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Jan 06

Preparing for Winter Storms & Extreme Cold, Part Two; 8 Less Known Tips to Thrive

By Chris Gilmour | Extreme Weather

​As I write this post, a HUGE winter ​”Bomb Cyclone” is walloping the east coast of North America, extreme cold blankets the continent and it is snowing in North Carolina and Florida.In this post (part two), I share some less common tips and things to consider in preparing for a winter storm.
​In Part one, I chat about lessons from nature in becoming hardy to cold weather and preparing for winter. Click here to read part one.Scroll down to read post two.

​8 less common, but important things to consider if you want to ​thrive in extreme cold, winter storms & survive the bomb cyclone.

​8 less common, but important things to consider if you want to ​THRIVE in #ExtremeCold, Winter Storms & Survive the #BombCyclone, #BeSafe.​​​​

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​1) Conduction can be your best friend or worst enemy when it comes to warmth.Conduction is a powerful principle in thermodynamics and heat exchange to understand and utilize. Consider which room in your house has the best insulation, both from the outside walls (i.e., an interior room) and the best insulation from the ground below.
​An underground basement may be naturally warmer than an upper floor. But if your basement has a concrete floor with just a think carpet, the conduction from the concrete is likely to suck the heat right out of you. You will want a thick layer of insulation all around you.

One of my favorite wilderness survival strategies for cold weather is to warm rocks in the fire. They store and release heat for hours longer than a hot water bottle.
Do you have dry stones and a propane barbecue? Consider heating rocks outside and bringing them in to help warm your bed or indoor squirrel shelter.  Do this at your own risk, but I have done it a ton, and it is a game changer on a cold night. I put one by my feet, one on my kidneys and one on my chest for a warm nights sleep!**Warning There is a risk of burning yourself here. Heat the rocks to a point where you can still touch them with bare skin without burning yourself or wrap them in a nonflammable material. Also, BE AWARE, rocks with moisture in them can explode and pose a severe risk of injury. Make sure to gather stones from high and dry places away from water.​
​Another great piece of emergency gear if you do not have a barbecue is small propane burner for camping.
Do NOT use this inside.
​You can use this to boil water for warm tea and to heat up a water bottle to bring to bed with you or stuff inside your jacket if you do not have rocks.
Remember to add some butter or coconut oil to your tea for the extra heat the fat will provide your body. Take that weatherbomb!

One of my favorite wilderness survival strategies for cold weather is to warm rocks in the fire. They store and release heat for hours longer than a hot water bottle. Do you have dry stones and a propane barbecue? Consider heating rocks outside and bringing them in to help warm your bed or indoor squirrel shelter.  Do this at your own risk, but I have done it a ton, and it is a game changer on a cold night. I put one by my feet, one on my kidneys and one on my chest for a warm nights sleep!**Warning – There is a risk of burning yourself here. Heat the rocks to a point where you can still touch them with bare skin without burning yourself or wrap them in a nonflammable material. Also, BE AWARE, rocks with moisture in them can explode and pose a severe risk of injury. Make sure to gather stones from high and dry places away from water.Another great piece of emergency gear if you do not have a barbecue is small propane burner for camping. Do NOT use this inside. But you could use it to boil water for warm tea and to heat up a water bottle to bring to bed with you or stuff inside your jacket if you do not have rocks. Remeber to add some butter or coconut oil to your tea for the extra heat the fat will provide your body.onduction is a powerful principle in thermodynamics and heat exchange to understand and utilize.

​2) Water is easier to drink when it is not frozen.

 

A common suggestion is to store water in case the municipal water system goes down, or you have to hunker down for a few days. I commonly see it suggested to have two liters per day per person. I would recommend you double that. You may need water for hydration, cooking and personal hygiene.
​​Something sometimes overlooked is that if this is a winter storm without power, it may be below freezing inside your house. How do you keep your water from freezing then?
​I bet you can get creative and come up with many ways to do this. The critical piece is considering it before the water freezes. Here are two suggestions:- Store your water in your refrigerator or inside of coolers. Even if the power is out, the insulation of these will insulate the inside from the freezing outside, slowing the freezing process.- If your curling up under the covers or you build a shelter in your house (see part one), bring your water bottles under the blankets with you. When I guided winter camping expeditions, we always put our water bottle in our sleeping bag at night. For an extra comfort, fill your bottle with hot water before bed!

