How to Stay Safe in a Winter Power Outage

The risk of power outages goes up in the winter, as ice storms and snow laden tree branches weigh down power lines. Unfortunately, the risk of fires resulting from power outages also increases in cold weather, with people trying to stay warm with no heat.

There are a few simple ways to be prepared for a potential power outage so you can ensure your home and family’s safety in the event that one should occur.

Keep flashlights handy so you’ll have a light source handy if the power goes out at night. You don’t want to be fumbling around with matches in the dark, that could spell disaster. If you’re concerned about battery life in your flashlight, consider picking up a crank flashlight, which will provide a light source with just a few cranks of the handle. Once you have light, you can start taking care of everything else.

First, you need to focus on keeping the cold out and the heat in, so ensure windows are closed tight, also close curtains and blinds for extra insulation. Place a rolled up towel at the base of every door to block drafts. If you heat with a furnace and have ducts, ensure all the vents are closed to prevent cold air from traveling into all the rooms of your house – just don’t forget to open them back up when the power comes back on!

If the power is expected to be out for quite a while, you will need to be concerned about water freezing in your pipes, which could cause them to expand and burst. First things first, salvage what hot water you can to bring more heat into the rooms in your house. Fill the bathtub with hot water so the heat circulates within the house, fill bowls, pails, and pots and pans with hot water as well, and keep them nearby as a heat source. If your water runs hot enough, make everyone a hot chocolate or cup of soup to help them keep warm. Once the hot water has run out, leave the taps on just a trickle to keep water flowing through your pipes and prevent them from freezing. Open cupboard doors under sinks to allow room heat to provide a little extra warmth to the pipes.

You should also try to have everyone stay in one room (pets too!), preferably one with very few windows and doors. Again, block that door with a rolled towel too keep the cold air out, and ensure you have lots of warm sweaters and blankets in the room with you. Having everyone in one room will not only mean less space to try to heat, it will also mean more heat created from being close together.

If your bathroom does not function without power, you may think this will be a problem. But remember that tub of hot water? If you take the lid off your toilet tank and refill it with water from the tub (use a Tupperware container to scoop water from the tub and empty it into the toilet tank), the toilet will continue to flush as normal.

So now you’re set! You don’t need to light any candles, just bundle up in sweaters and blankets for warmth. If you want to light candles, float tea lights on the warm water to avoid any chance of a fire. Bring dry goods like granola bars or nuts to eat as snacks to reduce the number of trips out to other parts of the house, keeping the heat in that room. Turn on the light switch or a radio so you’ll be alerted when the power comes back on. If you don’t have a landline, avoid using your cell phone so you don’t drain the battery, in case you need it later on. If you have a battery operated or crank radio, tune into your local News station for updates.

Bring board games, books, and a deck of cards, and get ready to settle into an old fashioned night of no technology and just good old family fun!