So ah…how’s that weather by you? It seems to have been a tough winter week across the United States, with unusual storms bringing snow and ice to just about everywhere. As a result, power has been interrupted for millions of people and roads have become difficult or impossible to pass. And we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, with more infectious strains starting to appear. Forget politics and whatever just got released on streaming; it’s literally survival for many of us right now. While it’s too late now to prepare for those events, it’s not too late to note some of the lessons learned so that we don’t lose them in the aftermath and so that next time isn’t so bad. In fact, I’d suggest that as you work through difficult situations, try writing down and setting reminders about what you’ve learned works and doesn’t work as soon as you can. If you wait until later, it’s easy to forget in the relief of survival and the return to everyday life. So here’s a good moment for it: what have you picked up in the last week or two of weather emergencies? Here are a few I’ve noted:
Be able to stay warm even if you don’t have power or other utilities. Heat sources with fuel stored on your property are great to have around, but only if you don’t need electricity from the grid to get them started and can safely use them indoors. Carbon monoxide poisoning can sneak up on you, and it’s not safe to use outdoor sources indoors for even short periods of time. Don’t forget even more basic ways of not freezing too, like getting all of the living creatures in your home into one room and using layered clothing and blankets, not to mention blocking drafts from windows and the like.
Store safe drinking water and shelf-stable food in your home, that can last you at least a week. You may not have power or drinkable water, and stores may not be open. Even if you can get to a store, it may be overcrowded and short on supplies. Better to be able to survive on what’s in your pantry and doesn’t need to be refrigerated or cooked (unless you have a way to cook that doesn’t require any utilities making it to your home). Of course, for winter storms, the great outdoors can provide cool storage for food, but best not to rely on it.
Consider having a way to keep your electronic devices charged up, especially smart phones. External battery packs are cheap and easy to keep topped off. Along with all of the other things you might use your phone for, if cell towers aren’t knocked out, you’ll have a way to communicate with friends, family, and emergency services. Of course, if you know a storm is coming, plug everything in well in advance so that you aren’t starting a power outage on low battery. Ditto on rechargeable batteries for flashlights and the like.
Generators are great if you can afford one and use it with your home, but make sure you have fuel for it and for your alternate heating sources and cooking equipment. Similarly, fill up your car’s gas tank well before the storm. As we’ve seen in Texas this week and in the Northeast after Hurricane Sandy, waiting until after everyone panics is going to make it tough for you to get the gas you think you’ll need. By the way, make sure you know how to use that generator and that disaster-time equipment. Otherwise, they’re just expensive space-wasters.
Be thoughtful in what you buy in the immediate preparation period before an anticipated emergency situation, as well as during the crisis. Buying milk won’t help you if know you lose power with every storm, and buying extras of what you already have plenty of won’t help you and isn’t kind to your neighbors (unless, of course, you’re planning on giving them those supplies). Plus prices inevitably increase during those times, so you might as well save your cash and prepare when everyone is not as desperate.
Whether you’re making your way through a weather event now, just got through one, or simply have been watching the news and your news feed, what do you want to remember for next time you face a natural disaster?