​Do you know what three of the most common killers are in snow storms? ​Let’s look at each of them. #WeatherBomb #GetPrepared

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​3) Put your candles in a mason jar to prevent house fires.
Home emergency kits often suggest candles, but in an emergency, it is easy to get distracted from adequately monitoring a candle. House fires ​risks go up during blackouts and severe weather.
​Keep some mason jars in your emergency kit to burn your candles inside of. If you are using the candles for heat as well as light, put them in a pop can with the front cut open. This survival hack makes them safer but also better directs the heat and light. I call this my survival flashlight.

​4) Heart Attacks are easiest to treat when prevented altogether. Aspirin anyone?
​And if caught early, there are a few things you can still do to help the situation. Heart attacks often occur from people doing hard physical work such as shoveling snow, in a cold environment which may limit your oxygen intake and put extra strain on your body.

​It is important to know you do not need to be overweight or even out of shape to have a heart attack. Even healthy adults sometimes have them. Remember the extraordinary stress load you may be facing if you are in an emergency situation. Here are a few tips to consider:
– Know the sign and symptoms so you can act quickly.  Also, know the first steps to take if you are responding. Remember in a blizzard you may not have quick access to advanced medical care.​

– Know the sign and symptoms so you can act quickly.  Also, know the first steps to take if you are responding. Here is an excellent article with some advice for if advanced medical help is not available or will be slow to respond. Remeber in a blizzard you may not have quick access to advanced medical care.

​Here is an excellent article from the “Survival Doctor” with ​advice on responding to a heart attack and what to do if advanced medical help is not available or will be slow to respond. ​
– There is a fair bit of research showing the blood-thinning effects of aspirin may be able to prevent a heart attack and in some cases MAY even slow the onset of one.
It may be worth having a conversation with your doctor to see if it would be appropriate for you to take an aspirin proactively during a winter storm or emergency situation. I am NOT telling you to do this. I am suggesting speaking with your doctor about it as an option.
​- A folk and herbal remedy for heart attack prevention and mitigation is the use of cayenne pepper. Like aspirin, cayenne pepper is a blood thinner.
I have NOT had personal experience using it for heart attacks and have not found any conclusive studies showing adequate research into the possibilities. ​This in MAY help in an emergency, and with few other alternatives (such as no aspirin).​ Consult your doctor ahead of time to see if this is a safe option for you and do some of your own research.

​5) Improvised indoor emergency heating systems kill people every year.I am not going to expand on this right now but do some research ahead of time as to what is safe and unsafe to use for backup heating. Burning gas, propane, charcoal & other fuels indoors have the potential to burn up all the oxygen in your home and may release a deadly amount of carbon monoxide. They also may provide increased risk of explosions and fires.

4) Improvised indoor emergency heating systems kill people every year.I am not going to expand on this right now but do some research ahead of time as to what is safe and unsafe to use for backup heating. Burning gas, propane, charcoal & other fuels indoors have the potential to burn up all the oxygen in your home and may release a deadly amount of CO2. They also may provide increased risk of explosions and fires.

My top 3 choices for backup heat include (in order are):
1) Install a wood stove,
2) Get a backup generator,
3) Don’t worry about creating heat, just bundle up and huddle up! See post one to learn about making a squirrels nest survival shelter in your home.
Do NOT bring your barbecue inside, no matter how cold it gets. There are better ways!

One other important reminder here. If you are likely to loose power and think it could drop below freezing in your home, turn off your main water valve BEFORE everything freezes. This could save you A LOT of money and hassels!

​6) Have you ever tried to use your iPhone outside when it is below zero?​Have backup communication plans including a landline.​My iPhone dies so quick when it is cold. If you don’t have an outlet (and warmth) to recharge it, rewarming is unlikely to bring it back to life. The lessons here, keep your phone on your body or close to the fire. Have a backup USB charger if the power is out. Plan on not being able to use your cell phone altogether.
​Even though I use my cell phone 90% of the time, I still have a landline. Landlines may work (assuming you have a simple phone) even when electricity is down. I have a basic plan that cost me $120/year. Well worth the investment to me for the peace of mind it provides.

