Winter Storm Prep Guide: 17 tips for getting your family, home, and car ready
Winter is here in Central Ohio! Winter storms and freezing temperatures can be incredibly disruptive and dangerous, but with the right preparation you can stay safe and minimize the impact of the storm.
Here are some simple tips on how to prepare for a winter storm so that you can avoid the stressful scramble of trying to navigate an emergency at the most inconvenient time.
Get your family ready
- Make sure you have an emergency kit.
Your kit should include items such as flashlights, extra batteries, a first-aid kit, a fire extinguisher, blankets, candles, and other essential supplies (for a complete list, see Ready.gov). It’s also a good idea to have a battery-powered radio or TV to keep up to date with weather updates.
- Keep food essentials on-hand.
Stock up a three-day supply of water, dried or canned foods, and other food essentials. Snowed-in roads or downed power lines can make driving to a store difficult. Even if roads are clear, store shelves may be cleaned out during a weather emergency.
- Keep your cell phone charged.
Your phone can be a lifeline in an emergency. Keep a charger and cord handy, as well as a portable power bank.
- Have a plan.
Make sure you know what you and your family will do if the storm worsens. Have a plan that outlines where you will go and what you will do if you need to evacuate, and make sure everyone knows it.
- Stay informed.
Make sure you stay up to date on the latest weather reports so you know what to expect and how to prepare.
Get your home ready
- Inspect and service the HVAC system.
If you’re not experienced to do it yourself, have a local HVAC contractor (a specialist in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) check and tune up your home’s heating system, change furnace filters, and make sure the thermostat works correctly.
- Inspect and clean the chimney.
This will ensure you have a backup heating source if the power goes out. A wood-burning fireplace or wood stove’s chimney should be inspected and cleaned by a certified professional chimney sweep every year or two. Cleaning removes creosote, a tar-like buildup that can be a fire hazard.
- Inspect smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Replace batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors twice a year, according to device instructions (unless your detectors have permanent 10-year batteries). Also, make sure fire extinguishers are fully charged.
- Inspect your home exterior.
Make sure your home’s exterior is prepared for the winter weather by checking your windows, doors, and roof for any damage.
- Windows and Doors
Caulking and weatherstripping windows and doors will help seal out the cold, retain heat, and prevent drafts.You can also apply shrink plastic to the interior of windows to reduce cold air from entering through unseen gaps in your window framework.Another preventative option is to install storm windows and storm doors. These also provide extra heat barriers, which helps keep your home cozy and reduce energy costs.
Weatherstripping, along with proper insulation, can reduce annual heating bills up to 10%, according to EnergyStar.gov.
- Attic Insulation
Does your attic have enough insulation? If you can see the tops of ceiling joists, probably not—call River Valley Restoration to see if you have enough insulation and add more if needed.
- Windows and Doors
- Repair roof damage
Water from rain or snow can cause serious problems in your home, including dry rot and mold, or an untimely leaking ceiling. For a thorough inspection of your roof, contact River Valley Restoration. While on the roof, we will check the condition of your shingles, but also check gutters and downspouts—which, if clogged or in bad shape, should be cleaned or repaired.
- Clean the gutters
Clogged gutters can cause ice dams to form during the winter months. Ice dams occur when snow and ice melts from the roof and refreezes in the gutters. This can cause significant damage to the roof and gutters and can even lead to water infiltration into the home.
- Prevent pipes from freezing
Ensure your exterior wall pipes, such as faucet spigots, garden hoses, or pipes, are insulated to prevent freezing. Pipes exposed to outdoor weather can freeze and burst at temperatures below 20°F, causing interior or exterior flooding.Also ensure that any interior plumbing that is close to the exterior walls of the house are properly insulated. Insulate any pipes in crawl spaces with foam jackets or call a professional plumber to help you freeze-proof them.In a poorly insulated home, it can also be a good idea to open cabinet doors underneath sinks to allow more heat from the house to get to the pipes.
- Have the right tools or plan ready to clear pathways and driveway
- Schedule a snow removal service at least a couple of days in advance. It’s important to keep your driveway and walkways clear of snow and ice buildup—but once snow hits, snow removal pros will be booked up.
- If you prefer to DIY, or the pro can’t make it, be ready with a couple of snow shovels (or a working snow blower – don’t forget to stock fuel for the snow blower).
Use eco-friendly calcium chloride ice-melt pellets on sidewalks and driveway—they’re less likely than salt to damage concrete or plants.
- Inspect your power generator
If power outages are common in your area, a generator is a must-have for maintaining basic lighting and refrigeration. And don’t forget to stock fuel for the generator.
Get your car ready
- Keep gas tanks full
It’s no fun needing to pump gas during a snow storm. Furthermore, if you find yourself stuck in traffic or waiting for assistance, you’ll need enough gas to keep your care heater running while you wait.
- Check car batteries
Have an auto mechanic or an auto parts employee test your battery’s condition and replace it if necessary. If the battery is weak, it may be a good idea to purchase a new one, since batteries need extra juice to work in colder temperatures. It’s also a good idea to have a pair of jumper cables in your car in the event you end up stranding with a dead battery.PRO TIP:
Winter conditions pose a double-whammy for car batteries. That’s because freezing temperatures decrease a battery’s strength as much as 60%, while starting a cold engine can require twice as much cranking power.
- Check your tires
Ensure you have proper tread and air pressure to get you through icy conditions. The grooves in your tread channel water and snow out from underneath the tires, helping them maintain their grip on the road. For snow driving, tread should be at least 5/32” deep.Cold temperatures also reduce air pressure—so when the outside temperature drops, your tires can become underinflated, compromising handling, fuel economy, and reliability. Check them with a tire-pressure gauge at least once a month.PRO TIP:
To check tread depth quickly, insert a quarter into a groove with Washington’s head down. If you can see the top of his head, the depth is 4/32” or less (indicating wear).
- Inspect windshield wipers
Seeing clearly is challenging enough in poor driving conditions. But having to contend with poor wipers causing smears of water, ice, or road salt makes it much worse. If necessary, install new wiper blades.
- Check your car’s fluid levels
Check your fluids to ensure you have the proper amount of windshield washer fluid, coolant, and oil. If low, make sure you top them off.
- Carry an emergency kit
Handy items to have in your care include a windshield scraper/snow brush, flashlight, blanket, gloves, jumper cables, tire pressure gauge, tire inflator, and first-aid kit.
By following these tips, you can minimize the impact of a winter storm and keep your family warm and safe.
If you have any questions or concerns about getting your roof, attic, windows, or exterior doors ready for the next winter storm that hits central Ohio, reach out to us today for a free assessment.
Need a professional? Contact us for a FREE, no obligation estimate.