Monday, November 24, 2014

Winter Preparedness

Last month I was asked to teach a class on winter preparedness at our monthly evening Relief Society meeting. The idea was how we can be prepared to deal with a power outrage in the winter. It was nice to have such a specific scenario as it made it easier to be specific with my recommendations. And it's a scenario that usually occurs at least once a winter, so it's a good thing to plan for.

The first thing I did was list all the things that are impacted when the power goes out and how that affects us. Then I brainstormed some ideas to cope in each situation. These ideas mostly came from personal experience and from things I've read over the years.

Here's the outline I handed out, with links or site recommendations added to some of the specific items I mentioned. (I can also email the document file to you if you want.)

How can we prepare to live without power when it’s freezing outside?

1.    Power
a.     Generator
                                               i.     Whole house
1.     Will power everything
2.     Larger fuel tank needed
3.     Will automatically kick in when power goes out
                                              ii.     Partial house
1.     Will only power a few things or a room at a time
2.     Must store fuel in gas cans and refill fuel tank periodically
a.     Fuel must have stabilizer in it
3.     Must manually start generator and flip switches to power frig, freezer, bedroom, well pump, etc.
b.     Vehicle
                                               i.     Some vehicles will charge phones even when the vehicle is turned off

2.    Water
a.     Well
                                               i.     Well pump must have power or no water will be available
b.     City sewer
                                               i.     You may have water depending on the system used by the city
c.      Storage
                                               i.     Minimum of 1 gallon/person/day
                                              ii.     Jugs
1.     Long term storage depending on material used in jug
                                            iii.     Barrels
1.     Long term storage
2.     May need a pump to access water, depending on style of barrel
                                            iv.     waterBob or similar
1.     temporary solution that you use when the electricity goes out
2.     fills the bathtub and keeps the water clean
d.     Treated
                                               i.     Filter
1.     Berkey or similar can improve taste of water if needed
                                              ii.     Tablets for purifying water

3.    Heat
a.     Gas fireplace
                                               i.     Must have propane in your tank
b.     Wood fireplace
                                               i.     Must have wood stored
c.      Space heater
                                               i.     Can only use if you have a generator
d.     One time use hand and foot warmers
                                               i.     Put in shoes, mittens, pockets, or a sleeping bag
e.     Layer clothing
                                               i.     Wear hats and gloves, even indoors
f.      Move everyone into one room
                                               i.     Fireplace or space heater will keep the room warmer
                                              ii.     Cover windows with blankets for insulation
                                            iii.     Drape blankets over open doorways
                                            iv.     Snuggle together and share body heat

4.    Light
a.     Wax candles
                                               i.     Can be a fire hazard, especially with children around
b.     100 hour candles
                                               i.     longer lasting
                                              ii.     more expensive
c.      flashlights/headlamps
                                               i.     must have batteries
                                              ii.     convenient when you need to use your hands and see what you’re doing
d.     solar lanterns
                                               i.     home made
1.     very inexpensive
2.     don’t give off a lot of light
3.     no batteries needed
                                              ii.     store bought (MPowered)
1.     fairly inexpensive
2.     give off a decent amount of light
3.     no batteries needed

5.    Sanitation
a.     Shower
                                               i.     Baby wipes
                                              ii.     Sponge bath if you have enough stored water
b.     Toilet
                                               i.     Trash bag in toilet (empty water first) or bucket,
1.     Empty water before putting bag in toilet bowl
2.     Put tape over handle so you don’t try to flush it
3.     Sprinkle with kitty litter after every use
4.     Replace bag daily or more frequently if needed (have a bucket to carry the full bag)
5.     Bugs shouldn’t be an issue in winter, but smells will still be present
c.      Hand washing
                                               i.     Pitcher or water bottles next to sinks
                                              ii.     Hand sanitizer when water isn’t available

6.    Food
a.     Frig and freezer
                                               i.     Limit opening so cold doesn’t escape
                                              ii.     Use what’s in the frig before it spoils
                                            iii.     Store jugs of water (ice) in freezer to keep it full and maintain temperature longer
b.     Food storage
                                               i.     Shelf stable items
                                              ii.     Have simple recipes that are easy to prepare and make use of what you have stored
c.      Cooking
                                               i.     Dutch oven, grill, camp stove
1.     Outdoors for proper ventilation
                                              ii.     Gas stove
1.     Carefully turn gas to low, then light with long match

7.    Communication
a.     Phone land lines
b.     Cell phones
                                               i.     Charge in vehicle
c.      Internet
d.     Solar/battery/hand-cranked radio
                                               i.     Weather and news access

8.    Entertainment
a.     Books
b.     Games
                                               i.     Board games
                                              ii.     Card games
c.      Coloring books
d.     Ipad/Ipod (if you can charge in your vehicle)
e.     Treats

9.    Miscellaneous
a.     Pets
                                               i.     Bring pets into your warm room
                                              ii.     Make sure they get adequate food and water
b.     Medications
                                               i.     Keep an adequate supply on hand
                                              ii.     Monitor temperature of temp-sensitive meds
c.      First aid kit
d.     Fire extinguisher
e.     Baby items
                                               i.     Diapers
                                              ii.     Wipes
                                            iii.     formula

Items to have on hand:
            Fuel with stabilizer
            Jugs and/or barrels
            WaterBob                               {}
            Filter or treatment tablets
            Fuel for fireplace
            Space heater (if you have a generator)
            Handwarmers                       {}
            Blankets and sleeping bags
            Candles (wax or 100 hour) {, Emergency Essentials,  IKEA, etc}
            MPowered Solar lanterns    {} ---->these are seriously cool lanterns that only run about $14!
            Baby wipes                           
            Trash bags
            Duck tape
            Kitty litter
            Hand sanitizer
            Food storage with recipes for preparation
            Propane or other fuel for cooking outdoors
            Solar/battery/hand-cranked radio                        {}
            Coloring books
            Portable electronics
            First aid kit
Fire extinguisher
            Pet food
            Diapers and formula
Online links:
Basic disaster kit


After I pontificated on my thoughts, we put together a few items to get families started on their winter preparedness. Since we were on a budget, we supplied small plastic shoe bins (to store the items), trash bags (for toilets), baggies of kitty litter (for toilets), and a hand warmer (for pockets, sleeping bags, etc).  We also made little solar night lights out of cheap solar garden lights and a small jelly jar. They're really not bright enough to be more than a night light, but if you had several in a room, it would give some ambient light at least.

I couldn't find any night lights that were the same diameter as a narrow mouth canning jar, so I cut circles of cardboard the same size as the lid, then cut a hole inside it that just fit the solar light. I then added a narrow strip or two of duct tape on the bottom to secure the light to the cardboard and keep it from falling out. The lights were 99 cents at wallyworld and the jelly jars were about $8 for 12, so I think the cost was about $1.70 for each little light. Cheap for giving a little comfort to your kiddo who just has to have their nightlight on.

Those are my thoughts on surviving a winter power outage. Have you used any of these ideas? Are there other things you've done?


  1. we're working on these. We don't have a fire place and so we have bought a few kerosene heaters, but we have a long way to go before I feel confident on that. We do, however, have a water tank in our laundry room. It's one of the few things I feel prepared for!! I love it.

    1. I actually used your tank as an example in my class! I wish we had room for one, but we don't. Have you heard about the MPowerd solar lanterns? If you haven't, you should check them out- they're a great addition to your preparedness kit.