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What To Do In A Winter Power Outage

Updated on February 4, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Winter Power Outages

Winter power outages can happen for a number of reasons. Rolling blackouts, winter storms, trees coming down because of high winds or ice...Whatever the reason it is smart to be ready and know what to do in case it happens to you. Remember, if you are stranded or without water DO NOT EAT SNOW FOR WATER! It will cause hypothermia.

Some of us remember the blizzards of 1978...Photo courtesy of Marion County(Ohio) Historical Society
Some of us remember the blizzards of 1978...Photo courtesy of Marion County(Ohio) Historical Society

Be Prepared

Being prepared for the unexpected makes all the difference. Since you never know when something may happen it is best to take steps to make sure that you have the things you need right now.

In a rubbermaid tub somewhere that is easy to get to have the following items handy and ready to use. This means that if the item takes batteries, the batteries are current and working with extra batteries in the tub. Check the dates about 4 times a year just to make sure that you have them when you need them. Many of these things should be in addition to the normal stuff that you have for disaster preparedness.

Items to Have on Hand

1. Flashlight- have a couple of different sizes. I think the best flashlight is the type that you wind up or shake and that has no need of batteries at all.

2. A hand crank radio so that you know what is happening. Battery operated will work too, but again, you will be dependent on batteries.

3. Oil lamps for long term outages. Include matches.

4. A hard wired telephone, not just a cordless. A cordless will not work without electricity. A cell phone is good to have as well but depending on the weather there could be problems with that.

5. If you depend on electricity to get your water (such as with a well) then be sure you have extra drinking water on hand.

6. A back up generator is a blessing if you can afford it. Be sure to have everything you need for it to run.

7. Warm clothing. This sounds silly but in our modern times we don;t dress for warmth because we move from heated houses to heated cars to heated workplaces. In case of a cold weather power outage you will want thermal underwear (long johns) for each family member as well as layers of clothing and warm socks. Be sure there are hats, gloves, scarves, and coats in case you need to get away from the house to seek shelter elsewhere.

8. It is good to have a fireplace or wood-burning stove for warmth. Make sure you have a stock of wood in case you need it. Try to close off the room that the fireplace is in to keep the warmth in it. You can use blankets over the doorways if you need to.

9. If there is someone at your house on some type of life support that depends on power then make sure you know what to do in case of an outage and that you have the items you need. Talk to your health care provider.

10 Use your hot water sparingly. It will stay hot for a couple of days in the hot water heater if you don't waste it.

11 Blankets. Have extra. Down filled comforters are great.

12. Have some games and things you can do to pass the time. Make it fun.

What Is Hypothermia

Hypothermia happens when the body loses heat. As the body temperature begins to drop shivering begins to occur. Once this happens the body reduces the amount of blood circulating to the arms and legs in an attempt to maintain the core temperature. If chilling continues then shaking will become uncontrollable, disorientation can occur, closely followed by slurred speech and sleepiness. If the core temperature continues o drop the person will become irrational and eventually death will occur without outside intervention.

If you see these signs in an older person, even if it does not seem that cold, you need to act quickly to get them warm or get help. The signs can be easily overlooked in older people so be aware.

1. Warm the core before the extremities. Get them wrapped in blankets (leave feet and arms out), put a hat on them, add a vest..anything to bring the core temperature up.

2. Give them warm drinks...even warm water will help get the core temperature up. Do not give them alcohol or coffee.

Consider These Winter Survival Packs

Additional Things

1. If there are lines down near you stay away from them even if you don't think they are live.

2. If you have elderly neighbors check on them. If you get no answer at their door don't be afraid to go inside. It could be the difference between life and death for them.

3. Animals need warmth too. When it is going to be cold make sure you have plenty of hay for your livestock, straw in the barn, a good shelter for your animals. Put an extra few layers of straw or litter on the hen-house floor, add straw to the outside dog house. Better yet, bring pets inside. Be sure that ice is broken on watering dishes and areas. Heat up water and give your animals warm water to help them maintain their body heat (not hot water!) My dad always gave our horses when I was growing up hot mash on cold mornings and we do it with our horses now. Just add hot water to sweet feed.

4. Turn on your faucets slightly. Running water won't freeze so easily.

In the Car

You can get stranded in a car in winter and if you don't have a few things prepared you can easily die of hypothermia. Keep the following things in a tub in the car (or trunk).

1 Blankets

2 First-aid kit

3 A can and waterproof matches

4 Windshield scraper

5 Booster cables

6 cell phone and charger

7 Tool kit

8 A bag of sand or cat litter

9 Tow rope 10 Tire chains

11 shovel

12 Container of water and high-calorie foods (gorp, nuts, etc)

13 Flashlight and extra batteries

14 Canned compressed air with sealant (for emergency tire repair)

15 Brightly colored cloth or plastic flags for attracting attention;flares

16 rain poncho, water proof tarp


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    • GeeMale profile image


      9 years ago from Billings

      Yep - Jes - the coleman stove is great. It surprises me how many people forget they have a gas grill on the back patio! Of course - for cooking and warming water or food OUTSIDE ONLY - Never bring in outdoor cooking grills for ANYTHING.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      If I can anticipate a winter power outage I also fill my bath tub and/or washing machine with water so we can still flush toilets. I also keep my camping gear stocked all year for the same reason, a coleman cook stove can come in very handy after a day or two of eating cold spaghettios.

    • mp3audiobooks profile image


      10 years ago from Switzerland

      Good solid advice. Too many people have been in very serious trouble or even killed simply because they did not follow the simple rules and tips you spell out here.

    • Marye Audet profile imageAUTHOR

      Marye Audet 

      10 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Thanks! It is good, even if you live in an area with minimal winter weather (like I do-Texas) to know these things because you never know when the odd winter storm will hit.

    • Jennifer profile image


      10 years ago

      Great info!

    • gabriella05 profile image


      10 years ago from Oldham

      Thanks Marye the information that you give it will help me a lots. I travel from England to Italy in winter and I find a lots of snow in the way France and Italy

      Thank you very much great information

    • funride profile image

      Ricardo Nunes 

      10 years ago from Portugal

      Every time I go to colder countries always get those bright blankets.

      Here in Portugal it´s more useful the summer kit. :-)

      Great informative hub!

    • mgwhite profile image

      Mary White 

      10 years ago from Mobile, AL

      Wow, sometimes I wish I got to see snow more often, but I'm actually glad to live in one of the warmer areas of the U.S. Of course, I have to know how to deal with the aftermath of hurricanes.

    • 532054 profile image


      10 years ago from Pakistan

      informative thanks for sharring

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Very useful information. I suspect most people are woefully unprepared for a winter emergency.

    • compu-smart profile image


      10 years ago from London UK

      I thought i was well prepared!! It's shopping time for me now:/

      Thanks Marye Audet for this very useful info..:)

    • Marye Audet profile imageAUTHOR

      Marye Audet 

      10 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Lela- yeah lowers your body temp..If at all possibel you need to drink warmed water to help keep the body temp up

      Thats a great idea Bob

    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 

      10 years ago from New Brunswick

      great blog very important information. I have 2 kits for travel one for summer another for winter plus the at home one.

    • Lela Davidson profile image

      Lela Davidson 

      10 years ago from Bentonville, Arkansas

      Seriously about the snow? I never would have guessed.


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