Winter storms bring dangerous road conditions, power outages, and extreme cold temperatures. Preparation is key to survival and safety.
The best time to prepare for a winter storm is before it hits. Once the snow starts, it’s often too late to acquire supplies, stock up on extra food, and address your home’s backup electricity supply. From creating an emergency kit to investing in a backup power solution and equipping your car with all it needs to handle the snow, preparation goes a long way toward ensuring safety and comfort during the winter season.
Learn the steps you should take before the next snow and ice hits and critical actions you can take to stay safe during and after severe winter storms.
How to Prepare Before a Winter Storm
If a winter storm is on its way, preparation will be vital in keeping your family safe and home comfortable.
Keeping Your Family Safe
Safety requires preparing for all possibilities, including emergencies in the home and possible transportation measures if you need to evacuate.
Put together a winter storm emergency kit in your home that includes first aid supplies, candles and matches, flashlights, extra batteries, and enough non-perishable food and water to last the whole family for up to two weeks.
If the storms roll in quickly, you might face an emergency where only some family members are home. For their safety, discuss an emergency winter storm scenario with your children and other family members before the snow starts to fall.
Inform your family about the proper way to handle a winter storm’s challenges, including heat and power outages, freezing pipes, and dangerous outside weather conditions. Develop a communication plan and emergency meeting place in case you and your family become separated from each other during a winter storm.
Driving is one of the most significant safety risks to you and your loved ones during a winter storm. Although it’s best to avoid driving altogether, you should still ensure your vehicle is well-equipped to handle snow and ice in case you must drive in harsh winter conditions. Install snow tires on your car if you live in a region prone to snow. In addition, consider purchasing a roadside assistance plan in case your vehicle needs a tow or jumpstart during the next winter storm.
Keep your car stocked with an emergency kit that includes all the supplies you and your family need if your vehicle gets caught in the snow, such as extra snow gear, jackets, hats, gloves, and water. Your emergency kit should also include equipment to get your car unstuck in the snow. We recommend keeping a portable shovel, a bag of sand or gravel—which can help your tires gain traction if stuck in the snow—and traction mats.
Prepare Your Home
Power outages are one of the most common interruptions of everyday life that a winter storm can bring. To prepare your house for loss of heat or electricity, start by stocking your home with battery-operated LED lights and flashlights. Candles aren’t the best choice because they present a substantial fire hazard. Don’t forget to keep extra batteries handy. Ensure you have plenty of extra blankets to help stay warm should your house lose heat.
If you live in an area prone to winter storms and blackouts, investing in a home backup power solution makes sense. Power outages can threaten your heat supply and leave your home without electricity. In the past, a gas-powered generator was the go-to equipment to back up home power supplies during the winter season. But the environmental impact of burning fossil fuels and rising gas costs—as well as the reduced costs and improved technology of renewable energy—mean that much safer and cleaner options are available.
If you’re looking for an eco-friendly alternative to gas or diesel, portable power stations and solar generators give you ample backup electricity supply without harmful fumes, noise, or greenhouse gas emissions. Backup power supplies like the DELTA solar generators reduce your reliance on the grid. Depending on the generator’s capacity and your household energy consumption, a solar generator can keep your home supplied with electricity even during extended blackouts.
For those looking for a fully integrated, off-grid power solution EcoFlow Power Kits can be an option. Power Kits and a sufficient number of solar panels offer an easy-to-install off-grid power solution for RVs and tiny houses. With an off-grid power setup, you can achieve energy independence and end your reliance on the aging electricity grid.
For whole-home power backup, a system based around two EcoFlow DELTA Pro portable power stations can provide up to 21.6kWh capacity when a blackout hits. EcoFlow’s Smart Home Ecosystem allows you to customize your home backup power solution—and you can seamlessly add solar panels to reduce your dependence on the grid.
Besides beefing up your home’s energy systems, you may also want to make structural changes. Consider weatherizing your home before the winter season to prepare for losing heat during a power outage. From improving insulation to air sealing, there are multiple steps you can take to improve your home’s heat retention and effectively preserve heat during a power outage.
Lastly, should your heat go out, protect your water supply and prevent your pipes from freezing. Doing so is easy; turn on the cold water in your sinks ever so slightly to a light drip.
Protect Pets and Animals
Don’t forget about your pets and farm animals when preparing for a winter storm. Bring outdoor cats and dogs inside before the storm starts to avoid them getting lost in severe weather.
