Don’t Put Off Winter Preparations! 10 Basic Steps…

By Lee Bellinger
The reality is we’re just a major snowstorm away from failing power grids in major population centers throughout the country.
I have a prediction: this could easily be the worst winter in a long time. No, I haven’t been studying the farmers’ almanac or the markings on woolly bear caterpillars. My prediction for rough sledding ahead is based on much more reliable indicators:
  • State and municipal budgets are running deeply in the red, putting a major squeeze on snow removal and winter road maintenance.
  • America’s electric and utility infrastructure is another year older and more vulnerable than ever.
  • War between Iran and Israel is more likely than ever, and when it does break out in this oil-rich region, a global energy crisis is likely to ensue in short order.
  • And as seen in recent crime blotter reports related to Black Friday and Occupy Wall Street, the bounds of what passes for acceptable behavior in the public square have sunk to new lows; you sure don’t want to find yourself competing with the masses for the last loaf of bread, jug of milk, or gas-powered generator when winter’s fury is unleashed in your community!
All this means you want to leave no stone unturned in getting ready for this winter’s storms and power outages.
In a previous issue of the Ready-For-Anything Report, I told you how to prepare your “stay bag.” That’s a kit with everything in it that you’ll need to stay warm, toasty, and well fed should you get stuck in a power outage this winter.
But being prepared to shelter in place is just one of the ways in which you need to be prepared. Perhaps the coming holiday week is good time to get your family, your house, and your car ready for winter’s worst…

Quick Reminder: Ten Things to Keep
You Comfortable During a Winter Power Outage

When you’re left without power in freezing temperatures, you’ll find yourself quickly driven from your home if you’re not prepared.
Remember those surprise snowstorms that struck the east coast just a few weeks ago? In the wake of heavy snows, some areas were left without power for more than a week. Many, if not most, had to turn to shelters, hotels, or relatives to stay warm. Only a few were actually ready to weather the storm and its aftermath at home.
So, this is just a quick reminder of what you want to have on hand in case bad weather knocks your power out:
  • A propane heater specifically designed and labeled for indoor use
  • Warm clothes for the whole family
  • Sleeping bags for the family
  • A propane camp stove
  • Extra propane
  • LED flashlights and lanterns or solar-powered lights
  • Extra batteries
  • Matches or butane lighter
  • A hand-crank radio
  • A traditional, corded, land-line telephone that does not have a separate jack that goes to an electric receptacle
As I said, though… there’s more to winter preparation than being ready for a power outage.

Get Your Home Ready for Winter’s Worst
and Save a Pile of Money

Even if the power stays on, bad winter weather could cost you hundreds, even thousands of dollars in damage to your home if you don’t get it ready before hand.
Burst pipes, damaged shingles, and drafty windows and doors can cost you thousands. Fortunately, with a few simple steps, you can protect your home from winter doing its worst.
First, give your home’s exterior a visual inspection. Are any of the gutters coming away from the house? Are any of the downspouts disconnected? These things need to be prepared before big rain or snowstorms hit. Check to make sure water coming out of downspouts travels away from your house – you don’t want it to collect and freeze around your foundation. Pick up flexible plastic extensions if necessary; very cheap at any major home center. Next, take some time to clear your gutters. When gutters clog and freeze, water can easily seep into walls and under eaves, leaving you with huge repair bills.
Wrap any outdoor pipes or pipes that aren’t in insulated spaces of your home in those foam rubber sleeves you can pick up at the hardware store. And, shut off water to any pressurized sprinkler systems.
Next, check your house over for obvious air leaks. Drafts can add extra dollars to your heating bill, so it does pay to find the worst offenders and fix them. You’ll usually find that your doors and windows are where the drafts are the worst. Something as simple as placing a rolled up blanket on the floor in front of exterior doors can be a big help. You can also use weather stripping on windows to help seal smaller drafts. If you don’t have double-paned windows, now is the time to put up your storm windows if you haven’t already. And you can often get free and surprising useful advice just by asking a clerk or a manager at a home center. You’ll be amazed at the number of useful and affordable energy saving devices they have to offer.
Then, decide if it’s time to give your furnace and hot water heater a check up. Ideally, you should have a professional come in and tune up these appliances every other year. If it’s been years since your last service call, it’s definitely time to make an appointment. Having a professional do regular, routine maintenance on your furnace and hot-water heater can extend the life of each and can make sure you get through the winter without any major disruptions.
Finally, test your smoke alarms and install a carbon monoxide alarm if you don’t already have one.

