Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Keeping Warm During Winter Emergencies

"Expect that when an emergency situation occurs, that it can be a worst case situation. If something like an earthquake should happen in the dead of winter, what will you do to keep warm until the utilities can be hooked back up and heat your home again? It will be a real challenge to keep warm when the furnace won’t be working for days at a time. If you have very young children or older or infirm people living with you that cannot move around very quickly, they can get cold very quickly. Here are some ideas that you can use to help everyone keep warm in such conditions.

Blankets and Quilts: Most of us will have a number of blankets on hand, but if you have comforters or quilts that have multiple layers of material that can insulate, they will work much better. Old-fashioned quilts that have the heavier materials or down comforters will work the best. Don’t try to use what appear to be ordinary bedspreads advertised as comforters. They don’t have the insulation qualities that you will want.

Blanket Robe or Insulated Overalls: If you need to get around the house, it is hard to do so just “wrapping up” in a blanket. Fold over one edge over your shoulders until its edge is off the ground and use a large safety pin or two to hold it in place and safety pin or two to create sleeves for your arms to go through. If you have insulated work or snowmobile overalls, this will work even better for you.

Sleeping Bags: Try to have ones available that are rated for extremely cold conditions that will go below freezing. If you only have warm weather rated bags, you can increase their warmth by adding a blanket to the inside of it rather than just trying to lay it over the bag when sleeping. If you can’t be on a bed, be sure to have some kind of insulation like an air mattress or foam pad to keep the cold of the floor away.

Emergency Foil Blankets: Don’t try to use these alone, because the only effective thing they can do is reflect the heat that radiates from you. Use them in conjunction with blankets so that you have conductive and convective insulation in conjunction with radiant heat insulation. They are by design disposable and will tear easily.

Chemical Hand and Feet Warmers: These are little packets that have a chemical reaction take place with iron powder that generates heat when they are activated. They are good for a few hours and will help keep the chill away. But be aware that they do have a shelf life and after several years, the heat activation will not be all that effective. There are also reusable gel pack heaters that you put into boiling water for five to twenty minutes and pop a metal button which then starts a heat reaction. But to renew the packs, you have to drop them in boiling water again which might be hard to do in your emergency situation. Also be aware that if the temperature gets below a certain point, they will spontaneously start the heat reaction whether you want it or not.

Hot-Water Bottle: An old-fashioned hot-water bottle is a nice thing to have as long as you have an available heat source to heat the water for your bottle on a regular basis. The water should be very hot and not yet boiling to go into the rubber bladder. Wrap a dry towel around it to keep it from scalding your skin that may be next to it. Check these bottles, if you have any, from time to time to see that no cracking is occurring and that there are no leaks.

Layered Clothing: Several layers of light clothing will provide more warmth than one thick layer. Layering even ordinary clothing will help. Thermal underwear will be a good start. Man-made fibers like polyester will work much better than cotton, which if it gets wet, will wick away your body heat very rapidly. Wear a hat all the time. Most of the heat you lose comes from a bare head. Use layers of socks, starting with a thin inner sock. Use gloves. Avoid tight clothing which may cut off your blood circulation. If you have growing children, try having oversize snow suits that can give you a “one-size-fits-all.” Teenagers may think such clothing may look a bit funny, but it will keep you warm and alive.

Live in a Smaller Space: Rather than trying to warm up the entire home, focus on a smaller, more manageable space. Although things may seem tight, put your entire family and pets in one room to do your eating, playing, reading and sleeping. Close the other doors and if you have doorways without doors, you can use a blanket to separate space. If you have a self-supporting tent, you could set it up inside your home and it could very efficiently be heated, even by normal body heat. If you have a fireplace, you could set up the tent in front of it to get warmth.

These are just a few of the possible ways of keeping warm if the electricity or gas is shut off."

(Source: R. Hatch, Ward Preparedness Specialist)


Butterscotch Pieces said...

Living in AZ, our concern is obviously not keeping warm, but keeping cool when the power is out. Any suggestions?

My preparedness blog is:

K P said...

Thanks for your comment! I wasn't able to find any information about keeping cool when the power is out. My suggestion would be to keep hydrated and stay out of the sun if possible.

Anyone else have any ideas?