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Keeping warm during a winter power outage: Five steps to comfort and survival

January 14th, 2016, by Jon E. Dougherty

The cold of winter imposes special survival challenges to be sure, but you don’t have to be out in the wild, so to speak, for that to happen. You could be faced with a situation where a loss of electrical power would leave you and your family vulnerable.


Winter imposes its special kind of brutality not just on humans but on our infrastructure as well. Anyone who lives in a place where it snows or there are ice storms during the winter months has likely experienced a situation where the weather has brought down a power line or disrupted a transformer, causing a loss of electricity for anywhere from a few hours to several days.

Lack of power during winter will quickly turn into an emergency that you will need to deal with in order to survive. So, with that in mind, here are five ways to help you reduce your chances of succumbing to winter’s chill when the lights go out:

1. Dress the part: You may have heard that dressing in layers is one way to retain body heat, and that is exactly right. Loose-fitting layers of clothing are a proven effective way to keep out the cold. Your thinnest clothing layers should be closest to your skin. Try to avoid pure cotton clothing because it breathes so well it will release body heat. Fleece fabric, along with wool and nylon are best. Keep in mind, also, that sweating will create dampness that will attract more cold as your body cools down; remove layers if you begin overheating.

2. Use the sun: During bright daylight hours, open up your curtains and let the sunshine in. The sun’s heat will spread throughout your home; when the sun begins to set, draw your curtains closed so you can retain the heat for as long as possible.

3. Make warm food: If you have a gas stove you can use it to heat up food and beverages. You can also use a camp stove or a gas-powered BBQ grill to heat up foods and drinks as well. Heat and eat foods that are rich in protein and carbs, as your body will generate some heat as it digests the complex carbohydrates. Coffee, tea and hot cocoa warm hands as well as bellies (be careful with too much coffee or tea, however, because they are dehydrating; if your water pipes are susceptible to freezing, could be without water shortly after you lose your power and your heat).

4. Alternative heat: It’s always a good idea to have a backup source of heat, like a kerosene heater that burns cleanly, of course, or dry wood if you have a fireplace. And as mentioned above, you can also use the gas BBQ grill for a little heat, though you’ll have to be outside for that (which could defeat the purpose). A chimnea or fire pit can also generate a decent amount of heat.

5. Get personal: Sharing body heat is another way to stay warm. This can be accomplished by sharing sleeping spaces or sitting together in blankets. Strip down to a single thin layer of clothing so that your body heat will flow. Another potential useful item: Thermal survival blankets.


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