Get Your Car Ready for Winter Emergencies

Your home isn’t the only thing that should be ready to weather a tough winter. You want to have an emergency kit in your car, too, so that you and your loved ones can stay safe in the event of a cold weather breakdown.
Just imagine if your car gets a flat or your engine shuts down inexplicably and you’re miles from a service station. If it’s freezing out, you’re in for a pretty miserable time. Even with a cell phone to call for help, you could end up shivering, teeth chattering, waiting for help to arrive.
So, make sure you have an emergency kit with the following items inside your car:
  • Food and Water: Keep a couple of high-energy snacks and some bottled water in your car and within easy reach. In the event of an accident, if for some reason you can’t get to the trunk, you’ll want to be able to reach these items, so consider keeping them up in the passenger space.
  • Blankets and Hand-warmers: Keep a couple of those lightweight, easy-to-store, highly insulating blankets with the food and water. A couple of those chemical hand-warmer packs are a good idea, too.
  • First-aid Kit: Make sure you have a first-aid kit well stocked with bandages and antibiotic ointment. You can keep aspirin, antacids, and other medications in there as well, but the primary purpose of your car’s first-aid kit is to treat minor injuries.
  • Contact Numbers and Quarters: Hopefully you’ll have a charged, undamaged cell phone in your possession in the event of an emergency, but just in case you don’t, keep emergency contact information a few quarters handy so you can call for help the old-fashioned way. Quarters can also come in handy if you need to inflate a leaky tire.
  • Flashlight and Batteries: If it’s dark outside and you break down or get into a wreck, a source of light can be critical to getting your car back on the road or getting your family to safety.
  • Our best-selling E-PACK: This survival pack is loaded up with the very necessities of life (including many of the items listed above)… and even a few well chosen “creature comforts” to help (literally) weather any storm, whether an Act of God or some type of man-made disaster. Learn more how to get yours here.
In addition to basic safety supplies, you also want to keep a few handy things for the car in your trunk:
  • Jumper Cables: A heavy-duty set of jumper cables can get you moving again fast if you come out of a store or restaurant only to find your car battery is dead. Don’t go with the cheap ones, they take too long to recharge your battery. Even if you never use them for your own car, they can make you a hero to someone else.
  • Motor Oil and Antifreeze: Keep a spare container of each on hand, just in case of a leak. A roll of duct tape can also come in handy in case of a leaky radiator hose.
  • Emergency Flares or Reflectors: They can draw attention to your need for help and keep passing cars from hitting you.
  • Tire Jack, Lug Wrench, and a Spare Tire: A flat tire is one of the most common reasons for a breakdown. Having the tools and know-how to get yourself back on the road is a valuable skill… especially in the cold weather. But don’t try to change a tire yourself unless you can do so safely – well away from travel lanes.
  • Basic Tool Box: Keeping a basic tool kit in your car trunk is a smart move. You never know when you may have to improvise, and it’s always easier to do so when you have the right tools for whatever job you’re faced with.
Winter is a beautiful season, full of snow and cold-weather fun. But, it can get you into serious trouble if you aren’t prepared. Give your house a winter check up and prep your car for winter breakdowns. You’ll go into the cold weather with greater peace of mind, and you may save yourself a substantial amount of money by avoiding preventable repairs. And, you’ll avoid having to venture into crowded areas in unfavorable conditions if you’re made these preparations well in advance.