Why Are We Afraid Of Winter Storms?

So here is my list of the top things that I am afraid of for my family in the case of a winter storm. Here we go…

  1. Vehicle Accidents – Statistically, this is where most of the fatalities are going to happen in a blizzard. People drive when they don’t need to. If you have your stash of food, water, fuel, and medical supplies, you don’t need to leave. Get your self set up so you don’t need to leave. The only excuse I have here is that you NEED to perform a welfare check on your mom because she is not answering her phone. Even then, consider having the Sheriff stop by. He or she is probably closer and will have better help if they get stuck in a ditch. obviously, don’t waste their time checking on Ma unless you really think there is a problem but for heaven’s sake don’t leave the house because you forgot to stock up on something.
  2. Carbon Monoxide – Yeah, you thought the next one would be freezing to death, but if the power is on my heater is working so I am safe and warm. When the dead tree branch takes out the power, then I am running a gas generator and or using my truck and an inverter. Well, the key here is the cords need to run into the house and the thing that is making the energy is also putting out carbon monoxide. This colorless, odorless gas can be quite sneaky and because as you become asphyxiated with it, it hampers your decision-making ability, it can become deadly quick. Even if you don’t use fossil fuels to generate power, you may be burning wood in a house and that also can emit carbon monoxide if your not ventilating correctly. For many people with electric ovens during a power outage, they will pull a grill in the house to cook on and that can also build up carbon monoxide. Anything that burns can put off CO, but the solution is easy. It’s under $20 and it’s a CO detector. You can plug it in by your fireplace and leave it on the floor (CO is heavier than regular air so don’t mount it on the ceiling like a smoke detector). Just make sure you have a battery backup for it so it works when you need it most – when the power is out.
  3. Fire – Yeah I am still not that cold and now that I am at home and not asphyxiating, my main concerns statistically now are lighting candles that can start fires in rooms we are not in. We also have fires running more than usual like when we are sleeping. We also have heating devices that are meant to help warm us up like heated blankets and space heaters that if left on for hours could start fires. Space heaters cause 1/3 of home heating fires and 4/5 home heating fires deaths. So the first step here is just to get rid of that stuff. I don’t use candles anymore and have LED lanterns instead. I buy them by the 5 pack so everyone has two that they can alternate (It takes 2 days of solar charging to get them topped off so we just keep that in mind). We also just use regular blankets and double up at night as we let the fire burn down and just use the heat of the coals. This produces less CO and also gives off no sparks which are the worry for starting fires. In addition, we have a dry fire extinguisher that we keep on hand just in case. If I need to use the grill, I just step outside and don’t bring it in. These little things mitigate more of the risk.
  4. Exposure – Yeah, okay, you got me. It’s getting freak’n cold in here. Now what. Well, the first thing I can say is stay inside. It seems like a no brainer but you would be surprised how many people meet their maker because they left their shelter. Don’t be that person. secondly, bundle up in layers. you should have a base layer, an insulating layer, and an outer layer. They act just like your house walls: the base layer is like your drywall, it keeps the insulation from being damaged. In the case of your attire, that means sweat dampening your insulating layer which impedes its ability to insulate. Secondly, you have an insulation layer which is a product that traps still air. The greater it’s ability to collect and immobilize air, the better it insulates. This then takes us to the outer layer which is like the siding on your house. It keeps the insulation dry from the outside and doesn’t let the wind move all the still air around which is the insulation. After that, you can add additional layers like blankets and even vapor barriers like mylar emergency blankets or plastic sheeting. Just watch out for the suffocation issues with those at night. I’ll cover the signs and treatments of Hypothermia and Frostbite in another section on medical emergencies.
  5. Heart Attack/Exhaustion – So lots of people die shoveling snow or pushing a car out of a ditch because they are overexerting themselves sending them onto a cardiac arrest. If you can, you should include some sort of workout in your preparedness plan. I know I may not see you at the CrossFit gym with me tomorrow morning, but even if all you can do is walk the shopping mall each day for 20 minutes, you will then know your limit. That brings us to the other part of this which is Know Your Limits. If all you can do is brisk walking for 10 minutes at a time, hand-shoveling ice is going to put you over the top. You need to be good to get by without trying to get out. Stay safe here.
  6. Drowning – I would be remiss if I didn’t throw this one out there but if you are following my other tips, you will be fine. This happens in a few ways but here are the ones I avoid. Don’t let your kids go play on ice that you don’t know the thickness of. The DNR in Minnesota goes by these guidelines:
    • UNDER 4″ – STAY OFF
    • 4″ – Ice fishing or other activities on foot
    • 5″ – 7″ – Snowmobile or ATV
    • 8″ – 12″ – Car or small pickup
    • 12″ – 15″ – Medium truck
    • In short – don’t walk on, ski on, or drive on ice unless you know the thickness
  7. Starvation and Dehydration – For the most part, these storms last about 3-5 days. In northern states, and especially in more rural locations, the time it can take for power to be restored or for feet of snow to be removed can be weeks. Making sure you have enough food on hand is all about developing a family food plan. If your not sure how to get started I’ll pull that all together next week on how to build a family food plan. In the meantime, you can check out some of the food-related blogs on our sponsor’s site at Valley Food Storage Blogs. They will definitely get you pointed in the right direction. Whatever food you store, you need enough water to rehydrate your food plus a gallon per person per day for drinking. Add another gallon per person per day for hygiene.
  8. Roof Collapses and Fallen Timber – So I will get into things you can do to prepare your house, but this fall I took down a number of trees that were in reach of my house that I did not think could withstand a heavy snow/wind combination. I also did a visual inspection of my roof to see if any shingles were damaged or missing. Lastly, I cleared my gutters. Because I live in the woods, my gutters love to fill up with leaves which block them from draining which then stays full of water which then turns to ice. Giant ice blocks will not only damage your gutters but also your roof resulting in a collapse. Trust me, call someone and have them cleaned if you can’t.
  9. Broken Bones – We went for a walk on a snow day last year and my wife and son started a snowball fight as we were walking back down the sidewalk. It had ice-stormed the day before and everything was pretty slippery. My son found that out quickly as he wound up to throw what would have been a knockout punch of a snowball at my wife, he slipped and fell backward as he reached out to catch himself. My wife who narrowly escaped an old school dousing laughed back at him taunting “that’s Karma!”. Just then we heard the scream as he was grasping his arm on the ground. His arm was broken and the $3,000 in the Emergency room, ortho visits, and 4 Xrays over the next 6 weeks might just have been “karma” back at mom for her snide comment. The moral of the story here is to stay off the ice and stay inside. If you don’t venture out you avoid drowning, broken bones, and the elements which in a survival situation sounds like a pretty darn good plan.

I don’t mean to put you on a terror alert here, but these are the things I worry about the most and many of them I have personally experienced. If you have some that you want to add, just comment below. Next, we should probably dabble in some preparedness checklists.

Stay smart. Stay warm. Reduce risk. Just be a good person. Those are the keys to living through winter weather.

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