Winter Power Outage Survival Guide

Last Updated: October 15, 2019
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A power outage during cold winter months can endanger lives. 

Being prepared can help you and your family stay safe and comfortable.

If the power goes out, make sure you have not blown a circuit by checking the breakers in your home's electrical panel.

Think ahead and unplug electronics and appliances that use electric motors. Turn on an incandescent light to signal when power is restored.

Winter Power Outage

How To Stay Warm During A Winter Power Outage

If the power goes out in a winter weather event, temperatures can drop significantly.

Here are some tips to help you and your family stay warm: 

  • Make sure to keep all doors to the outside shut. 
  • Use towels to block drafts coming in from window and door cracks.
  • It's also possible to insulate windows with black blankets. The black draws heat from the sun. If the sun's beams are coming through the window, put the blankets on the floor where the sun is directly shining instead.
  • Running a bathtub of hot water also draws in heat to the house.
  • Turning faucets to a trickle helps prevent pipes from freezing. If needed, wrap pipes in insulation or newspaper.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.

And here are 3 ways you can stay warm  during extreme cold...

Kerosene Heaters

You gotta generate heat somehow. When the power is out in winter you will hate to see the sun go down. The real cold sets in when the sun goes away.

By midnight you will have no more heat in your home and it’s going to be a problem. You need to use some form of heater. Kerosene heaters, while dangerous, are also very effective. If you can manage the fuel and how you use the heaters, its a great way to warm the home.

Serious Base Layers

We don’t give our clothes enough credit. Good hats, gloves, socks, and wool can go a long way. You need to invest in good clothes to stay warm. Your cotton long sleeve is not enough. Understand fibers and get yourself some seriously cold weather clothing, 

Also, keep those hands, feet, and head covered! 


Don’t forget about USB power. There are now ceramic heaters that can be powered by USB. Of course, that is a solution for heat but even better is that you can recharge that USB power bank with the sun.

Every day more innovative products are hitting the market that is powered by USB connection.

Do not think everything needs to deal with gas or electricity. USB can answer a whole host of problems these days. 

What You Should Not Do During A Winter Power Outage

Winter Power Outage

...Unless you have this vehicle!

Don't take unecessary risk on the road.

Avoid driving when conditions include sleet, freezing rain or drizzle, snow or dense fog.

If travel is necessary, keep a disaster supply kit like this one in your vehicle.

Do not travel alone and let someone know where you are going and your expected arrival time.

"Traffic accidents tend to dominate followed closely by wires down," Steven Bair, fire director and chief of department at the Centre Region Council of Governments, said.
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Don't rely on gas stoves, charcoal grills or other open-flame heat sources. Deadly carbon monoxide gas - which is odorless and invisible - may build up in your home.

Avoid carbon monoxide dangers

Carbon monoxide poisoning, fire and electric shock are hazards during an outage.

Here's what you should do instead... 

Place generators away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.

"Make sure generators are properly ventilated and operated in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. Take time to read the owner's manual before you actually need to use the generator," Bair said.

If you live in an area prone to blizzards, install carbon monoxide alarms.

It's best to put one on every floor in central locations.

If the alarm sounds:

  1. Move quickly to fresh air either outdoors or by an open window.
  2. Call for help and remain there until emergency personnel arrive.
"A single-unit should be near the sleeping area so it can wake a sleeping person if activated," Bair said. "A second detector could be placed near an appliance likely to be a carbon monoxide source, such as the furnace or hot water heater."

Keep These In Your Home To Be Better Prepared For A Winter Power Outage

Stockpile Food

Keep stock of non-perishable foods

During the winter months, its best to maintain a 72-Hour supply of water and non-perishable food. Batteries, flash lights and a radio are also good backup supplies. 

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Items such as fruit bars, peanut butter, nuts and trail mixes, crackers and canned juices are great to stockpile.

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Be aware of fuel fumes while trying to make a hot meal. Asphyxiation is a high risk when cooking during a power outage.

Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed.

These appliances are well insulated, so food will keep for hours if opening the door is kept to a minimum.

In the winter, a ready supply of snow or ice from outside can be placed in a plastic bag and put into the fridge or freezer to keep food cold.

How To Communicate During A Power Outage

Communication could mean life or death in these situations.

Limit non-emergency phone calls during serious situation. This will also minimize network congestion. Texting is better for keeping phone lines open.

It is a good idea to keep a portable charger ready for use in case. If you don't have a portable charger, reduce the screen brightness and close apps not in use to conserve battery.

How To Keep Kids And Pets Safe During A Winter Power Outage

It can be stressful to keep track of extreme weather events and children or pets.

Staying calm in this situation will help keep children at ease.

Keep emergency phone numbers posted beside the phone, and keep children's emergency medication organized and accessible. Here are some survival checklists that can get you better organized and make sure nothing important is forgotten.

Put extra clothes on your children and animals or wrap up in blankets. Distraction is a big advantage when young children are involved.

Most of all, make sure to give verbal reassurance and hugs. Children might not always express their fears and feelings.

How To Evacuate Your Home

Winter Car Survival Kit

If you have to evacuate, here are some helpful tips:

  • Turn off the main breaker, circuit breaker panel or power supply box.
  • Turn off the water main and drain water from the system; open all taps, flush several times, open the drain valve in basement, and drain the hot water tank into the floor drain. If you have a gas heater, turn out the pilot light.
  • Unhook the washing machine hoses and drain.
  • Add a small amount of antifreeze to water left in toilet bowls and sink/tub traps.
  • Clear valuables off the basement floor.

What To Do When The Power Comes Back

  • If a burst pipe has flooded your basement, don’t go in until you’re sure the power is off. If equipment is flooded, don’t use it until it’s been checked by a qualified technician.
  • If you turned off the main power switch, make sure appliances and electronics are unplugged before you turn it back on to prevent power surge damage. Wait for the electrical system to stabilize before reconnecting; start with the heating system, then appliances.
  • Turn the water supply back on. Keep the taps on the lowest level of your home closed to allow air out from the upper taps.
  • Fill the hot water heater before you turn it on.
  • Help the house dry by warming it slightly above normal temperature for a few hours.
  • Check your food supplies for spoilage. If the power has been out for two or three days, your freezer may still be frozen depending on the outside temperature. If it’s been a lot longer, don’t open your fridge or freezer; you may have to dispose of the whole thing.
  • Replace the items you used from your emergency survival kits.

A power outage during cold winter months can endanger lives. 

Being prepared can help you and your family stay safe and comfortable.

These tips and the ressources included are here to make sure you can not only survive but thrive during a winter power outage.

What other helpful tips would you add to this list? You can comment in the section below.

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