At this moment, severe winter storms are hitting most of the United States. Even states that will not receive snow are experiencing temperatures well below average. So far this year the weather has been mild in many areas, but these are really packing a punch. If you or a loved one lives in the path of storms prepare for extremely cold weather now and help others prepare. Even cold temperatures can cause power outages. It’s just January, much more winter ahead.

No matter the emergency, winter or summer, if you suspect power may fail do the following:

  1. Do it now. Catch up so you don’t get caught without clean clothes after the power fails. Start the laundry while you work on the rest of the list.
  2. Stock up. You should have a three-month supply of food on hand but there are still a few things you may want to get now: bread, fresh fruit, and of course water if you depend on a well and batteries. Eggs will keep without power a few days, milk will not. You may want to get a few boxes of shelf stable milk, chocolate milk, almond milk, even lactose free milk is available, they are perfect for use during an outage. For toddlers and infants, cans of evaporated milk, they need the fats and mixed with powdered milk, it make a huge difference to the taste.
  3. Stock up on non-food items, batteries, prescriptions, over the counter medications, paper plates and cups, paper towels, and of course TP.
  4. Fuel up the cars. Prepare now for when power is down to pumps and/or credit cards are useless.
  5. Fill coolers, pitchers, pots and pans, with water especially if you are on a well. If power goes out so does the well and even water treatment plants can shut down making tap water unsafe to drink. Bathtubs can also be filled, and this water used for flushing and washing.
  6. Stock the freezer. Place resealable plastic bags or plastic containers filled 3/4 full with water and use these to fill every empty space in your freezer. Foods stay frozen and will be safe longer in a full freezer and the ice will be safe water to drink and cook with after it melts.
  7. Turn the temperature down in the freezer and refrigerator.
  8. Make a few meals that will be easy to heat or that can be eaten cold once power is out or you are busy dealing with the storm.
  9. Make a sign now to place on the freezer and fridge: DO NOT OPEN Preserve food longer by leaving doors closed. When you need to get into either make a list before opening so you don’t stand staring trying to figure out what you need.
  10. Wash all dishes. You will not want dirty dishes hanging around when water is at a premium.
  11. Get a good stash of firewood under cover, close enough to grab without getting chilled or wet in winter or to use for cooking in summer.
  12. Charge cell phone, iPod and HAM radio. If you lose power or have rolling blackouts, you want to stay informed.
  13. Place glow sticks and/or flashlights within easy reach in every room.
  14. Fill the gas cans so you can run a generator.
  15. Fill the propane tanks if you are going to use a camp stove or barbecue as an alternative way to cook.
  16. Get cash. If the power is out the ATM and credit cards won’t work. Remember all cash should be in small denominations. Nothing over a $20.00 bill. All of mine are $10.00 or smaller. I don’t want to overpay because someone doesn’t have change.
  17. Check your five-day kits (formerly known as 72-hour kits) so they are ready to go with prescriptions, medications, reading glasses, food, water, clothing that fits, hygiene essentials etc. If you don’t need to use them, you may get a call that they are needed at a shelter.
  18. Confirm your out of area contact has all the phone numbers and email addresses of loved ones so they can be contacted.
  19. Learn to use the manual release on the garage door if you don’t already know how to do this. In case of a power outage, you want to be able to get the car out of the garage as quickly as possible if your home is damaged by the storm or you need to leave for other reasons.
  20. Find out which radio and TV stations are part of the emergency broadcast system for your local area. Also find out which stations will handle emergency broadcasts for school emergencies. Some kids are lucky enough to be in school.
  21. Make sure your battery-operated clock is working and get batteries if not.
  22. If you have not done a home inventory, take lots of photos around the house. Snow and ice storms can do a lot of damage even caving in roofs.
  23. Add new weather stripping to door and windows if needed.

For Winter:

With a few preparations we can thrive no matter what nature brings.

Get prepared outdoors:

  • Turn off sprinkler system. Drain water from the water sprinkler supply lines, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Remove and drain all outdoor hoses. Close inside lines supplying outdoor hose bibs.
  • Cover all outdoor faucets and bibs with an insulating material hose bib covers, foam, rags, even a couple old socks can work, and secure with duct tape.
  • Cover all shrubs and flowers to help reduce harmful effect of the freeze saving them. Water roots, not leaves, and then cover entire plant with a blanket, towels or sheets. Small trees can be draped and lights that produce heat placed under the tree.
  • Move potted plants and trees into the garage or onto a covered patio near the house and drape.
  • If the home will be vacant, shut off the main valve to the house and drain all hose bibs and interior fixtures. Installing hose bib covers helps prevent possible pipe bursts.
  • Make sure the main line going into the home is well insulated. If water supply lines are located in the garage, keep the garage door closed.
  • If you have an exposed pipe, let cold water drip from the faucet served by the exposed pipe. Running water through the pipe helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep pool and spa pumps running during a freeze.
  • Caulk around windows and doors or cracks in bricks and siding.
  • Prune those trees and bushes. Trees with branches too close to your home may do damage during a storm. Trees that are diseased may fall.
  • Clean out gutters. As the debris in gutters freezes it will become heavy and can damage them.

Inside the house when the temperature plunges:

  • Leave heat on to keep interior of house at a comfortable temperature and in case of a power outage you will begin with a warm home.
  • If you cannot add weather stripping roll towels and place at the case of doors and windows to keep cold air out.
  • For older windows or windows without drapes that can be closed tape mylar blankets to molding around windows creating a pocket of air between the pain of glass and mylar.
  • Tape a mylar blanket to molding around outside doors that you will not be using. This will decrease drafts.
  • Close curtains, drapes and blinds at night and during the day in rooms you are not using.
  • Leave doors on cabinets under sinks and in kitchen and laundry room open to increase the heat in the cabinet to help keep pipes from freezing.
  • Leave door to water heater open.
  • Water will expand as it freezes causing pipes to burst. To help prevent this from happening keep both the hot and cold water faucets on a slow drip in all rooms of the house.
  • If you have plumbing that runs through your attic insulate the pipes now.
  • Know how to turn off the water to the house. If a pipe bursts or leaks at all turn off water coming into the house.
  • Close chimney damper if you do not have a fire going.
  • If a pipe freezes use a hair dryer, heating pad or space heater to unfreeze. NEVER use anything with a flame. Turn off water to the house as you thaw pipes.
  • Locate and know how to operate the main gas valve at the gas meter or propane tank, main electrical disconnect to shut off all the power to the house, gas shut-off valves at each gas appliance throughout the house and water shut-off valve at the water heater.
  • Keep garage door closed.
  • If using a crock pot, place it in the room you are in to add some heat.

Power outages are the most common disasters and have been experienced for minutes, hours, days, or weeks by most of us. The power grid in the United States is absolutely a soft target for terrorists and has been attacked many times the past year. Now that foreign countries and hackers know how to get in, what are they intending to do? Some utilities have already been forced to pay to regain control of their facilities being held hostage. Preparing for a power outage is the most important thing we can do after storing food and water. Start now by printing this and other articles and adding them to your preparedness binders.

This month we are planning each day for power outages at our Facebook page and Blog. Please join us.

For help in meeting your self-reliance goals join Carolyn at or her blog. Carolyn’s Totally Ready Emergency Binder (today’s article is an excerpt from the Totally Ready Binder) is available to purchase and download at and can be purchased complete or one section at a time.