As I write this post, a HUGE winter "Bomb Cyclone" is walloping the east coast of North America called winter storm Grayson. 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.
8 less common, but important things to consider if you want to THRIVE in #ExtremeCold, Winter Storms & Survive the #BombCyclone, #BeSafe.
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 bomb cyclone and winter storm Grayson!
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
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?
Heart Attacks are one of the biggestes killers in winter,
If caught early, there are a few things you can still do to help the potential of a winter heart attack 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. In the case of the bomb cyclone and winter strom Garyson, it could be chipping ice not shoveling snow that is the killer.
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.
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.
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 hassals!
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.
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.
- 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!