IronAngel here, host of R4nger5 A2Z. What follows is a bunch of helpful ideas for cold weather.
As you might have noticed if you are in the US this week, there is a bit of cold air rolling in. The UK and Europe has already had a number of bouts of winter fun. If you listen to the mainstream media, its Iceageddon or some such. (We had Snowpocaplyse last week).
It is winter, it does this. So instead of freaking out and being stupid, do it the r4nger5 way – be smart and be ready.
First and foremost, check the weather forcast every so often. This gives you a heads up 60+ hours out so you can check your stores and update as needed. Sure, weather forecasting is the art of guessing, but generally speaking it is better than throwing darts at a chart.
Get your kit in order *before* you need it. For winter storms, the right clothing, some food stores and a heat source are in order. And assume from the start things are going to go wrong; your drunk neighbor is going to chew off the power pole with his V8 snowblower and the power will go out. If it doesn’t, you can be happily surprised. If it does, you are not going to freeze to death.
Clothing; layers layers layers. There needs to be some air space in the clothing and between the clothing. That trapped air will be heated by your body and help to keep you toasty warm. This is not the time to try to wear your entire spandex collection at once. Having a bag packed with spares isn’t at all a bad idea; wet, soaked through cloths in frigid temps are made of suck. You will want gloves, a decent hat and all the like, but also throw a long scarf in the bag to wrap up as a turban around your head if needed. In a pinch, a large bath towel works pretty well too if you have to be out in the wind.
You should have some food stores, in both your home and car. And this might sound a bit mad, but if you have canned foods, you should have two can openers. Why? Because if the only one you have breaks you will have to resort to bizarre methods of opening the cans (like taking a hand axe to it… this ends badly). Why would I think that might happen? Because I have had it happen. Twice. Once in a power outage in a storm, once camping.
High energy, easy to prepare foods are the best choice, but you do have to consider if there will be issue with freezing. A few cans of frozen soup in your car don’t really help when you are stuck if you don’t have a method to thaw them. If the engine still runs and you have gas, you can put the can by the heater to warm it, but we r4nger5 plan for the worst. Assume that the food in your car will have to be eaten cold and plan accordingly. Anything better than cold chow is gravy when you are sitting in a snowbank so deep the doors wont open. A full day or two’s food in your car, contained in a plastic tub in the storage area is not a bad idea. Also in that tub should be the usual emergency stuff; a spare flashlight, a couple Mylar space blankets or heavy blankets, 2 can openers, a couple of those candles in jars (for warmth), boxes of safety matches (not the massive kitchen kit, instead about 50 in a small tin, held firm by some cotton so they don’t move about and possibly attempt to ignite when you take that curb at 50 on your way late to work). Put anything else you think might be useful in that tub as well, and familiarize yourself with how to use those things before you need to. Hint; road flares are not a viable heat source inside the cabin of your vehicle.
The same sort of kit in your home isn’t a bad idea, only more food stores and a medikit. Water stores at home are also a good idea; filling cleaned out soda or milk jugs you can easily have several gallons of water ready should the need arise stored under the sink or in a closet. Trade out the water in storage every few months though, and shake the snot out of it before you use it. Much of the “blech!” taste of stored water is that it contains very little free oxygen.
As the storm approaches, ready your house for the storm once your supplies are in and stored. If you have any rooms you are rarely in, block off the heat vents going to those rooms for the course of the storm with something like a cookie sheet over the vent or the like. Don’t create a fire hazard in doing so though! This will allow your furnace to focus on your main living area and not have to work as hard to keep up. Some towels thumb tacked over windows can help insulate, and if you have drafts coming under your doors or the like, now is the time to find something to put in front of them to help seal that up. Granted, a more permanent fix is in order, but you have other things to do right now, eh?
Now, as it gets cold, you might consider opening your cabinet doors under the sinks to let the heat circulate around your pipes a bit more. A non LED/CFL lightbulb in a clip on mount near your pipes can help prevent freezing. Oold style incandescent light bulbs radiate 90% of the energy they consume as heat, halogens are a bit more efficient, but still give off a lot of heat. Party “black lights” put off a LOT of heat. Just be sure that you can hold your hand above and around the light for a full minute without it burning you.. you don’t want to accidentally start a fire here. I tend to use the clip on shop lights with the aluminum bell around them to focus the heat more to one direction, but the bell also acts as a heat radiator fairly well. If you have a water pump, a blub or two down in the well pit with it will help if the area above it is not well sealed and insulated (underground tends to stay around 55f or so due to the thermal mass of the earth, but a small air leak can cause the well pit to freeze). Be aware you do NOT want condensation or other water to drip on the light bulb, unless its a heavy duty outdoor spot light type. The sudden cooling in one small spot will blow a hole in the glass and the light will fail, making a mess and creating a potential hazard.
The light bulb trick is going to get harder as countries phase out the incandescent bulbs, so you may have to do some studying on ways to pull this off in the future.
Also plan to have your power go out. This means your furnace won’t run, and it will get cold. Some people will say “hey, I can just turn the oven on!” Eh, maybe? A lot of modern ovens use electrical controls, so no. And you also have some risks of carbon monoxide poisoning, though most ovens normally vent into the room anyway. If you get a headache and a few breaths of fresh air clear it up a bit, yep, you are possibly getting CO issues from something. You want to fix that, right NOW. So how to stay warm when the heat goes out?
Layers of cloths of course are your first line of defense. There are many other space heating options that I won’t go into here in depth, as you need to research and heavily educate yourself on the safe operation of those units. Remember, fire eats the same air you breathe – even if the combustion is complete and clean, it also off gasses things you aren’t really gung ho to breathe like carbon mono and dioxide. Be smart about this.
Personally, I suggest units that can run without power, take up little space in storage and have more uses. For example, a Coleman propane lantern not only gives off a ton of heat, they also produce light. That’s one tool that does multiple things, and has multiple uses (home in a storm, camping, seeing what the hell that stupid neighbor is doing in your back yard at 3 am…). Of course, you will need spare fuel for what ever system you happen to use, and safe storage of it as well.
The ceramic pots on a stand over a large jar candle are also kind of handy (be aware, the candle must be in a jar… the heat radiating back down from the pot above it will cause it to melt much faster than normal, and make a hell of a mess as well as potentially creating a fire hazard). Read up on these if you like, they are quite easy to make and use as long as you are smart about it.
There is a whole lot more than can be said here, but I think this gives you a good start to further research, should you need to do so. The more you know, the easier life becomes, after all. Just these simple things can make a miserable time a whole lot less sucktacular.
Stay safe, stay warm, stay Smart.
Survival of the Smartest – R4nger5.
IronAngel – End of Line.