Blizzards can be devastating for those who get caught in one unprepared. The snow covered roads, lack of electric power, food, water and warmth can all be detrimental to individuals and families.
For this reason, we’ve collected the 20 most important safety tips for blizzards shared by safety experts and experienced blizzard survivors:
1. Create an emergency food and water supply
Stock up on packed foods that can last months or years and gallons of water in the double digits – these can all come in handy during a storm and they won’t go bad if you don’t consume them immediately.
Any canned foods, grains and sour vegetables like sauerkraut, along with sweets can last for a long time. Also consider stocking up on fresh food when you hear about the approaching blizzard. Because rice, tuna cans and beans get boring pretty quickly.
Don’t wait for the last moment either, because you’ll inevitably find long lines at the grocery store. Restaurants and delivery services might also not be available as they let workers get home early in order to prepare for the storm.
2. Take care of the heating system
Make sure that your heating system works well, otherwise you could freeze to death.
If you rely solely on electric power for heating, consider investing in a portable power generator. It can be a life saver in case of a power outage, which is always a possibility when it comes to winter storms.
There are many portable inverter generators on Amazon that are really quiet and cost only a few hundred dollars. They can be used as a power backup in emergencies. They’re also relatively safe for indoor use. You still shouldn’t use one in a living space, but they’re a safer option for well-ventilated garage or basement than your regular fuel-based generator.
Also consider investing in small heaters that can be placed in different parts of your home. Blizzards can turn rooms you otherwise wouldn’t heat directly into popsicle factories. I use this Safe Propane Heater in my bedroom and living room whenever I need some extra warmth, and it works like a charm.
And what about that romantic fireplace you never use? This can be an excellent time to warm yourself by the fire, just like in the good old caveman days + a hot cup of chocolate.
3. Stock up on medicine
Does a family member have diabetes? Or perhaps someone needs to take blood pressure pills?
Insulin and statins are the most commonly used drugs that millions of people need on a day-to-day basis. Don’t forget to stack up on these and other commonly used medication such as ibuprofen, Benadryl, acetaminophen, digestive aids, aspirin etc.
Keep your medication and other health-related items in a first aid medicine bag. Keep it a well-known spot so you can easily find the medicine in case of an emergency. According to NHS a first aid bag should contain:
- plasters in a variety of different sizes and shapes
- small, medium and large sterile gauze dressings
- at least 2 sterile eye dressings
- triangular bandages
- crêpe rolled bandages
- safety pins
- disposable sterile gloves
- alcohol-free cleansing wipes
- sticky tape
- thermometer (preferably digital)
- skin rash cream, such as hydrocortisone or calendula
- cream or spray to relieve insect bites and stings
- antiseptic cream
- painkillers such as paracetamol (or infant paracetamol for children), aspirin (not to be given to children under 16), or ibuprofen
- cough medicine
- antihistamine cream or tablets
- distilled water for cleaning wounds
- eye wash and eye bath
Don’t delay preparing yourself for the blizzard, because it’s difficult to predict when it will exactly hit and by that point it could be too late to do any preparations.
4. Make use of your shed and garage
Don’t leave any vehicles outside in the blizzard unless you have zero alternative.
Your car or bike engine could freeze, not to mention having to remove all the snow and frozen bits from the windows and other parts that can take some time.
If you don’t have adequate space in your garage, ask your neighbors if they have any space left. If you’re on good terms with them of course.
The same advice holds true for outdoor furniture and any other valuables. If you simply don’t have the required space to store everything indoors, consider using a professional storage facility until the weather goes back to normal.
5. Take driving precautions
It’s best to stay indoors until the blizzard passes, and most of the time in the immediate aftermath as well. The roads will be covered by snow and slippery. Going out to work or shopping immediately before the snow starts is not all too smart either.
You might be able to get to your destination in time, but also calculate how much time you’ll need to get back home for your trip to be worth it. Because by that time the roads might shut down already and be inaccessible, forcing you to weather the storm in an unpleasant location away from home.
It’s recommended to check your State’s government website for updates to plan out any trips in a more realistic timeframe and to get updates on which roads are already shut down.
6. Dress properly to prevent frostbite and hypothermia
Don’t take any chances when going out before or during a snow storm. Wear three layers of clothing: first to absorb sweat, second for insulation and the last to seal out the cold.
