Do You Have a Winter Emergency Kit?

With many places in Canada experiencing snow, freezing rain, wind, and fog this past weekend, this seems the right time to review how best to be prepared for winter in Canada at its absolute worst. A winter emergency kit will enable you to stay warm inside until it’s safe to venture out again.

Granted, it’s rare that we have days and days without power, snowed in with no way to make contact with the outside world. But we do often have the threat of bad weather, and with it comes the anxiety about what we would do if we woke up tomorrow morning with little food, no heat, and too much snow to dig through.

Being prepared for the worst will have you sleeping better at night so you’ll be well-rested when you wake up and realize the forecast was wrong, the roads are clear, and you DO have to go to work.

But for that one time you really are snowed in, source the following items and keep them together in a labelled, waterproof container. Check it once a year to replace any out of date items:

Water: Keep enough bottled water for each member of your household to consume 6 – 8oz/day for up to three days, or more if you’re in a remote area. Don’t forget to include extra water for pets and consider keeping a rain barrel of grey water in your garage in case you need water to flush the toilet (and keep a bucket near it to carry the water in).

Non-perishable Food: Have enough food for at least three days worth for each member of your family. Along with canned and dried items, keep some calorically-dense foods like power bars, granola bars, and canned nutritional shakes. And make sure you have a manual can-opener!

Eat what you can out of your fridge or freezer first, but remember that after 4 hours without power, food in your refrigerator or freezer is no longer considered safe to eat. Keep the fridge doors closed as much as possible and throw out anything considered unsafe once the power is back on. Of course, if the temperature outdoors is well below freezing, you can store items from your freezer outside and bring them in once electricity has been restored and your fridge and freezer are back to optimal temperatures. 

Firewood & Candles: If you’re fortunate enough to have a wood-burning fire, make sure you have dry firewood, kindling, and matches. Candles are also a good source of heat and light. Remember to never leave any fire burning unattended.

Portable Cooker/BBQ/Canned fuel: Obviously the goal in bad weather is to stay inside. If you dress up warmly, you can use your BBQ or camping stove outside to heat up food. The other option is to purchase canned fuel (available at hardware stores) which can be used inside, is hot enough to heat canned food and will burn for several hours.

Pocket Warmers: Did your mom ever put these in the pockets of your snowsuit? Mom probably knew that in cold weather, your body diverts blood away from your extremities and towards your core to keep your internal organs safe. Hand and toe warmers can be purchased in bulk; they start producing heat within seconds of being “popped” and they’ll keep your hands and feet warm for hours.

Blankets & Pillows: Once you don’t have to worry about food, water, and heat, you can have a bit of fun. Gather all your blankets and pillows in the warmest part of the house and build a fort just like you used to when you were a kid. Once everyone piles in, body heat will help keep you all warm. 

Entertainment: Have some movies & music downloaded onto your laptop or tablet. Your devices won’t stay charged forever though, so bring some board games, playing cards, and good books into your fort to keep spirits up and boredom at bay. 

Portable Charger/Power Bank: To keep your phone and laptop charged for at least a few extra hours, keep some portable chargers or power banks on hand. These obviously need to be fully charged to work so as soon as you hear that bad weather is on the way, pull them out of storage and charge them up.

Transistor Radio: Use a battery-powered radio to get updates about weather conditions and power outages. They’re also great for listening to some music or talk-radio for entertainment. 

Flashlights: It’s amazing how our smartphones have replaced so many everyday objects in our lives, flashlights included. You may not even know where your flashlights are anymore since you can just swipe up on your phone and press that little flashlight button. When the power goes out, use your phone’s flashlight to locate your battery-powered flashlight. Or just keep one in your emergency kit ready to go.

First Aid Kit: Keep a well-stocked kit of bandages, alcohol swabs, gauze, antibacterial gels, hand sanitizer, and scissors.

Batteries: Have a variety of batteries to power your radio, flashlight, and any other portable, battery-powered devices you might need.

Personal Items: Make a list of the items you go through on a regular basis. Does anyone in your home rely on medications that they can’t run out of? Do you have a baby who needs diapers, formula, or baby food? Do you have pets? Consider the individual needs of each member of your household and store appropriate supplies, toiletries, and food items for each one. 

Don’t forget about the neighbours: Is there an elderly neighbour or single parent who may appreciate some company and checking up on?

And don’t forget about an emergency kit for travel: It’s more likely that you’ll find yourself stranded in your car than your home this winter. An emergency kit with blankets, a shovel, first-aid kit, coat, hat, mittens, hand and toe warmers, bottled water, and snacks, is an absolute must anytime you travel during the winter in Canada.

Anything we’ve forgotten? What do you have in your emergency kit that may help others? Feel free to leave a comment so we can all be better prepared and sleep easier the next time the forecast calls for a Canadian snowpocalypse.