Ensure livestock, horses, and other farm animals have access to shelter that protects them from wind and snowfall. If the temperature drops below freezing, you may have to replace their water source frequently during the storm.
Follow News and Evacuation Plans
The key to effective preparation is to stay well-informed. Be mindful of winter storm warnings and track expected storms through local news and weather channels. Staying up-to-date will help you plan your life around severe weather and avoid getting caught in the snow.
Know ahead of time what resources you can follow during the storm to stay up to date with the storm’s progress, road conditions, evacuation guidance, and emergency announcements. Follow your local town and police department’s social media pages for updates and monitor radio stations such as the NOAA radio.
What to Do During a Winter Storm
If you prepared well, chances are you’ll make it through a winter storm unscathed. However, your actions during a storm are just as crucial.
Don’t Go Outside
The safest place to be during a winter storm is inside. Plan in advance to ensure you won’t need to drive out in the extreme cold. Stock your kitchen with food in advance, including nonperishable items. When doing so, prepare for the worst-case scenario—in severe blizzards, you may not be able to travel to stores for days or even weeks.
If you must leave the house, plan your route and travel around the storm, so you don’t get stuck on the road in subzero conditions and avoid icy roads.
If You Are Outside
There may be instances where you have to bear the snow and cold of winter storms, such as when removing snow from walkways and driveways. The freezing temperatures of a winter storm put you at risk of frostbite and hypothermia, so make sure you dress in warm layers and waterproof gear. Take breaks inside to warm up and give your body a rest from the harsh conditions.
If you find yourself outside during a storm away from home, try your best to find shelter. The key is to stay dry and unexposed to harsh winds. If you can’t find shelter, try to make a barrier from the wind and snowfall. Keep your toes, fingers, and body moving continuously to maintain blood flow and body heat.
Staying Safe While Driving
Driving in snowy and icy weather can be dangerous and nerve-wracking. Below is our advice for driving safely in harsh winter conditions.
Driving in Winter Conditions
As we discussed above, if you live in an area vulnerable to severe winter storms, we recommend investing in snow tires and creating an emergency kit with supplies to get your car unstuck from the snow. Take winter driving preparedness a step further and consider a snow safety driving class to learn firsthand how to handle your vehicle in snow and ice.
Before driving in a snowstorm, clean any snow off the top of your car, as it could fly off, impact your visibility, and pose a hazard to other drivers. Also, communicate with family and friends where you are going and when to expect you home.
If You Got Stranded
If you get stuck in a winter storm while driving, your vehicle is the safest place to be. If you venture outside, you risk getting lost or catching hypothermia.
We discussed previously stocking your car with an emergency kit. This kit should include supplies you’d need if you get stranded, including food, water, warm clothes, blankets, and a small portable power station or power bank to keep your cell phone charged.
Compact backup power solutions like the EcoFlow RIVER 2 Portable Power Station provide backup electricity needed to charge your personal devices. You can recharge them using standard AC outlets or, in a vehicle, the car’s adaptor. A portable power station provides a reliable way to harness backup power even on the road.
To stay warm inside the vehicle, run your car for up to ten minutes every hour. These brief periods will be enough time to keep your vehicle warm without wasting too much gas. Clean any built-up snow or ice from your car’s exhaust pipe to prevent the car from filling with hazardous carbon monoxide. Lastly, signal for help using your hazard lights.
How to Stay Safe After a Winter Storm
There are safety concerns you’ll want to keep in mind even after the worst of the snow and ice has subsided. Firstly, clear your driveway and any pathways leading to your house. After removing snow, sprinkle them with snow salt or eco-friendly ice melter, so they’re safe to walk on. Carefully remove snow from flat roofs and decks to prevent damage to your house.
Know when it is safe to drive—just because the storm has subsided does not mean road conditions are good. Before driving, check local news channels or your town’s social media pages for updates on plowing, car accidents, and fallen trees. When driving, report any damages or safety hazards caused by the storm to your local authorities.
Good preparation helps ensure safety when an emergency hits. You now know to handle the worst a winter storm can bring.
If you found this guide to winter storm preparation helpful, check out our other resources, including our guide to preparing for winter power outages. Then build up your Smart Home Ecosystem by investing in a portable power station or solar generator. EcoFlow provides the energy solutions you need to ride out the winter storms and reduce your reliance on the grid.