Even though I use my cell phone 99% of the time, I still have a landline. Landlines will work (assuming you have a simple phone) even when electricity is down. I have a basic plan that cost me $120/year. Well worth the investment to me for the peace of mind it provides.

​7) What’s your comms plan?In my work running emergency exercises, one of the first things that often fails is communications. If you have family members across town what is your plan if the phone lines stop working?
– Make sure your family members are aware of the storm and prepared before the power goes out.- Decide what kind of situation would warrant physically checking up on each other (if even possible) and who would come to who. No need for both or either of you to put yourself at extra risk.

​- Get a hand-crank or battery operated radio to be able to hear emergency broadcasts and news updates even if the power is out
– Try installing an app on your phones such as Zello that need very little bandwidth or signal to communicate.

– Try installing an app on your phones such as Zello that need very little bandwidth or signal to communicate.- Make sure your family members are aware of the storm and prepared before the power goes out.- Decide what kind of situation would warrant physically checking up on each other (if even possible) and who would come to who. No need for both or either of you to put yourself at extra risk.5) Have you ever tried to use your iPhone outside when it is below zero? Have backup communication plans including a landline.My iPhone dies so quick when it is cold. If you don’t have an outlet (and warmth) to recharge it, rewarming is unlikely to bring it back to life. The lessons here, keep your phone on your body or close to the fire. Have a backup USB charger if the power is out. Plan on not being able to use your cell phone altogether.My top 3 choices for backup heat include (in order are): 1) Install a wood stove, 2) Get a backup generator, 3) Don’t worry about creating heat, just bundle up and huddle up! See post one to learn about making a squirrels nest survival shelter in your home.Do NOT bring your barbecue inside, no matter how cold it gets. There are better ways! – There is a fair bit of research showing the blood-thinning effects of aspirin may be able to prevent a heart attack and in some cases MAY even slow the onset of one. It may be worth having a conversation with your doctor to see if it would be appropriate for you to take an aspirin proactively during a winter storm or emergency situation. I am NOT telling you to do this. I am suggesting speaking with your doctor about it as an option.- A folk and herbal remedy for heart attack prevention and mitigation is the use of cayenne pepper. Like aspirin, cayenne pepper is a blood thinner. I have NOT had personal experience using it for heart attacks and have not found any conclusive studies showing adequate research into the possibilities. What I am suggesting is that in an emergency, and with few other alternatives (such as no aspirin), it likely would not hurt and may even help. Again I am not saying this is safe for you, just good to know as a plan B and last resort. Consult your doctor ahead of time to see if this is a safe option for you and do some of your own research.Heart attacks often occur from people doing hard physical work such as shoveling snow, in a cold environment which may limit your oxygen intake and put extra strain on your body. Keep some mason jars in your emergency kit to burn your candles inside of. If you are using the candles for heat as well as light, put them in a pop can with the front cut open. This survival hack makes them safer but also better directs the heat and light. I call this my survival flashlight. 2) Put your candles in a mason jar to prevent house fires.Home emergency kits often suggest candles, but in an emergency, it is easy to get distracted from adequately monitoring a candle. I bet you can get creative and come up with many ways to do this. The critical piece is considering it before the water freezes. Here are two suggestions:- Store your water in your refrigerator or inside of coolers. Even if the power is out, the insulation of these will insulate the inside from the freezing outside, slowing the freezing process.- If your curling up under the covers or you build a shelter in your house (see part one), bring your water bottles under the blankets with you. When I guided winter camping expeditions, we always put our water bottle in our sleeping bag at night. For an extra comfort, fill your bottle with hot water before bed!Do you know what three of the most common killers are in snow storms?  House fires, carbon monoxide, and heart attacks. Let’s look at each.Something often not mentioned and sometimes overlooked is that if this is a winter storm without power, it may be below freezing inside your house. How do you keep your water from freezing then?1) Water is easier to drink when it is not frozen.A common suggestion is to store water in case the municipal water system goes down, or you have to hunker down for a few days. I commonly see it suggested to have two liters per day per person. I would recommend double that. You may need water for hydration, cooking and personal hygiene. The government and media have been issuing emergency preparation information out to the public. As a professional in the field of emergency preparedness, I appreciate their efforts and understand why they choose to keep suggestions basic. As a person who loves and lives in the outdoors and believes in self-sufficiency and resiliency, I feel different. Emergency instructions often do not go far enough to help people thrive in worst case scenarios.This is why I have written this post and why I would like to encourage you to share your thoughts, suggestions, and experience in the comments below so we can all learn from each other. Preparing for a winter storm, here are some less common, but important things to consider if you want to be resilient like nature!In Part one, I chat about lessons from nature in becoming hardy to cold weather and preparing for winter. Click here to read part one.As I write this post, a HUGE winter storm is walloping the east coast of North Ameria, and it is snowing in North Carolina and Florida.In this post, I share some less common tips and things to consider in preparing for a winter storm.

