Winter weather presents many challenges for preppers, and not the least of all is the prospect of facing bitterly cold weather without any electricity.
Loss of lighting and, worse, loss of heat can be potentially deadly or at best can make your life totally miserable.
Luckily, for all but the most extreme environments, it is fairly easy to get prepared for winter weather power outages.
By getting ahead on supplies, making a few smart purchases for possible blackouts, and taking care of some preventative maintenance around the household, it is possible to stay comfortably warm and safe even when the power is out.
To help you in that endeavor, we are bringing you 26 proven ways to prepare for winter power outages that can take you through every phase of the event, before, during, and after. Grab your coat and let’s get going.
Preparing for Winter Outages
As usual, the best time to get ready for trouble is well before it starts. Like your grandparents always said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. And prepping your house for blackouts is a must on every prepper’s checklist.
This counts doubly for winter weather, which cannot only leave you stranded without any power, but can make it difficult or even impossible to get more of the things you need that are easy to get right now while the weather is warmer.
Take care of the following items no later than the middle of autumn.
1. Stop Drafts
Drafts are a constant enemy when it comes to keeping your house warm. Although you might be more concerned with learning how to warm up your house without the benefit of electricity, know that all of your efforts will go a lot farther, and last longer if you can keep the frigid, cold air from seeping into your home in the first place.
Make it a point to seal up cracks and crevices everywhere inside and outside of your home.
2. Upgrade Weather Stripping
Part of your draft-busting efforts should consist especially of upgrading the weather stripping on all doors and windows.
Whether you will be opening them or not, no matter how tightly your doors and windows close air will always have a much easier time sneaking in around the gap where they are fitted.
High-quality, winter weather-certified seals and stripping will further cut down on the intrusion of cold air, and help keep warm air in.
Depending on where you live and how old your home is, your insulation might be subpar or just in need of replacement or supplementation. Don’t wait. Good insulation is worth its weight in gold when the weather goes way beyond chilly and especially when the power is out.
You should consider foam board, bat, or blown insulation as appropriate around your home wherever it is necessary. Pay particular attention to rooms that seem routinely cold.
4. Protect Your Pipes
Winter weather plus a loss of electricity or other heating capabilities often leads to frozen and then burst pipes.
This is a plumbing disaster that often has a substantial dollar value attached to it to repair in addition to the loss of water service you’ll have to endure.
Take steps to prevent this unhappy outcome by inspecting and insulating your pipes as a matter of course, and if you live in a truly cold region consider pipe heating units.
5. Inspect Wood Burning Appliances
If you have wood-burning appliances in your home, either a wood-burning stove or a fireplace, consider yourself ahead of the ball game when it comes to winter power outage preparation.
However, many owners are very bad about performing much-needed routine maintenance on these appliances.
A failure to inspect either can lead to tragedies like house fires or the deadly build-up of nearly undetectable carbon monoxide gas. Contact professionals and get it done right.
6. Get a Generator
There’s probably no single item you’ll be happier to have on the power is out than a good, trusty generator capable of running all the lights and appliances you need for life to go on as normal.
Specifically, concerning winter weather preparation, a high-output generator can run one or more electric space heaters which might make all the difference between comfort, maybe even survival, and a miserable time spent with your teeth chattering.
Generator installation, upkeep, and operation is a subject that deserves several articles all on its own, more than we can get into here, but we have you covered with all the info you’ll need right here on Survival Sullivan.
7. Keep Vehicles Topped Off
When the weather starts getting chilly, make it a point to keep your vehicles topped off with fuel. For our purposes, consider 3/4 of a tank empty and fill it up. This is for a couple of reasons.
First, in a dire emergency, you can get inside your vehicle (outside!) and run the engine to operate the heater and keep yourself warm.
The other reason is that when gas stations lose power gas pumps stop working, so if you’re dealing with a city-wide or regional power outage you won’t be getting any more gas for the duration.
8. Stock Up
You must stock up on vital supplies and needed equipment well before winter weather closes in and the lights go out as the snow piles up.
