Find Out Now, What You Should Do To Survive Severe Winter Weather?

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severe winter weather

Here in the upper Midwest, winters can be absolutely brutal. We’re talking frigid temperatures, freezing rain, feet of snow, and just a whole lot of no fun when you’re trying to go about your daily life. Sure, if you enjoy snowmobiling, ice fishing, and skiing, the winter months are like paradise.  For those who are just trying to get to and from work each day, though, things can get dicey.

Fortunately, winter weather rarely hits without some advance warning. While we all like to poke fun at the weather forecasters, when it comes to blizzards and such, they get it right far more often than they miss the boat. So, the first line of defense is to pay attention to your favorite weather forecast.

It is exceedingly rare that a winter storm pops up out of nowhere. There is almost always several hours, if not a day or two, of warning.

Traveling

If at all possible, limit any planned travel during a predicted winter storm. I know, that’s often easier said than done. Bosses tend to get a little irritated when employees don’t show up. If you have a vacation or sick day you can afford to burn, use it on a day when the roads are going to be sketchy at best. If you can work from home, do so.

Always have emergency supplies and gear in your vehicle. These include jumper cables, a blanket (wool is the best), extra hat and gloves, flashlight with extra batteries, food, water, and a first aid kit. Bonus points for chemical hand warmers, glow sticks, and a cell phone charger you can plug into the cigarette lighter in your vehicle.

If you get stranded for some reason, stay put unless you absolutely have to leave your vehicle due to safety reasons. A car or truck is much easier to spot than a person. Tie a brightly colored piece of fabric, such as a flag or bandanna (from your emergency kit), to the vehicle’s antenna. This is a universally recognized symbol indicating you need help.

Should you decide to trek out on foot, do everyone a favor and leave a note on your dash with your name, the date and time you’re leaving, and where you are heading, even if only a rough compass direction. This will help people find you, should they need to conduct a search.

At Home

At home, as a prepper, hopefully you’ll already have a full pantry. If that’s not the case, hit the grocery store a day or two ahead of the predicted storm and stock up. No need to go crazy and lay in enough food to last a month, but get enough of what you’ll need to last at least a couple of days. I cannot stress enough that you should not wait until the last minute for this grocery store trip. If you do, you’ll either find empty shelves or you’ll be fighting the pre-storm crowd.

A key element to surviving brutal winters is having a way to keep warm if the furnace isn’t working. If you have multiple people in the home, double up and pile on the blankets. Try and keep everyone in one room, ideally a small one. Body heat multiplied by a few people and kept in a single room will benefit everyone. Hang a blanket over the window and any open doorways to help reduce heat from escaping and eliminate cold drafts coming in. Obviously, if you have a fireplace or a wood stove, make judicious use of it, provided you thought ahead and have a good supply of dry, seasoned fuel set aside.

Wind Chill

Wind chill is something most residents here understand, yet it sometimes baffles new folks. Basically, in the winter it gets cold, obviously. However, wind chill makes it “feel” colder, just as a breeze makes it “feel” cooler when its hot outside. A lot colder, actually.

In my neck of the woods, it isn’t uncommon for the high temperature to reach, say, 10’F, and with the wind chill factored in, it feels like -20F or lower. At temps that low, any exposed skin can suffer frostbite in just a matter of minutes. This means you need to protect yourself with not only hats, coats, and gloves but scarves and earmuffs as well.

When it comes to injuries and fatalities as a result of winter weather, while I’ve not seen any hard stats on this, I’d estimate more people die of heart attacks while shoveling snow than for just about any other weather-related reason. If you don’t have a teenager in the area who you could give a few bucks for shoveling your driveway and thus have to tackle it yourself, take it slow. There’s no need to try and do it all at once. Far better to take frequent breaks as needed. Even running a snowblower can be physically taxing.

Power Outages

Finally, severe winter storms often result in power outages. Ice can build on power lines, which adds a great deal of weight and causes the lines to come down. Often, it is just a matter of a few hours, maybe a day, before power is restored. But, plan ahead and have plenty of flashlights, batteries, and a portable radio so you can keep abreast of the weather-related news.

Severe winter weather isn’t something to be trifled with but with just a bit of planning, you’ll come through just fine.

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Basic Steps to Maintain Your Core Temperature

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body temp2In a true survival situation, such as if you’re lost in the woods, the first priority is to do everything you can to maintain your core body temperature. Hypothermia (core temperature too low) can kill a whole lot faster than a lack of food or water. Hyperthermia (core temperature too high) is no fun, either.

First Steps

The first step is to get out of the elements if at all possible. Rain, snow, wind, and even the hot sun can all negatively affect you. Avoid sitting on damp ground or cold rocks. If you have a jacket or something with you, use it as a cushion to help avoid losing body heat through conduction. Insulating yourself from other objects is important when trying to maintain your core temperature.

Our first line of defense is our clothing, of course. Always strive to either wear or have with you seasonal appropriate outerwear. Even a small rain poncho stuffed into a pocket or pack will benefit you should the weather take a turn.

A good quality emergency blanket will also work well. I stress, though, that you should purchase one of good quality. The cheap ones, such as you might find at a dollar store, are so thin and fragile they are all but worthless. Spend a couple of extra dollars and get something durable, possibly even wool. More than one hiker has unfolded their cheap emergency blanket and found nothing but ribbons of material because it had worn through on all of the folds in the package.

