Winter storms are a fact of life here in Ontario. Each year, Mother Nature brings us at least one wallop of a storm that knocks out the power, sends trees toppling, and glazes the roads with a slick sheet of ice.
That’s why your home should have a winter storm kit with essentials to keep your family safe through an extended power outage.
Most of the things your kit requires are inexpensive and easy to find. Here’s what you need to make a basic winter storm kit for your home.
We take for granted the fact that we have clean drinking water available to us on demand. That’s not always the case after a winter storm. Water pipes can freeze and burst in freezing temperatures; storms can force stores to close, or the sudden demand can dry up their supply of bottled water.
A winter storm kit should include at least six litres of drinking water for each member of your household, or two litres per person for three days. Be aware that sweet beverages like pop and juice are no substitute for water, as the sugar and caffeine will increase your thirst rather than quench it.
A power outage limits your options when it comes to cooking. Not everyone has a wood stove, and it is never safe to use a gas or charcoal stove indoors. If the storm shuts down your local restaurants and grocery stores, you could find yourself without much to eat.
In the event of a winter storm, you should have at least three days of food that doesn’t spoil. Good options include canned meats, canned fruits or vegetables, energy bars, dehydrated foods, peanut butter, and cereal.
As for the food in your refrigerator and freezer? An unopened fridge should keep food cold for about four hours; a full freezer will stay frozen for about two days, while a half-full freezer will keep for one day. If you’ve thought about placing food outside in the snow to keep it cold, think again; the sun’s rays can thaw it even in frigid temperatures.
These days, many people use their cell phone’s flashlight application instead of a real flashlight. That won’t do in a winter storm, as you’ll want to save your phone’s battery life to keep in touch. Instead, your kit needs a wind-up or battery-power flashlight. An energy-efficient LED flashlight will usually last the longest.
4. Emergency Cell Phone Charger
Cellular phone networks are typically more reliable than landline phones in the midst of a fierce winter storm. But a cell phone is only useful if it has power. Given how quickly these devices’ batteries can drain, you should have an alternative method of charging your cell phone when the power goes out.
Solar and wind-up chargers are an option, as are portable power banks. Another way to charge a cell phone during a power outage is with a car charger. Having an emergency charging option will help you stay connected to the outside world while you’re hunkering down.
5. Wrench or Pliers
Do you know how to shut off the gas to your home? What about the water? Knowing how to cut the utilities can be vital in some winter storm emergencies, like a burst pipe or structural damage.
Your winter storm kit should include a pair of pliers or a wrench you can use to turn the shutoff valves for your gas and water connections. Of course, these aren’t very helpful unless you know how to use them. Take time to learn how to cut the connections in case of emergencies.
6. First Aid Kit
Most people who invest in a first aid kit will (fortunately) never have to use it. But that doesn’t make it any less important. Help may not reach you as quickly when the road conditions are bad, and a power outage increases the risk of minor injuries like scrapes and falls. The Canadian Red Cross sets out a list of must-have items in a first aid kit here.
7. Spare Blankets
Warmth is as essential as food and water. Even if you have an alternative heat source (such as a wood stove or a space heater), your winter storm kit needs to include warm, dry blankets for everyone in your family. The extra layer of insulation can make a huge difference in their safety and comfort.