Buy it now, while you can, while it’s available, and then stack it deep. Waiting until you are in the middle of an emergency situation before you decide to get needed supplies is the very summit of foolishness.
You’ll need to assemble your winter power outage survival kit and also gather special equipment to take care of all of your other chores and tasks. We’ll talk more about these items below.
What Should You Do if the Power Goes Out During a Snowstorm
When winter weather turns truly nasty, the snow is falling and keeps coming, and icicles are dangling from every branch and gutter, it’s probably only a matter of time until you lose power.
If you are prepared, you don’t need to panic. Keep your wits about you and take care of the following things right after the power goes out.
9. Check on Family, Neighbors, and Pets
When the power goes out, make sure that everyone and everything you’re responsible for is accounted for.
Check on all of your family members both in your home and out. Check on your neighbors to make sure they have everything they need and that they are all set. If they aren’t, you might need to help them stay safe in the meantime.
Last but not least, check on all pets and make sure they are inside and safe. You need to make special preparations for fish, reptiles, and other creatures.
10. Gather Extra Water, Fast
The power may only go out for a little while, or it might not, but it’s best not to take any chances.
Assume it will be out for a while, and you’ll be dealing with all of the second-order effects that that entails. Frozen pipes, potentially contaminated water, all of that stuff.
Gather a reserve supply of water immediately when the power goes out. Consider filling up a bathtub basin bag, water storage containers, food-grade buckets, or other suitable vessels for holding potable water.
11. Protect your Electronics
When the power goes out, you need to take steps to protect your electronics for when it comes back on. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, this might have you scratching your head.
I’m not messing with you: when power service is restored it can result in a surge that can damage sensitive electronics, particularly computers and larger appliances with complicated control systems like refrigerators.
Your best bet is to simply unplug these devices and wait to plug them back in after the power is restored and stable. If you want to keep their power reliably and safely, use your generator or a power bank.
12. Keep Food Fresh
If you are keeping your cold foods cold inside your refrigerator, there could be a risk of spoilage after you lose power because your house is still warming up to let the temperature of these foods reach the danger area, or harmful bacteria form and decomposition begins.
Keep this from happening by making a point to keep your fridge and freezer door closed as much as possible.
Of time, or else transfer them into coolers and set them outside where they will stay cold, assuming the ambient temperature is low enough.
13. Stop Heat Loss
Once the power goes out during bad winter weather it is time to start treating your home like a spaceship, complete with airlocks.
Every time you open a door or a window you lose a huge volume of heat, akin to the volume of breathable air that a spaceship would lose up in the void of space.
This is a slight exaggeration, but you take my meaning! If possible, enter and exit the home through a mudroom or other room that has at least two doors between the outside and the living space to provide a buffer against heat loss.
Staying Warm with No Electricity
The real test of your nerve will be facing a long, cold, and very dark night without electricity during nasty winter weather. The prospect is bad enough to make any sane person feel a little sick to their stomach.
But you need not worry if you know a few tricks for staying warm, even during a power outage.
14. Bundle Up
The first, best and most obvious tip for staying warm without any electricity is to bundle up. Put on layers of warm clothing. Wrap yourself in multiple blankets. Use a sleeping bag.
Whatever is necessary to make your body heat go the distance when it comes to keeping you personally warm is worth doing.
15. Snuggle with Loved Ones or Pets
There’s no need to be shy. This is a great time to snuggle up with the family, loved ones, or pets in order to share body heat and stay warm no matter how dreadful the temperature is outside.
In conjunction with bundling up under a great, big blanket you’ll stay surprisingly warm compared to bundling up by yourself.
Modesty or other considerations aside, the more the merrier when it comes to staying warm.
16. Make a Microclimate
One of the most common mistakes, and one of the easiest to make in this situation, is failing to make a microclimate in your home.
Larger spaces are the enemy when it comes to warming and trapping air to create a pleasant environment.
Looking at the bigger picture, this means you don’t want to stay in the largest or tallest room in your home unless you have a heat source in it.
At the smaller scale, you might be well advised to pitch a small tent or even create something like a pillow fort with a blanket draped over it to further help you trap a quantity of warm air around you. It’s much easier to stay warm this way!
