This winter seems to be relentless in terms of leaving much of the country in a persistent, deep freeze.  While it’s not unusual for warmer parts of the country to experience brief bouts with cold, arctic air, we seem to be caught in a cycle that keeps repeating itself.  This poses significant challenges, and risks, to millions of people who live in areas that are not built for this type of weather.  People who are used to cold winters are also being tested as they are enduring below-freezing temperatures for longer periods of time as well.

This is a good opportunity to review some basic concepts related to wintertime preparedness.  Even if you don’t think that you will face a cold-weather emergency, it only takes one to catch you off-guard and put you and your family in a potentially-devastating situation.  Look at it this way, parts of Florida that hasn’t seen snow in decades are getting hit this year.  Do you think that the infrastructure in Florida is designed to cope with these conditions?  Do you think that people in general instinctively know what to do to keep themselves safe and warm?  Even if you think you are ready, it can’t hurt to read on in order to help you to be better prepared as well.

Staying Home

The best place to be in a winter storm or prolonged cold-snap is at home.  While evacuating is also an option to consider, if you have the time and money to pack up and go on short notice, cold weather or heavy snow usually doesn’t destroy property.  However, these conditions can make life miserable for people if the power goes out or their heaters break down.

You may also be forced to stay home for a few days, especially if roads become impassable as communities struggle to dig out of snow and ice.  Consequently, making sure that you have enough food, water, clothing and a means to stay warm is important.  It’s also important to find ways to adapt if your heater breaks, the power goes out, or your pipes freeze.  Make sure that you can shelter in place and fend for yourself for a few days in a worst-case scenario.

Bugging Out

If you decide to leave in advance of an approaching storm or cold snap, or you are on the road when it comes, it’s important that your vehicle is as ready as it can be for the challenge that lies ahead.  Make sure that you have an emergency survival kit for you as well as the vehicle.  Carry some extra fluids, antifreeze, tools, jumper cables, blankets, portable heat source, extra battery for your phone, and some food, water and heavy clothing.  All of these will be invaluable if you break down or get stranded.

It’s also a good idea to tell someone where you are going and when you plan to get there.  Consider bringing some cash for emergencies, and don’t forget to add things that you know you will need but are easy to forget, such as medicine.

Help Takes Longer to Arrive

Finally, remember that it can take longer than normal for help to arrive in extremely-cold weather.  Whether you are dealing with a medical emergency, some police matter, a broken down vehicle or a malfunctioning furnace, services quickly become overwhelmed when temperatures become dangerously-cold.  Resources get spread thin, and there can be times when they may not be available at all.  Be prepared for this possibility.

While the impact of a cold-weather emergency can be devastating, preparing for one and coping with the aftermath is really not that difficult.  All it takes a little bit of forethought, along with some common-sense, to put yourself in the best possible position.