Mention winterizing your home, and most people think of things associated with preparing the house for cold weather – caulking leaks, storing firewood or servicing the furnace. My friend Heather includes emergency preparation in her winter planning, and with good reason. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, home fires are more prevalent in the winter than in any other season. Winter is also the season when you are most likely to experience weather related problems, such as a loss of electricity or phone service.
Heather spends a weekend early every winter going over safety plans, and updating and adding to emergency supplies and food and fuel reserves. Her family designates the weekend of Daylight Savings Time as the Jones family safety day.
Heather says that they’ve never had a fire or needed to use their emergency supplies, but knowing her family is prepared helps her sleep better at night. Her kids are learning important lessons in self-reliance that they’ll carry to adulthood, as well. Here’s Heather’s annual fall safety list:
Change the batteries in the fire alarms and carbon monoxide alarms. Clean and check equipment to make sure it is functioning. Check fire extinguishers, as well, and replace outdated ones.
Map out a fire escape plan that describes at least two exits from each room. Draw a diagram of the plan and practice it with your family. Designate a meeting place at a neighbor’s in the event of a fire.
Store at least 20 gallons of water for emergency use. Large, plastic juice bottles make good containers. Wash them with soapy water and rinse well before using. Store the water in a cool, dry location. Avoid placing the bottles directly on concrete because chemicals from the cement can leach into the water. Place a piece of plywood over bare concrete.
Keep a supply of candles, firewood, propane and a flashlight with fresh batteries. Stock enough canned goods, powdered milk and snacks to last for three days. Store extra diapers and formula if you have a baby.
Develop a 72-hour emergency kit for each family member. This kit should contain everything you need to survive for three days if you had to evacuate your home. Heather uses backpacks for her family’s kits and fills the backpacks with non-perishable, high-energy foods, such as granola bars, raisins, pouches of tuna fish and hard candy. She also includes water, a first aid kit, a flashlight, tissue, paper towels, a knife, and an aluminum foil blanket. Store your emergency kit in an easily accessible place – on hooks or shelves in the garage, or in wooden storage benches.
Keep copies of important documents with the 72-hour kits to grab in a hurry. Keep an updated list of contact information for neighbors, family and friends with the documents, as well as a small amount of money.
Keep an emergency kit in your car that includes gloves, warm clothing, a small shovel, first aid kit, water, money, and non-perishable food supplies.
Schedule your first family safety day early this winter to replace the batteries on smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and review a fire escape plan. You’ll probably need a few weeks to gather food and water supplies, and build the 72 hour emergency kits.
That’s okay. You don’t have to accomplish everything all at once. The important thing is that you are taking baby steps towards increasing your family’s level of preparedness. Once complete, you’ll look forward to winter with enthusiasm, knowing that your home is safe and secure.
Stan Horst lives with his wife and two teenagers in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. He owns a vacation cabin rental business, and also maintains a website on outdoor benches, such as benches by Kingsley Bate. He loves using the Internet to learn new things and share his knowledge with others.