4 things to do to prepare for a winter storm – Forbes Advisor
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A snowstorm can be an opportunity to settle in with a hot drink and catch up with all the streaming shows your friends have been discussing.
But a winter storm can quickly turn violent. So before you stand in line to watch TV, take the time to prepare for the worst case scenario. By planning before the first snowflakes begin to fall, you may be able to better manage the costs of a storm.
Here are four areas of your life where thinking about the future can make your life easier once the storm has passed.
1. Gather essential documents and have cash on hand
It’s always a good idea to have financial records organized in an easy-to-grab place if you need to vacate your home. Find birth certificates, passports, and other identifying documents, as well as tax records, titles and deeds, and insurance policies. Keep these documents in a food storage bag to seal them from flooding or other mishaps that may occur.
Remember to have your credit and debit cards handy in case you need to move to a safer place like a hotel or a friend’s house. But also have cash on hand, in case power outages prevent you from paying for essentials with plastic. For example, $200 can more than cover a night’s hotel, a full tank of gas, and a hot meal for you and your family.
Read more: Does home insurance cover spoiled food after a power outage?
2. Winterize your home and car
Preparing your home and car for a winter storm doesn’t have to be expensive. A few emergency supplies and simple tasks can help you prepare for a blizzard or other event.
How to Winterize Your Home
Check the batteries in your smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector and replace them if necessary. These are essential if you plan to use a fireplace, wood stove, or kerosene heater to keep you warm during a storm.
Keeping faucets open at a slow drip can help keep pipes from freezing while you’re home. If you decide to leave the house to wait out the storm elsewhere, set your thermostat to 55 degrees to save energy while preventing freezing.
Outside your home, remove leaves and other obstructions from your gutters to avoid ice dams. Ice dams occur when snow and ice build up on your roof, but can’t drain through clogged gutters. Water is trapped on your roof and can seep into your attic or ceiling.
Read more: How to winterize a house
How to winterize your car
Load up your vehicle with emergency supplies in case you need to venture out at any time. Jumper cables, a flashlight, a change of warm clothes, blankets, water and snacks are all recommended by the US government’s Ready campaign. During the pandemic, you might also want to keep a few extra masks in your car.
Make sure your wiper blades are less than a year old, washer fluid is topped up, battery is in good condition (less than 4-5 years old) with older cars or batteries stored on a trickle charger in cold weather.
All-season tires on most new cars work fine, while winter tires (also called snow tires) are even better. Be sure to put away a snow brush. For long drives, keep a collapsing shovel and sand around: pour sand on the front or back of the wheels for traction and put two bags in the trunk of rear-wheel-drive cars for better grip.
Keeping the gas tank nearly full can prevent ice from forming in the tank and fuel lines. It also makes it easier to get around if you need to find power or supplies after a storm. If you’re stuck away from home, a car with a full tank of gas can idle for at least a day, but make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t stuck in a snowdrift, that which could allow dangerous exhaust gases (carbon monoxide) to enter the car.
An electric vehicle with a nearly full battery should also be able to keep the car warm for at least 24 hours, especially if you only use the heated seats.
Also, make sure you have enough insurance on your car. Collision coverage pays for repairs in the event of a wreck, but only comprehensive coverage will pay for weather-related damage, like falling trees or windshield splinters that turn into major cracks in freezing weather .
You can also check that your insurance includes roadside assistance, in case cold temperatures drain your battery while you stay comfortably indoors.
3. Get these supplies for your home
FEMA recommends a three-day supply of non-perishable food for each person in your home, but says a week or more of non-perishable items is even better. You will also want to have at least a gallon of drinking water per person per day on hand. Don’t forget extra pet food and water, and baby supplies like infant formula.
While it’s tempting to stock up on commodities like milk, eggs, and bread, it’s hard to make French toast without electricity. Instead, stock up on easy snacks like trail mixes and hardy fruits like oranges and apples that don’t need to be refrigerated. If your electricity is out for a while, you’ll be able to keep your food from spoiling faster by not going into the fridge for ingredients.
Another essential item worth picking up: a battery-powered or wind-up radio. If you’re without power and don’t have cell service, a radio can help you get emergency updates for your area. Emergency radios start at around $20, and some have flashlights or ports to charge your phone.
4. Create an emergency plan
Although you can prepare as best you can to shelter in place, you may have to leave your home to access electricity or wait for repairs to be made. Discuss your options with family and friends and have a plan in place for who can sleep together if conditions warrant.
As you make plans with family members, write down a list of phone numbers you might need in an emergency. This list will come in handy if your phone battery is drained. FEMA recommends designating an out-of-town person who can relay messages and keep you in touch if family and friends in your immediate area lose contact with each other.
It’s also times like these that you may want to dip into your emergency savings – an emergency fund can come in handy if you, a family member or neighbor have to pay for a hotel, rental car or additional groceries.
Don’t neglect your accrued perks either. If you have points on a travel credit card, you may be able to pay for a hotel stay with those points. While this may not be the vacation of your dreams, it may be worth having access to heating, hot water, or other comforts.
Read more: Best places to keep your emergency fund