Tips for Cold Weather Planning

This month, we’re talking about emergency preparedness from the perspective of seniors and those who require in-home assistance.

In case you missed it, last week we talked about why it’s important to have an emergency preparedness plan. This week, let’s talk about cold weather; something that Alaskans know well!

We’ve already had temperatures below zero this winter, so it is easy to imagine how the cold weather can cause trouble for folks, especially our elderly and disabled loved ones. It’s always best to prepare for cold weather before it hits, but it’s also never too late to start! 

Be Preventative

That’s right; your safest bet is to help prevent yourself and your loved ones from getting caught out in the cold.  That means preparing your home, your car and your body to fight against it. It also includes listening for winter advisories and making sure that your emergency supplies are stocked. And, you should know who to call in emergency situations.

For Your Body

Taking care of yourself is the best way to keep you safe in cold weather.

  • Eat balanced meals.
  • Drink lots of fluids—warm beverages like herbal tea and broths are really helpful.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
  • Dress warmly, with lots of layers.
  • Try not to exert yourself too much. Follow your doctor’s advice on exercise. If you do work or exercise outside, dress warmly and take your time!
  • Understand the power of wind chill and how it can steal heat from your body very quickly.
  • Don’t go out when it is very cold or icy, unless absolutely necessary.
  • Use ice cleats if you do go out in icy conditions.
  • Keep your walkways and steps clear of snow and ice (ask for help if you need it).
  • In stormy conditions, be cautious about travel. Only go out if you have to.

In the Home

Your first goal is to make sure your home stays heated. Do you have another source of heat, if your power is shut off? 

  • Woodstove or fireplace: If you plan to use these at all for a regular or emergency source of heat, make sure that you get your chimney and flue inspected each year.
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors:  Make sure you have several, well placed throughout your home and that they have fresh batteries.
  • If you plan on using space heaters, make sure that they can be run without power and that you have a safe area designated for them, where they won’t ignite fabrics and fibers.
  • Keep an easy to read thermometer in a familiar place in your home.  Check it regularly.
  • Try to conserve heat by closing off rooms you aren’t using; filling cracks in floors, wall and around windows; and adding insulating layers to your windows.

 You also want to have enough water!

  • The first step is to keep your pipes safe. Insulate those water lines.
  • Have spare containers of drinking water and bottled water stored in your home, where they can stay above freezing temperatures.
  • In really cold temperatures, leave your taps slightly open so that they drip and the pipes don’t freeze; try to keep the house warm enough to prevent frozen pipes.

Light and Cook Safely

  • Use battery powered back-up lighting where possible, instead of candles. If you must use candles, never leave them unattended.
  • Don’t use charcoal or gas grills indoors; the fumes can kill you. The same goes for electric generators.

Have an Emergency Kit for Your Home that Includes (but is not limited to):

  • Adult and baby food (if you have young children) that doesn’t need cooking or refrigeration
  • Extra water (see above)
  • Extra medicines
  • Extra blankets
  • Matches
  • Fire extinguisher
  • First aid kit
  • Battery powered radio and clock or watch
  • Extra batteries
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Shovel
  • Rock salt
  • Special needs items
  • Sanitation items, like hand sanitizer and toilet paper
  • Whistle
  • Cash
  • Copies of identification

In Your Car

It doesn’t matter if you or a caregiver is driving your car, the vehicle should be prepared for cold weather:

  • Make sure it is serviced regularly, to help prevent it from breaking down.
  • Always keep a full tank of gas in it during cold months.
  • Always have a survival kit in it that includes items like:
  1. Blankets and sleeping bags for all travelers
  2. First aid kit
  3. Spare gas can
  4. Waterproof matches
  5. Windshield scraper
  6. Booster cables
  7. Mobile phone
  8. Maps and compass
  9. Bag of sand or kitty litter for traction
  10. Towels
  11. Tow rope
  12. Tire chains for heavy snow areas
  13. Collapsible shovel
  14. Container of water
  15. Canned and dried foods with a can opener
  16. Flashlight with extra batteries
  17. Tire repair supplies
  18. Flashing light or reflective triangle
  19. Non-perishable food


*Bonus Tip: Your pets need extra care in cold weather, make sure they have enough shelter to stay warm, unfrozen water, an extra food supply , leashes, collars, carriers and documentation.

If you’d like more information on cold weather preparedness, the Centers for Disease Control provides this helpful guide.



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