​- If you have elderly neighbors or a single parent living close by, consider inviting them to weather the storm with you.
​8) Drink water to stay warm… say what?Being dehydrated can significantly lower your body temperature and make you more susceptible to the cold. It often feels counter-intuitive to drink water when it is cold so don’t forget! While leading expeditions in the outdoors, when people tell me they are cold, the first thing I ask is when was the last time you drank some water.
​In Part 1 I discuss best foods and what we can learn from a fire when it comes to efficiently fueling our bodies to generate better internal heat.

​What are some of your favorite and less common extreme cold and winter storm survival tips? Please share in the comments below!

8) Conduction can be your best friend or worst enemy when it comes to warmth.Consider which room in your house has the best insulation, both from the outside walls (i.e., an interior room) and the best insulation from the ground below. An underground basement may be warmer longterm than an upper floor. But if your basement has a concrete floor with just a think carpet, the conduction from the concrete is likely to suck the heat right out of you. You will want a thick layer of insulation all around you. In Part 1 I also talk about the best foods and what we can learn from a fire when it comes to efficiently fueling our bodies to generate better internal heat more efficiently. 7) Drink water to stay warm… say what?Being dehydrated can significantly lower your body temperature and make you more susceptible to the cold. It often feels counter-intuitive to drink water when it is cold. While leading expeditions in the outdoors, when people tell me they are cold, the first thing I ask is when was the last time you drank some water.- If you have elderly neighbors or a single parent living close by, consider inviting them to weather the storm with you. – Get a hand-crank or battery operated radio to be able to hear emergency broadcasts and news updates even if the power is out

​Want more?  Check out:
Preparing for Winter Storms & Extreme Cold, Part One; Lessons From Nature in Resiliency
10 Lessons we can learn from the recent string of disasters, or
​Getting started in personal and family disaster preparedness

Jan 06

Preparing for Winter Storms & Extreme Cold, Part One; Lessons from Nature in Resiliency

By Chris Gilmour | Nature's Lessons , Prepared Lifetyle

​What ​lessons from nature teach us about being prepared for winter storms and extreme cold?

Part one of this post will focus on lessons from nature in being more cold hardy, adaptable and prepared for extreme cold, winter storms and bomb cyclones.If you prefer to skim articles, watch for the bold text highlighting key points.In part two (scroll to the bottom for the link) will cover winter storm preparedness tips that people often do not consider. These can take you from surviving to thriving!​

Part one of this post will focus on lessons from nature in being more cold hardy, adaptable and prepared for extreme cold and winter storms.In part two (scroll to the bottom for a link) I cover winter storm preparedness tips that people often do not consider. These can take you from surviving to thriving!

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A “Winter Weather Bomb”  was one of the top news stories in Canada this week along with snow in the Carolinas and Florida. (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/weather-bomb-polar-vortex-winter-hurricane-1.4471087)  A friend of mine in Cape Breton saw lightning in the middle of the blizzard.  Record-breaking cold preceded this storm and again followed it across much of the country. The polar vortex has dropped again, something becoming more and more common. (MAKE LINK TO – http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/extreme-cold-1.4471078)As always, I ask the question, what can we learn from this?

Introduction:
A few weeks back I sat in a tree from before sun-up to late morning, several days in a row. It was below -20 Celsius on a number of those mornings. Not only was I out in these temperatures,​  I also was not moving​ or overdressed, and it was beautiful.

