Friday, November 7, 2014

Northeast Snowstorms: An Exercise in Home Emergency Preparedness

Supplies to Keep in the House Should Disaster Strike

nor easter I've lived in New Hampshire most of my life, and snowstorm emergencies aside, I would have it no other way. The White Mountains are but an hour North up the 93 corridor, and the ocean sands of Odiorne Park are but an hour South. Come Fall, the foliage has me locked in as a Yankee for life. But the snowstorms that follow, yikes. Over the years, I've learned what supplies to keep on hand in my home larder, and how to keep the house from freezing like a giant ice pop when the next big nor' easter hits. Like anything else worth doing right, it just takes a bit of planning.


Wood stove or Fireplace Preparedness
 
franklin stove I've only experienced a significant power loss twice in the house where I now raise my children. The first time was for three days, and I sat the storm out in comfort while my wife took the kids to my mother's house to wait out the worst. After she heard what a pleasant time I had during that 'incident', she and the kids stayed with me for the following year's two day outage, and we had a blast. I'm fortunate to have a fireplace in my office, and when I was a kid, our house was heated by a wood stove. These are life savers when it comes to staying comfortable when the power goes out during a snowstorm. To stay prepared, I have at least five days worth of dried firewood available in my garage. Not only does the fire keep my family comfortable, but it ensures my pipes won't burst and cause a larger problem than simply being snowed in. I don't want to even think what it would cost to have a plumber out in the middle of a snowstorm to fix that debacle.

Home Generator
 
Three years ago, my brother and I bought a 4000 watt generator to put in our mother's house. She lives out in the country, which means she's one of the last to have power restored after a storm. We calculated what was needed for power based on the draw wattage of her appliances and portable electric heaters, and the 4000w size more than covered her. It's a propane unit, and will run continuously for a day on a five-gallon tank. When it was time to install it, we hired an electrician to wire up the panel. Maybe we could have figured it out, but it's always recommended to go with a professional on this type of job for safety's sake. In early November, we go over to plug it in and ensure it's working properly, so when a storm hits, all she needs to do is turn it on. To date, she's only used it twice for two days at a time, but that next storm could easily knock her off the grid for a week.

Food Reserves In The House
 
Those who have read my past articles know by now that I'm a canning nut. From my own garden veggies to fruits, I have just about everything I need should the apocalypse occur. But even if there's not home canned goods in the larder, a quick shopping list that can be completed weeks before the snowstorm season hits. I plan on having 3-5 days worth of stored food and 10 gallons of water on hand in case I can't use the kitchen stove. As I mentioned before, there's a fireplace in my office with a wide hearth and a swing out grill for cooking meats just like the early settlers. Nearby, I keep a set of cast iron skillets and a dutch oven, and they make fireplace or wood stove cooking a cinch. Look to hoard canned vegetables, tomatoes, chili's, dried pasta, soups, a few steaks, and prioritize items in the fridge before they spoil. Maybe for giggles, throw in a few Ramen noodle packets to the reserve. A bag of marshmallows keeps the kids entertained and lets them feel part of the event.

Supplies For The Neighbors
 
Bernie is an 86-year-old retiree who lives alone next door to my family. I'll do odd jobs around her house to be neighborly, and she's been known to watch the kids should I have need for a spur-of-the-moment babysitter. When a storm is looming, I drop by and help her get ready. The same principles apply- heat, water, and food. When the snow is falling and waist deep between our houses, I can't easily make over to check in, so I keep an eye on her chimney to ensure she has a fire going. The kids and I will also call her cell phone once a day to just say hello. I think those chats sometimes do me more good than her.

Home Radio


It's a tried and true companion during any emergency. Not only will the weather reports keep coming through to help me plan the next few days, but the entertainment value alone is worth the $6 in batteries needed to keep it operating. Luckily, the kids have the same taste in music as Daddy, and will suffer through my NPR binge once it rears it's head. It's difficult to find a new, battery-powered radio these days, but I've always been luck in my searches by visiting my local Goodwill store.


Snowstorm Entertainment Supplies 


My family reads like there's no tomorrow, which in a snowstorm is an apropos habit to have. The shelves are jammed with everything from science fiction to history, and when the conversation wanes, books are a great way to have some alone time. Also, we have a healthy collection of board games in the office, and can be counted on during inclement weather to have an endless game of Monopoly or Risk should the impulse strike.

Whatever the case, we're prepared. It may not be an ideal situation, but there's no reason to be miserable. This winter, I hope you will stay warm and safe when the next big snowstorm hits..