17. Stay in One, Small Room
This sort of dovetails with the above entry on creating a microclimate, but if you have multiple people in your home you are well advised to camp out in the same and preferably small room for the duration of the power outage.
This will allow the body heat of multiple people to contribute to warming the space and also cut down on the opening and closing of various doors throughout they can make your job even harder.
18. Build a Fire in a Fireplace
If you have a fireplace or a wood-burning stove, now is definitely the time to use it.
As mentioned previously, you must make sure it is inspected and safe to operate, and you must know how to operate it safely to prevent a devastating and deadly accidental house fire.
Sure, wood-burning appliances might not be efficient compared to electric ones, but that would be the last thing on your mind while you are staying toasty warm near the glow of a crackling fire.
19. Let in Sunlight
Whatever the sun is up, especially during periods without cloud cover, make it a point to let the sun shine in through the windows.
The same UV radiation that will make your home uncomfortably hot during warm weather can make it significantly warmer during cold weather.
20. Close Drapes at Night
This is the inverse of the above tip. When the sun isn’t out, or when the clouds are so heavy that you can scarcely feel any warmth from its rays, clothes heavy drapes over all of your windows to prevent heat from escaping through the glass to the outside.
If you use blinds or shutters instead of drapes, you can hang up spare blankets or comforters over them temporarily for the same effect.
21. Put Down Rugs
Heat will escape through the floor and down to the much colder earth. Even if your floors are insulated, you can prevent or at least slow this phenomenon to a degree by putting down heavy rugs in the room where you are staying.
Again, if you have them to spare don’t hesitate to use heavy comforters, quilts, or even clothes for the same purpose.
Your Winter Power Outage Emergency Kit
Having high-calorie, easy-to-prepare food on hand is a must for winter power outage prep.
Sure, you might be able to run electric appliances using a generator, or you could eat something up using an outdoor grill or even on your wood-burning stove, but this is not ideal.
Food that is long-lasting and ready to eat will make your life a little easier for the duration.
Water is similarly important to food. Yes, you can resort to melting snow if there is clean snow to be had from the ground or other surfaces, but this is laborious and will necessitate you going outside more often, causing your home to vent heat.
If you stashed water based on our advice earlier, you’ll be ahead of the game. If not, you’ll want plenty of bottled water stored in the same room you are staying in so it won’t freeze.
24. Flashlights and Lanterns
If the power is out lighting will be a priority, especially when it starts to get truly dark outside.
Your fireplace or wood-burning stove can provide light, of course, but you should think twice before resorting to the old standby of candles.
They are terribly easy for children or pets to knock over, or even adults, and you don’t need me to tell you what a disaster that will be.
Battery-operated flashlights and lanterns are a far more convenient and safer option. Make sure you have plenty of batteries on hand to run them and keep them rotated.
25. Power Bank
You don’t have to go without your usual electronic devices like your smartphone during a winter power outage.
A power bank can provide more than enough juice for several recharges. Yes, that means you might still be able to mess around on the internet but more importantly it could provide a valuable communications link to the outside world.
Keep a reliable power bank on hand and keep it fully charged when winter weather approaches.
26. AM/FM Radio
When all other modern forms of communication fail, good old-fashioned radio is likely to still be functional.
You can use a battery-powered AM/FM radio, or even a dedicated, crank-charged disaster readiness radio to tune into weather reports and updates regarding the situation in your area.
Some of them even have other handy features like built-in USB charging ports, flashlights, and more.
Frequently Asked Questions
Winter weather is commonly associated with power outages for numerous reasons. An increase in automobile accidents means that power poles might be impacted.
Snow and ice piles up on branches, sometimes dropping them onto power lines or even toppling whole trees onto them.
Sometimes intense demand and lack of preparation on the part of power companies means that brownouts or rolling blackouts will occur.
No, never! Any source of combustion will release a certain quantity of deadly, odorless, colorless carbon monoxide gas.
More than anything else, this gas is responsible for more deaths during winter blackouts when people, ignorantly or stupidly, bring grills and other such things indoors for use while the power is out. Don’t give in to the temptation!
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.