A few weeks back I sat in a tree from before sun-up to late morning, several days in a row, it was below -20 Celsius on a number of those mornings. Not only was I out in these temperatures, but I also was not moving, not overdressed, and it was beautiful.

​One morning I had five deer walk underneath me. I literally could have jumped on any one of them. Have you ever watched Bluejays dig in the snow looking for buried acorns or had chickadees singing less than 2 feet from your head? It was beautiful and recharging to my soul.I spent a lot of time contemplating how I have built my relationship with the cold to the point that it is no longer a barrier to my enjoyment of winter. ​Lessons from nature ​teach us about being resilient beings and how all the other creatures of the woods deal with the cold.  Here are a few reflections and tips.
​Natural Strategies & Lessons from Nature – Dealing with the Cold –

​1) Eat like the Deer, Squirrels & BirdsWhy do Chickadee’s prefer sunflower seeds from your winter bird feeder? For the same reason, I put butter in my coffee.
​The morning I sat for over 3 hours in -25 Celius weather, I put butter and coconut oil in my coffee. For breakfast I ate nuts and bacon ​(Vegans, replace the bacon with avocado’s and more coconut oil and nuts). ​

​It makes a HUGE difference and was what allowed me to sit still for so long and remain warm. That morning I also witnessed Bluejays & Squirrels digging in the snow for acorns doing the same thing. A great analogy I have heard around how fat keeps us warm is to consider how we build a fire. We start with kindling (tiny little twigs), which burns hot and fast but leaves few coals. Then we ad medium size sticks. They take longer to get hot, burn a little longer, and leave a few coals. Last we add our logs. Logs take the longest to light and generate heat but they leave a bed of coals that can last for hours.

​”If you want to be more hardy to the cold and winter, learn from nature and feed your body like a fire”  #Nature #Resiliency

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​Consider sugar and carbs to the kindling. They give us almost instant energy and heat but it will not last long. If your cold, eat some sugar and it will help with short-term warmth. Remember to add the medium sticks and logs too!Protein is like the medium size sticks. It takes a little longer to digest but gives us sustained energy and heat along with supporting a ton of other bodily functions for longer than sugar.If you want to stay warm in extreme cold temperatures, you NEED fat, the logs of our fire, for sustained heat and energy.Nature has many perfect synchronicities. One of these is the way that the plant parts containing the most amount of fat (seeds and nuts) start to fall as the temperature begins to drop. If you are looking for ​wildlife in Southern Ontario in the fall, find the Oak trees dropping acorns.

Four Natural Strategies & Lessons from Nature – Dealing with the ColdI had five deer walk underneath me in one morning. I literally could have jumped on any one of them. I watched Bluejays dig in the snow looking for buried acorns. I had chickadees singing less than 2 feet from my head. It was beautiful and recharging to my soul.I spent a lot of time contemplating how I have built my relationship with the cold to the point that it is no longer a barrier to my enjoyment of winter or safety and what nature has to teach us about being resilient beings and how all the other creatures of the north deal with the cold.  Here are a few reflections and tips.Is it just me, or does it appear that we a giving out “extreme cold advisories” more often and at higher temperatures than the past? As an outdoors educator, enthusiast and wild human, it always saddens me a bit when I hear the news station saying, “it’s cold outside, keep your children indoors”, “outdoor recess is canceled due to the cold” or “avoid going outside if possible.” It was only a couple hundred years ago the people on this continent lived outside year round, regardless of the weather and the temperature. In the far North, many including youth still spend most of the winter outside. Yes, these people had shelters, but no, life did not grind to halt, and outdoor play and work still happened when it dropped into the double digits. Let’s have a look at how the wildlife cope with cold and what we can learn from nature. Part one of this post will focus on lessons from nature in being more cold hardy, adaptable and prepared for extreme cold and winter storms.In part two (scroll to the bottom for a link) I cover winter storm preparedness tips that people often do not consider. These can take you from surviving to thriving!

​2) Study how the grey squirrel builds it’s home.​That cold morning I also reveled in how comfortable the grey squirrels seemed when they had such small bodies. Have you ever really looked at a grey squirrel nest and considered how it works?

