How to Be Prepared for a Winter Emergency

Natural disasters, blackouts, accidents, and other disasters are always scary, but they’re especially scary in winter when cold weather and hazardous conditions present even more complications. If you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, you could end up stranded on the side of the road or completely snowed in at home for hours to days at a time.

Accordingly, it pays to be prepared for a winter emergency. But what are the best ways to prepare?

Preparing for a Winter Emergency at Home

At home, these are some of the best strategies to prepare for a potential winter emergency:

  • Get a wood stove. A wood stove is a fixture in your house that allows you to generate heat (and even cook!) as long as you have a steady supply of wood to feed it. Even if your electricity or natural gas is impeded, and even if your main heater or space heaters aren’t working, you’ll have a reliable way to generate heat and distribute it throughout your house. You’ll also have a way to heat and prepare food.
  • Stock up on water and nonperishable food. It’s also important to stockpile potable water and nonperishable food. Obviously, human beings need food and water to survive, and you may not have an easy way to obtain either in a sufficiently catastrophic emergency. Aim to have at least a gallon of water per person per day, as well as ample nonperishable food items to last at least several days; canned foods, grains, and legumes are excellent and inexpensive choices.
  • Stockpile extra medical supplies. While you’re at it, work on stockpiling additional medical supplies, especially if you take specific prescription medications regularly. Make sure there’s a first aid kit at your house, as well as basic emergency supplies.
  • Buy a rechargeable flashlight and radio. At home, you should have a flashlight that’s capable of being recharged through manual action, like turning a crank. You should also have a radio that works the same way. Even if you run out of batteries or don’t have electricity, you’ll have light and communication available to you.
  • Get extra phone chargers and batteries. That said, batteries and electricity are also valuable. It’s a good idea to get some extra phone chargers, extra batteries, and power banks so you can keep your most important devices running for longer in the event of an electricity outage.
  • Purchase a snow shovel (and/or snow thrower). Even if you’re not the one directly responsible for clearing snow out of your driveway and sidewalks, you should have a snow shovel on hand to get rid of excess snow. If you have the budget, consider getting a snow thrower as well.
  • Have extra clothes and blankets ready. Most people have an adequate supply of warm clothes at home but make sure you have a few extras and a few extra blankets at the ready in case you’re without heat for any considerable length of time.

Preparing for a Winter Emergency in Your Car

It’s also important to be prepared in your car, for when you’re on the go.

  • A first aid kit. basic first aid kit is always good to have in your car, and it’s even more important in the middle of a winter emergency. Keep it stocked and check it at least once a year for potentially expired products ready for replacement.
  • Visual signals. Visual indicators can help you signal for help in an emergency and prevent further crashes from occurring if your vehicle is disabled. Reflectors, flares, and manually chargeable flashlights are all excellent tools to have on hand.
  • Jumper cables. It’s notoriously common for car batteries to lose power and struggle in winter, so make sure you have a pair of jumper cables on hand – and be prepared to use them. Even if you never use them to start your own car, you may be able to use them to help start someone else’s.
  • Water and snacks. Keep some extra bottles of water and snacks in your car in case you’re stuck in it for longer than is comfortable. A couple of granola bars and a few bottles of water could help you survive in an otherwise untenable situation.
  • Extra warm clothes and blankets. Similarly, stock your car with extra warm clothes and blankets. You’ll likely be bundled up if you’re headed out in winter, but the extra layers may become necessary in an emergency.
  • Kitty litter or sand. Sand, salt, and kitty litter are all common products that serve a useful secondary function in providing traction to a car in snow or ice. It’s useful to have some of these products available, even if your car has features to help it handle successfully in snow and ice.
  • A full tank of gas. Finally, make sure your vehicle maintains a full (or nearly full) tank of gas throughout the season. If you end up stranded, you’ll be glad to have the fuel available to keep your car’s heater running.

Winter emergencies are unpredictable – and they can be extremely brutal. But if you’re adequately prepared in both your home and your vehicle, you should be able to survive and perhaps thrive in even the harshest conditions. 

Conduct an analysis each year to ensure you have sufficient supplies in both locations.