It’s official – we are under a blizzard warning. The snow should start flying this afternoon and continue through early Wednesday morning, resulting in 2 to 3 feet. Here in the Northeast, we are no strangers to snow, but it still seems like whenever there’s a big storm on the horizon, people aren’t really sure what to do to get ready. That results in long lines at the grocery store and a shortage of milk, bread and eggs. Apparently folks like to eat french toast while they’re snowed in.
I hate battling the grocery store crowds and dealing with empty shelves, so I try to get out as soon as I hear that there *might* be a storm on the way. I’ve also gotten pretty good at preparing for the worst and I’d like to share what steps I take when bad weather is on the way. Please note that this preparedness guide can be used for all types of weather disasters including hurricanes.
Phase 1.) Buy Stuff
The first thing people do when they hear about a storm coming is that they run to the grocery store and empty out the milk, bread and eggs. Don’t ask me why – maybe they really like French toast?
Unfortunately, you need to have a slightly more comprehensive list than those 3 items. The goal isn’t to make it through the storm, it’s to make it through the week if you lose power. Even if you don’t lose power, what if the grocery store does? Plan pantry-based meals rather than ones that rely on refrigerated or frozen items. Here’s a few ideas of some staples to help get you through:
bread, peanut butter, jelly, canned tuna, canned fruit, canned beans, instant rice, canned vegetables, canned soups, canned meats (chili, beef stew, hash, etc.), granola bars, pop tarts, crackers, chips, dry cereal
You’ll also want to buy batteries if you don’t have any handy, candles if yours are burned out (avoid scented ones if you plan to use them for light for extended periods of time) hurricane lamp oil if you have hurricane lamps, propane for your grill, propane cylinders for your camp stove, salt for your driveway, a snow shovel if yours is out, gas for a generator, gas for a snow blower and gas for your car.
If you have babies or young children, don’t forget formula, diapers and wipes. If you cloth diaper, now is a good time to think about some emergency disposables since you may not be able to wash your cloth ones if you lose power.
Don’t forget that washing dishes with no power wastes valuable water and is difficult, so grab some paper plates, paper napkins and plastic silverware. Check your trash bag supply and get some more if needed.
While it’s technically not “buying” something, swing by the ATM while you’re out and grab some cash. It’s good to have on hand if the power goes out.
Phase 2.) Think About Water
If you’re on private well water, you need to get set some water aside. Ideally, you’ll have gallon jugs available to put water in, but if you don’t, you can use buckets (good for washing clothes, flushing the toilet, etc.), the bathtub (again, flush that toilet or wash some dishes), pots and pans, pitchers, glasses, etc.
I like to fill bags with water and put them in the freezer to turn to ice. When it’s thawed, I can use it to drink, but while it’s frozen it will help the contents of my fridge or freezer last a little longer. I mostly do that during hurricane season – in the winter I can just put snow from outside in bags or put my perishables directly in the snow to keep them cool.
Even if you’re not on private well water you should set aside a couple pots and a few pitchers of water. When the power goes out, your town’s filtration system may go off-line for a short period of time. In the worst-case scenario, a tree could damage the pumping station near your home, resulting in a temporary loss of water.
Phase 3.) Electronics
After you’ve gotten the basics out of the way, it’s time to think about luxuries. Plug in every electronic item you have. Start early, because they take a while to charge. I usually give myself the 12 hours or so before the storm to charge electronics and ban the kids from using any of them before the storm sets in and we know how bad it will be. Turn off any apps you have open so the battery doesn’t start to drain the second you unplug it. It’s a good idea to power down your phone and turn it back on to reset the memory so it’s in good working order when the storm hits. You should also download the app for your local utility company, if they have one, so you can report power outages and check the status of your restoration.
Phase 4.) Warmth
If the power goes out, how will you keep warm? If you don’t have a generator, the answer is likely blankets, sweaters, etc. The most efficient way to stay warm is to have everyone in your family go into 1 room of your house and close the door. Ideally, it should be a small room. So, while you still have power, start gathering up your blankets and sweaters. Make sure everything is clean – if it’s not, now is a good time to do laundry. Wash clothes, blankets, towels and anything else you can fit in. I gather the extra blankets up and keep them in a central location (in the living room) for use during the day AND it makes it easier to bring them all to our “space” if the power goes out.
Phase 5.) Paperwork
The final phase in storm preparedness is gathering your paperwork. Keep your home owners or renters policy number handy as well as a phone number for the insurance company. Do the same thing with your car insurance. My paperwork stash also has phone numbers for the utility companies and our family members in the event that cell phones don’t work. Really it has anything we may need to grab if we have to evacuate, like the kids’ birth certificates, our marriage license, etc. I keep it in a water-proof bag in an easy to access location so I can just grab it and go if the need arises. Fortunately, you only have to do this once and you’ll be set for all future storms.
While this seems like a lot of stuff to do and is probably pretty overwhelming, try not to get too burdened by it all. It’s really only 5 steps, 4 after the first storm and if you start at least 2 days before the storm is projected to hit, you can easily get everything done without trouble – though the earlier you hit the stores, the better.
I know a lot of people reading this are wondering why I didn’t include an emergency radio. The reason is that most people have smart phones these days and you can get your information from Facebook or your local emergency management’s website just as easily as you can through a radio, so why bother buying, keeping track of and maintaining an extra piece of equipment?