Although it is not nearly as critical where I live, it can still (briefly) drop below freezing here in Florida, and so each winter I swap out some of my `summer’ bug out bag/auto emergency kit items for a more `winterized’ version. Wherever you live, extended power outages, being stranded in your car, or being caught without shelter – all take on new levels of risk when the temperatures drop..
So each winter I add a jacket, gloves, a wool cap, and a blanket to my year-round auto emergency kit.
I also swap out some of my light summer clothes in my bug-out bag, for a warm set of sweats (see Inside My New Bug Out Bag). Those who live in colder climes will want something even heavier. Hypothermia can quickly render you incapable of fending for yourself, and if it lasts long enough, can be quite deadly.
Add in some other cold-weather hazards . . . . carbon monoxide poisoning, heating-related house fires, falls on icy walkways, cold-stress heart attacks, snow blower mishaps, car accidents due to icy roads . . . and you’ll find winter produces its share of perils.
Ice storms – such as the infamous mid-south storm of 1994 – can claim lives both on the road, and in the home. NOAA described the carnage in their report THE FEBRUARY 1994 ICE STORM IN THE SOUTHEASTERN U.S.:
Overall, the storm produced over 3 billion in damages and cleanup osts, and at least 9 deaths were attributed (directly or indirectly) to he storm. Also, well over 2 million customers were without electricity at some point, and 1/2 million were still without power 3 days after the storm. There were even some instances of residents without power for 1 month after the storm. Many homes, businesses, and vehicles were damaged by falling trees and limbs.
My wife and I happened to be driving from Florida to Missouri when this storm hit (my first ice storm) – had serious car trouble along the way - and barely made it to our destination. Once there, we were iced in for more than a week. It was only after we limped into a garage in Sikeston, Mo. that I realized how close we’d come to being stranded – unprepared – in intolerable conditions.
Ever since then, the first aid kit in my trunk has been augmented with some basic roadside survival gear as well.
Once I moved to southeast Missouri, realizing how close we lived to the New Madrid fault, another winter weather risk became apparent. Even a moderate quake could drive a lot of people out of their homes – and into the cold – leaving many of them afraid to go back inside for fear of aftershocks, but totally unprepared to remain outside.
It wouldn’t take a `big one’, just enough of a temblor to do some structural damage to homes or businesses, with the potential for seeing another. This is a scenario that residents in Oklahoma ought to be considering as well.
Those of us who live along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts are used to preparing for Hurricane season each year, but most who live in northern climes have a more blasé attitude towards winter. They assume their homes will remain intact and habitable, the power will stay on, and if not – they could quickly relocate to a safer environment if they had to.
But a really bad ice storm, a severe Nor'easter or blizzard, an earthquake, or some other extenuating circumstance could dramatically change the equation.
Preparing for winter should be viewed with the same urgency as preparing for hurricane season. And to that end, the CDC has produced a terrific PDF guidance document, which tells you what you need to do to be ready for extreme cold weather.