Even in North Texas, a bad winter storm can come on without much warning and cause damage to your home, leaving you and your family in a difficult and potentially dangerous situation. By preparing for the worst, you will improve your chances of getting through dangerous weather conditions without a catastrophe. Here are some things you can do now to prepare for a harsh winter storm.
Check Your Roof
Make sure all the shingles on your roof are in good shape. Areas that are bare or look rotten need to be repaired before heavy winds, sleet or ice do more damage. It is much better to make minor repairs now than to wait until a bigger problem develops and your roof starts to leak.
Clean Your Gutters
Gutters need to be cleared and in good condition so that melting ice will have some place to go. If water gets trapped near the roof ledge, it can freeze again and create an ice dam. This will allow even more water to collect on the roof and may lead to leaking or roof or gutter damage.
Learn More: 5 Tips to Prevent Water Damage in Your Home
Fix Air Leaks
Do a thorough check of your windows, doors, chimneys, pipes, and recessed lighting to make sure they are sealing properly and aren’t letting in any drafts. Not only does this affect your efforts to heat your home, but it could also let unwanted moisture into your home from rain or snow. Be sure to seal all gaps with caulking or weather stripping to keep the cold air out.
Learn More: Fix Energy Robbing Leaks
Frozen pipes can easily happen and are a serious concern when freezing temperatures stick around. Insulating your pipes offers some prevention, especially if you lose power and your home’s interior temperature starts dropping. If your pipes freeze, you could be cut off from all running water. There is a type of insulation that is specially made to encase plumbing pipes. This should be considered when preparing your pipes for freezing weather.
Learn More: How to Prevent Frozen Pipes in Winter
Gather supplies that you’ll need during and after a bad storm and keep them all in one easily accessible area. Here is a list of what you should include:
Winter Storm Emergency Supplies for the Home
Several Days Worth of Water
If you don’t have any heat and the pipes freeze, you will not have access to running water. When setting aside water for your winter storm emergency supplies, estimate one gallon per person per day for several days. Don’t forget to take your pets into consideration, too! If you don’t have enough water on hand, fill the bathtub as soon as the power goes out. Snow needs to be boiled in order to kill any germs. Due to the chemicals contained in snow, however, it should be a last resort.
Several Days Worth of Food
Even if you have power the entire time, a severe winter storm may make it impossible to get to the grocery store. Make sure you have several days’ worth of food at all times during the winter, preferably foods that don’t have to be cooked or kept refrigerated (in case you do lose power). This should include canned food, dried food, and pet food if you have a pet.
Several Days worth of Medications
If anyone in the household is on over-the-counter or prescription medication, make sure to always keep enough on hand to last for several days to a week.
Hand Sanitizing Wipes
If you don’t have access to running water, you most likely won’t be able to wash your hands or anything else that needs a cleaning. Keeping hand sanitizing wipes nearby will help ensure you’re keeping things as clean as possible.
First Aid Kit
It’s also a good idea to have a first aid kit on hand, in case you need to treat a minor or serious injury until help arrives. Your kit should contain things like bandages, alcohol pads, pain pills, antiseptic spray or ointment, antihistamines, and your physician’s phone number.
Flashlights and Extra Batteries
If your heat source is working properly, try to avoid using candles or other open flames as a light source. Keep flashlights and plenty of extra batteries on hand.
Blankets, Sleeping Bags, and Clothes for Layering
Be sure to have plenty of blankets and extra clothes on hand in case you lose power and heat. Wool blankets and sleeping bags are great options to have available, especially if they’re rated for subzero weather.
Kerosene Space Heaters
For safety reasons, you should not use charcoal grills or other heat sources inside that could create a buildup of carbon monoxide or start a fire. Instead, use the fireplace or a kerosene space heater.
Snow Shovel and Rock Salt or Non-Clumping Kitty Litter
If you do have to go outside during a severe winter storm, treat any slippery areas with rock salt or kitty litter to minimize the likelihood of an accident.
Battery Operated Radio and Cell Phone with Charger and/or Extra Batteries
You may need to be able to listen to emergency broadcasts or call for help if needed, so make sure you have a way to communicate with the outside world. Keep a portable phone charger and charged batteries on hand just in case you lose wall power and electricity.
Winter Storm Emergency Supplies for the Car
In a winter storm you should avoid driving as much as possible. However if you do have to venture out, keep the following things in your car in case of an emergency:
- Cell phone and car charger
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Snack food and water
- Extra coat, hat, mittens, and other warm clothing
- Snow shovel
- Rock salt or non-clumping kitty litter
- Tire chains
- Booster cables
- Tool kit
- Emergency flares
- Battery-operated radio
It’s important that the emergency supplies in both your car and your home are assembled and double checked periodically. This ensures that the food hasn’t expired, the water is still fresh, and any extra batteries still work. By being prepared, you can make a winter storm more of an adventure than a serious threat to you and your family.
Additional Steps to Take
- Make sure everyone in the home knows where the breaker box is and what breakers go to large appliances and to your heating system. If the power goes out for many hours, you should shut off the breaker to these to avoid damage from power surges when electricity comes back on.
- Show everyone where the water shutoff valve is in case your pipes do freeze and burst.
- Inform everyone of the safety and evacuation plan should you need to use it. Things will run smoother if everyone is on the same page and working together. Make sure that all children are prepared and know how to execute the safety plan, especially in the event that they may be on their own at any point.
- Keep faucets dripping when temperatures fall below freezing to help prevent them from freezing and becoming unusable.
- Don’t forget to re-stock materials and supplies after each storm or use.
Heat and Fire Safety
In the best-case scenarios, your power will stay on and you will be able to ride out the winter storm in warmth and safety. However, if your power goes off and you have no heat or electricity, keep safety in mind first. Use caution when using open flames like candles and wood burning fireplaces. Both are common causes of house fires, and can cause a much bigger problem if not maintained properly and safely. Don’t use generators or fuel-burning heaters indoors. These run the risk of causing carbon monoxide poisoning, which can be fatal, without using the required proper ventilation. In freezing temperatures, keep an eye on children and the elderly for signs of hypothermia or frostbite – both age groups are more vulnerable to these conditions. Consider installing a backup generator into your home so that your home can always be equipped with electricity.
To be totally prepared for a winter storm, stock up on emergency supplies for both your home and your car. Plan ahead, and always have a safety plan set in place. With these tips, you’ll be able to handle this year’s harshest winter storms.