​This simple architecture is a brilliant feat that encompasses core principles of shelter and warmth. When I teach shelter building ​I like to focus on the “principals” of shelter over the intricate details of the design. At least as a starting point.

This simple architecture is a brilliant feat that encompasses core principles of shelter and warmth. When I teach shelter building in the various wilderness skills workshops I run, I like to focus on the “principals” of shelter over the intricate details of the design. At least as a starting point.

​Once you fully understand the principles of shelter ​you can apply them in any circumstance. Hot, cold, wet, dry, and any ecosystem, forest, desert, urban, arctic, etc.There are two general places heat comes from 1) Internal heat that our body generates through burning calories. 2) External heat from the sun, fire, furnace, etc. ​When you build a shelter, you either want to design it to capture external heat, such as a furnace in a well-insulated home. Or you want it to store and maintain our bodies own internal heat​ efficiently.
​A Grey Squirrel nest uses the second method. A giant pile of leaves (insulation) creates thousands of tiny pockets of air within it. These air pockets are insulated from the outside. ​

​The interior is small, thus the squirrel’s internal body heat radiates into the leaves. It heats the tiny pockets of dead air space which in turn helps maintain the internal shelter temperature. This is similar to how a down sleeping bag or down jacket works.
​Like mentioned in strategy one, the squirrel chows down on a bunch of good fat and oil before bed. This allows it to radiate internal heat for a longer period during the night.So we can emulate this ourselves in a winter power outage or survival situation. Here are a few examples:​- Create a squirrels nest in your house. Build a simple frame out of mattresses or tables and chairs. Then pile blankets, pillows, stuffed animals clothes, etc., both on top of and inside the pile. Stick a couple of people inside of this. ​You are likely to be toasty warm inside even in minus temperatures. ​This is how to build a squirrels nest inside your house.- ​Another trick is to tuck your jacket/sweater into your pants. Then stuff the layer in between your coat and body with clothes, stuffed animals or even crumpled up newspaper creating your own improvised down jacket.
​3) Move like the deer and chickadee’s, work with nature!I could write a whole book on this topic, or teach a month-long course.  We can learn so much from how wild animals move in relation to their natural environment. So many things today are based on these lessons in nature. ​Martial arts moves, military and sports tactics, architectural design and more. Nature is nothing short of brilliant!
​To summarize a few observations from my morning sit, deer, chickadee and wildlife behavior in general changes with the weather. During the fall, the majority of deer activity I witnessed and tracked ​was between sunrise and early afternoon. ​There was another spike around dusk. As soon as it dropped below -20 the deer seemed to be moving significantly more during the night. They were then bedding down to sleep midday in the afternoon sun.

​If you are interested in learning to track deer and other wildlife, check this opportunity out, Natural Born Tracker.
The key lessons from nature here are, consider keeping moving during the coldest periods​. Especially when there is no sun to warm you. Movement creates energy which in turn creates heat. Then like the squirrels and chickadees, consume a high-fat meal before bed to maintain heat the longer while you sleep.If you can sleep in the afternoon sun with a full belly, you will likely sleep longer without getting cold. This allows you to be more energetic to keep moving during the coldest part of the day.Your cycle does not have to look exactly like this. If you have adequate shelter/insulation, it may be best to hunker down for the coldest part of the day or night. ​How to most efficiently use your calories throughout the day is something to ponder and observe nature to learn. 
​4) Spend more time outside and consciously acclimatize with the changing seasons. People frequently comment on how little clothing I appear to wear in the winter. At the same time, many others are dressed up as bulky as the marshmallow man from Ghostbusters and are still cold. ​

​I attribute ​my cold tolerance to ​the following:​Building a relationship with the cold and understanding how cold I can get before I am in a danger zone. This is a VERY practical life lesson.​Knowing how to warm myself quickly and when I need too. Many people may think they do this already. I will challenge you in saying I believe most people can allow themselves to get a lot colder than they do and still be safe and healthy. Some medical conditions and other factors could change this, but most people are likely hardy than they realize.
​This valuable life lesson happened by mistake and as a consequence of my time as a dog sled guide. I was constantly managing others in the outdoors who were often not appropriately dressed. ​ ​

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