A hat and a pair of gloves are an absolute necessity for protecting ears and fingers from frostbite. A ski mask like this popular one from Amazon will also protect other face areas vulnerable to frostbite, namely your cheeks and the tip of your nose.
Toes are the third most vulnerable area to frostbite. So make sure to wear good boots to prevent your feet from getting cold and wet.
Watch this video get properly scared:
If you suffer from diabetes or any cardiovascular disease or circulatory disorder you have to be extra vigilant about these precautions.
7. Act quickly on symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia
Signs of frostbite include cold and numbness in parts of the body where frostbite occurs. If you feel these symptoms, immediately get into a warm environment. If the area is turning white or black you have to be quick about seeking medical attention. Dipping cold parts of the body in warm water can also help by kickstarting the circulation in that area.
Symptoms of hypothermia usually occur when the body’s core temperature goes below 95 degrees. Some visible signs include shivering, pale skin, blue nails, followed by confusion and dizziness in physically weaker individuals like the elderly. People that aren’t used to cold weather are at a higher risk of experiencing these symptoms even with short time exposure to lower temperatures.
8. Avoid alcohol and other perception-altering substances
During the blizzard that is! You’ll want to avoid any substances that can alter your perception of just how cold it is outside while everyone else is shivering.
That’s exactly what can happen when you drink alcohol, because it makes it more difficult for the body to tell how cold it is. This in combination with the fact that most of us do silly things when we’re liquored up is a recipe for disaster in blizzards. Alcohol will also leave you dehydrated, and staying hydrated is important for regulating body temperature.
A similar thing can be said for cannabis and other mind-altering substances. Your mind should be fully aware of the conditions, instead of seeing pixies flying around, leading you into the blizzard because “it looks like fun”. Except a few hours later you can’t feel your fingers and have acquired a shiny red Rudolph nose!
9. Improve your snow cleaning technique
When the blizzard passes you’ll be eager to get back to your everyday life. Cleaning the snow will be necessary to get your car out of the driveway and to move outside of your home in general.
Make sure to dress in thick and warm clothing for snow cleaning. Also stretch and warm up properly because snow cleaning can be pretty difficult for lower back muscles, especially if you bend your upper body too much. Bend your legs in a half-squat position and use their driving force when picking up the snow instead of just using your lower back to do all the heavy work.
Using a strain-reducing snow shovel can further reduce the strain on your lower back and prevent injuries. It has two handles. The second one is a spring-assist handle that gives lifting leverage to the lower hand, which makes lifting greater loads a much easier task.
A snow blower can really come in handy in a blizzard aftermath. Especially if you have a large backyard to take care of and if your back and knees aren’t in the best shape of your life.
I’ve suffered a few knee dislocations playing basketball as a teen and snow shoveling is one of those activities that I find too painful and risky. So I have a snow thrower that does all the work for me. Namely the Snow Joe Electric Single Stage Snow Thrower, which you can check out on Amazon. Highly recommend getting one of these bad boys if you’re not a snow shoveling enthusiast.
10. Educate your kids
Let your kids know about the dangers of extremely cold weather and blizzards. Make sure they’re dressed in thick and warm clothes from head to toes especially when venturing outside.
11. Keep an eye out on your pets
Dogs and cats can wander off. Which can really spell trouble during a blizzard and in heavy snow conditions. Keep your dog on a tight leash during walks.
Also, keep your cat and other furry animals indoors and make sure that the cat/dog door and other exit points they frequently use are locked.
Final Word: How to Stay Safe During a Blizzard
Blizzards can run havoc on an unprepared community. In the worst case scenario those who are not prepared can suffer health complications and death. Others can simply have a really bad time if they don’t stock up on nutritious food, beverages and medicinal supplies.
First of all it’s important not to get caught in a blizzard while you’re outside, especially driving and far off from any safe location. Check your local news and your local government website for updates to make sure your home when you need to be. And don’t leave shopping and other preparations for the last moment.
Remember, this is NOT a time to procrastinate. Prepare yourself months in advance if you have to in areas where blizzards are a regular occurrence, rather than leaving your family’s safety and your own safety to chance. If you utilize the before-mentioned tips you will have a much safer and relaxed time when the next snow storm hits. Hope this helps!