Staying Warm

Emergency blankets work best when wrapped tightly around you, like a cocoon. However, they can also serve as a roof for an expedient shelter, keeping the rain and snow off of you. Most of them don’t come with easy attachment points where you can tie paracord (you do carry paracord, right?) but you can make your own grommets, after a fashion. Take a small rock and place it in the corner of the blanket. Fold the blanket around the rock a couple of times, then tie your paracord around the resulting bulge.

A small campfire can also serve to warm you up and dry you out. This is why every survival kit, no matter how small, should have fire making gear in it. A butane lighter, strike anywhere matches, and/or a ferro rod, coupled with tinder like dryer lint or cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly, will make this job infinitely easier than trying to assemble a bow drill or some other primitive fire making apparatus.

If the weather has been rainy and you have a hard time finding dry wood, try batoning firewood. Yet another way is to use a pencil sharpener to carve off wood shavings from thin sticks. That should provide enough small fuel to at least get the fire started.

Staying Cool

But, what if the problem is too much heat, rather than too little? Baking in the sun will dehydrate you quickly, adding to your dilemma. Use your poncho, emergency blanket, or even a shirt or jacket to create shade to rest under. Limit your activity as much as you can.

If you have a body of water nearby, such as a pond or stream, soak fabric and place it on your neck and wrists. I do not recommend you use your available drinking water for this, though. Consume your potable water to keep hydrated.

Maintaining your core body temperature is absolutely crucial to survival. Be sure to have the proper gear with you any time you venture into the field.

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Three Layers of Home Security

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layers of home securityWhen we talk about security and defense, it seems as though many people are just concerned with stockpiling weapons and ammunition. The reality, though, is that it takes a layered approach to adequately address the issue. Any real and effective security isn’t accomplished just by:

  • Buying a loud, scary looking dog
  • Putting bars on the windows
  • Posting a “This house protected by Remington” sign on the front door
  • Planting thorny bushes under each window
  • Paying for an expensive security system

Your home security plan might include some of these (the sign is definitely not a good idea!), but other steps as well.

Bear in mind, too, that we’re not just talking about security and defense in a grid down, no “rule of law” situation. This stuff applies to our day-to-day lives as well.

There are different ways to look at and approach the home security puzzle but I like to boil it down to three
basic layers – Deter, Delay, and Defend.

Deter

Deterring an attack means convincing possible intruders that they should seek a better target elsewhere. Human beings generally make decisions based on risk versus reward. The higher the perceived reward, the more risk they are willing to take to obtain it. Of course, the flip side to that is also true – the lower the perceived reward, the less they are willing to do to get it.

From a home security standpoint, much of deterrence involves keeping things low-key and hidden from view. For example, you finally have saved up enough money to buy a new TV. After bringing it home and setting it up, don’t just toss the box out with the trash bins! Doing so tells every person walking and driving by that you have a brand spanking new TV, just waiting for someone to steal. Instead, either cut the box up and put the pieces in your recycling bin, or do what we do and reuse the cardboard for projects around the house. The basic idea with the deter layer is to limit the perceived reward so ne’er-do-wells look elsewhere.

Getting a dog is another thing you can do to make your home a less-attractive target. Burglars are less likely to hit homes with a loud yappy dog. Another strategy for some people is to buy a home security system, but then let the subscription service quietly expire. Sometimes the sticker or sign out in front is enough to keep a potential thief away.

Delay

The next goal is to delay any intruders. The objective is to give yourself as much time as possible to react to the threat. You want to be aware of the intruder as soon as possible, while at the same time slowing them down. The delay layer utilizes things like alarms and cameras as well as keeping entry points secure through the use of locks and such.

One very easy thing you can do today is to strengthen your outer doors by replacing the hinge screws with longer, stronger ones. Most doors are installed with fairly small screws on the hinges. Go to the hardware store and pick up a handful of screws about 2.5 – 3″ long. Open your door and, one at a time, remove and replace the screws affixing the hinge to the door frame. The longer screws will go through the frame and into the studs, making your door stronger. If you don’t have a deadbolt on your exterior door, consider buying and installing one.

Defense

The final layer is the one entirely too many think they should start with – defense. Taking physical action against an intruder is your last option. Simply put, it means your other security layers failed. Defense involves the use of weapons such as firearms, pepper spray, stun guns, even improvised things like baseball bats or wasp spray. In a pinch, pretty much anything can be used as a projectile weapon, including cans of soup or books. It really boils down to what you are comfortable using to defend yourself and your family.

READ MORE: If you have kids, you probably have questions about firearms in the house. Read my 5-part article series on “Common Sense Strategies for Teaching Gun Safety”, beginning with Part 1, “A Gun is No Big Deal“.

While firearms are generally seen as the best option, if you aren’t trained in their use or, even worse, are deathly afraid of handguns, then don’t buy one! Without training and proper respect for the weapon, you’ll likely do far more harm than good. Far better to use a defense weapon with which you are reasonably comfortable. Practice using it, to such a degree that you’ve ingrained some muscle memory. This will help prevent you from freezing up should the moment arrive you need to use it for real.

I also highly recommend looking into some form of martial art or other self-defense class. Not only are the skills taught useful, it is great exercise. Knowing Karate is often a deterrent in itself; most Martial Artist who have studied for decades have never needed to use their skills for defense. Click here to read up on how to choose a Karate Dojo.

To tackle the problems of home security properly requires a layered approach. Investing all of your time and energy into only one of them leaves you far too exposed to danger. Common sense will go a long way, too.

layers of home security

Jim Cobb, Liz Long, and Beth Buck contributed to this article.