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Put together a snow emergency kit for the home and car

Updated on February 9, 2015

The key to preparing for snow emergencies is not to wait until the last minute – snow shovels and snow blowers get very expensive when an emergency is warned. For the snowed-in house, it’s a good idea to buy a snow shovel at the end of the winter season, when hardware stores realize they over-purchased. It won’t take up much room, and should be kept available within the house if your garage is separate from the house. This way you can shovel out to the street or at least open a small area out the back door to let the dog out. If the snow level is very high, shovel out a visible part of your car if it is parked on the street, so it doesn’t get run over by a snowplow.

For the car, get some flares for announcing when you get into a drift. Keep an empty coffee can and candle in the trunk – this allows you to have heat without endangering you and the passengers with toxic fumes (and saving on gas) while you wait for rescue. Also keep two warm blankets and two pillows in the trunk for the vigil. Keep some dried food and extra diapers in the trunk in case it’s a long siege. Kitty litter is a great anti-traction staple in case you are iced into a parking space.

Market research confirmed that two things that are emptied off the shelves in the face of a snow emergency are beer and diapers. Perhaps if the baby is dry and the parents have something to sip, all things look better.

More often than we like, a home will lose power during a snow emergency. This means you need to prepare for lack of heat, water, and warm food. No electric can openers at a time like this! So stock up on firewood if you are lucky enough to have a fireplace and keep it where you can reach it easily. You might consider using the firewood as a three-sided “wall” to block off snow in the area that dog needs. The family will be living and sleeping in the fireplace room. If you tend to use the fireplace just for looks at other times, read up on how to build a warm fire, how to manage a flue, and how to clean out a fireplace. Keep in mind to NOT use pine for firewood – it leaves tar on the inside of the chimney which can catch fire. The other no-no is a coal barbeque grill. Briquettes give off a lethal gas, so they should never be used indoors.

If your water is pumped up a hill to your home, you may lose access to this as well. So put aside as many bottles of water as you can. To purchase water is very expensive and unnecessary. For drinking and cooking, fill cleaned juice and milk bottles that have screw tops to the rim (so there’s no air) with pre-boiled water. If you set up one of these bottles a week and just keep tucking them away you will be prepared. You can also pack away raw tap water in large containers for bathing and cleaning. If you do not have water, you cannot flush a toilet; a gallon of this raw water poured into the toilet will cause it to flush.

For light, you can stock up on hurricane lamps. Consider battery- run LED lamps, since these will last a long time. Place candles in front of mirrors for a warm and friendly glow. And, of course, at least one flashlight. This means stocking up on batteries and candles. Evenings the whole family can relax together in a single room. But consider how each member will get to his or her bedroom if you have heat. Never leave candles burning when and where people sleep.

Stock up on a few games to keep people busy when they have no computers or television. Purchase a deck of large-numbered playing cards (remember, vision by candlelight isn’t so good). Make sure all cell phones are turned off when not in use, to save battery life. Get a battery-operated radio for entertainment and to keep up on the news of the storm. Buy large-print books on your favorite subjects for the whole family.

Of course you need to stock up a ‘storm cellar pantry’ during the year, so that it is full by the time the storms come. This pantry should contain disposable diapers; even if you don’t have babies at home, be prepared in case others get snowed in with you. Also stock up on paper goods such as napkins, paper towels, plastic utensils, paper plates and cups (remember, no dishwasher) and toilet paper. Pick up food which can survive on the shelf. Think of the dry version of regular meals – dried eggs, UHT milk such as Parmalat, dry cereal, dried fruit, pasta, peanut butter, jam or jelly, pretzels, potato chips, dried meat such as beef jerky, canned vegetables, canned fruit, spaghetti sauce in a jar, tea bags and coffee singles, even olives.

During camping season, pick up at least a one-burner propane stove and the bottle of propane that fits it properly. If possible, add a two-burner propane stove as well. This will allow you to heat water for shaving with disposable razors, wash, make coffee, and cook dinners. Remember, there may be no electricity, so an old-fashioned drip or percolator coffee pot would come in handy. Stock up on propane, but store it outside of the house like the firewood, within reach.

Prepare for the worst; figure you may be snowed in for up to a week, so store supplies needed for that span of time. Naturally, if you are really north, stock up even more for longer sieges.

Once you are prepared, you can set up the living conditions quickly so you can enjoy the coziness and the company of your family and friends.

© 2015 Bonnie-Jean Rohner

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