home is to live aboard a sailing or houseboat.