Funny thing about winter storms like the central east coast just floundered through. They tend to cause power outages. Sometimes just a little one afflicting a single street or block with inconvenience, and other times widespread outages cause tens of thousands to lose power. And the more that lose power, the longer it takes to get everyone back on line. Part of this reason is because overloads tend to keep the circuit breakers on the grid tripping to the off position. One way we can all help prevent these overloads is to turn your branch and main breakers off until you are sure the power is back on. if you are not certain, turn the main breaker on and one branch that feeds current to a lamp. If the lamp works you’re good to go. If not, BRRRR.

Unfortunately, one of the vital needs in a snowstorm is heat, and when the lights go out, most of us don’t have it. Will we ever learn? There are some things you can do to provide alternative heating, though. If you have a fireplace, even though they are incredibly inefficient, you can get a fire going in it for both heat and cooking. A word of warning here, make sure you’ve had your chimney inspected before using the fireplace, especially if it hasn’t seen use for quite some time. Firewood should be kept at hand all the time, but if need be, you can burn scrap wood in it if you can find it.

Try to stay away from green wood, as well as treated lumber and engineered wood [products, such as MDF, chipboard etc. these products contain chemicals that can cause some health problems when burned in a fireplace. Not all of the chemicals will be consumed and vacate through the chimney. You should also have a screen in front of the opening to prevent sparks and cinders from flying out onto the floor as well.

A wood stove is a better choice as they are much more effective at heating, and they are easier to cook on, as well. The same thoughts concerning firewood goes for wood stoves as well. And don’t forget to have the system inspected. Creosote should be cleaned out of the stack and chimney as well to prevent build up and causing a chimney fire. A funny note here regards a gentleman who proudly told me about his new wood pellet stove that he bought for heating. Pretty proud of himself, he was. Took care of his emergency heating needs and helped stop global warming by buying an environmentally friendly appliance. He was pretty ticked when I asked him what he was going to do when the power goes out. After all, I mentioned, those things require electricity to operate.

Possible the best alternative emergency backup is the top hat type of heaters though. Names like Kerosun, Omni and others are all widely available, and they work well. I’ve had them before, and I plan to buy another one as well. The units run on kerosene, which is also a fairly easily obtained fuel. In a pinch, you can also siphon some #2 heating fuel from your furnace’s fuel tank. I’ve done it before, so I know it works. It’s a little dirtier than K1, but it still does the job, and in an emergency, that’s what counts. They use a lot of oxygen so you need to have a door or window cracked open when you run them. However, the heat output is so great that you won’t notice the draft at all. They’re also available in a propane powered model.

Another type of heater fits onto the top of a twenty gallon propane tank, and operates as a radiant heater, as opposed to the convection type of heater the top hats are. These work pretty well, but are more dangerous, especially with children and pets in the room. The fuel is probably easier to obtain though as many convenience stores have tank exchange program. These are the same tanks most barbecue grill operate on. the heaters are called catalytic heaters and can be obtained fairly inexpensively at hardware and many department sporting goods stores.

Now that the storm has passed, and many have suffered in the cold, perhaps it’s a good time to stop and consider an emergency preparedness plan. Some people think that these plans only apply to hurricanes, but they are needed for any calamity that you may encounter. A simple snowstorm can have devastating affects if it turns ugly and shuts everything down.

Plan ahead and when the unexpected happens you won’t have to sit in a dark house freezing your body parts off. Start now and make a list of some of the things you might need to prepare for, such as snowstorms, flooding, thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes etc. then think about what you think you’ll need to weather the storm, and keep you and your loved ones safe from the elements. Stock up on food, water and alternative heating and cooking fuels. Buy some equipment now, so you won’t have to go without later, and learn how to use it before you need it.

Like Ben Franklin said, if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.

For more on preparedness and survival skills, please check out my show here:Listen to D.l.soucy on Blog Talk Radio

If you have something to add, or ask a question, feel free to leave a comment.

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