Scenario: it’s winter in Maine, due to damage caused by an ice storm the local power grid is down. The roads are blocked from large fallen branches and a thick layer of ice. You must bug in and survive until the power is restored and can safely dig out and travel. This is unfortunate as few nights in a hotel would probably be preferable to roughing it. Your house uses electric heat so your first priority is keeping your family warm. Here are some of the preps and knowledge that will help keep you alive.
In SHTF electricity is the first resource to go, but it doesn’t take a world collapsing to lose power at the worst time. The power grid in most areas require people and supply chains to maintain. A simple power outage due to a winter storm and fallen trees can that last from hours or days as crews are mobilized and enough parts are transported to restore the system. As preppers we know how fragile electronics and electricity can be if they are your fall back plan. Natural gas can be a more reliable source of hear but that too could be cut off as it requires people and supply chain. If you haven’t already setup you own alternate power sources to keep your critical systems running you may be forced to resort to alternate methods of staying warm our ancestors used for thousands of years.
One of the best places to start by preparing our house, is to minimize inefficiency. Insulate interior walls and replace drafty windows can certainly help.
1.Consolidate Your Living Space
When it comes to survival a large house may be difficult or costly in precious fuel reserves to try and keep heated. So it’s important to designate one or more key rooms that will act as your living and sleeping space. These will need to be heated and close them off to the rest of the house. pick the area based off functionality. If you have a fireplace or wood burning stove in a room in your house that is probably the best place. Consider moving to the basement. Even though all basements are normally colder, they can be ‘warmer’ because of the insulating quality of the ground.
Hang blankets over the doors or doorways to your “warm” room, and insulate the window with blankets if possible. Use painters tape, duct tape or other tape to seal the blanket over the window. Pillows function well as insulation. If by chance you have spare fiberglass insulation, bubble wrap, or Styrofoam sheets, those can be used to cover windows, too. Heat may also be lost through the floor. Put blankets, rugs or pillows on the floor to further insulate the room.Move people and Any supplies that cannot withstand the cool temperatures into that space.
2. Insulate your House and Living Space
Prep your house before it’s needed…
You will want to make sure your outer walls are well insulated. Inside the walls good quality fiberglass insulation can help trap heat in the house. Replace any drafty windows, or improve the window’s ability to trap heat. Add weather stripping to door and where needed. Determine the predesignated area for surviving the cold and make sure to add insulation to the interior walls as well. If you have the extra money interior walls are worth insulating to improve the overall heat in the house. Make sure the attic has proper insulation, remember heat rises so that’s where the heat will try to leave the house the most.
When it happens…
- Keep all the doors and windows closed, and avoid opening and closing doors too frequently. Each room will act as a cold buffer and slow down the heat loss throughout the house.
- Block drafts around door frames, and windows. Place towels or thick clothing at the base of doors and windows. Additionally, you can use blankets or plastic around windows.
- Hasty insulation with shower curtains or plastic sheets: A great way to keep heat in is with a shower curtain. Carefully tape or attach the clear shower curtain to the wall so that natural light can come through the curtain but it prevents hot air from leaving through the window.
2. Heat Up your Living Space
- Natural light: You’ll want to keep heat in your room but still allow natural light to enter the room from a window. Get in as much sun as possible. Letting the sun, and then judiciously keeping it in through insulation, will create a greenhouse effect and heat up the interiors.
- Wood Burning Stove: This is the most popular method of heating a home in a survival situation. A few days work chopping and splitting wood can yield a couple months supply of wood.
Wood stoves use a lot of wood; especially in the cold winter months. Even when you go to sleep at night, the fire often extinguishes leaving your house cool in the morning. One way to increase the length of time between refills is to mix dry, seasoned wood with green wood. The dry wood will burn immediately and dry out the green wood as it does. By the time the dry wood has burned out the green wood is dry and burns easily. By mixing the wood in this manner, the stove can maintain a constant temperature output for longer periods of time.
Wood burning stoves can also have the added benefit of a place to cook your food within your warm space and are a great addition to your prep. Make sure your stove is well ventilated, CO2 gas is far more lethal than the cold outside so be careful with any fire indoors. When storing the wood you will want to have it close to the house and covered. That way you don’t have to go too far outside to replenish the wood that is indoor. Don’t keep it too close to the house of you might invide termites into the house. Consider an outdoor firewood rack and an indoor firewood rack as well.
- Solar heating: Solar heaters, though expensive, are still worth considering. A single installation could cost in excess of $15,000, but the emergency it alleviates is worth it on a longer run.
- Geothermal Heating: This generally is only added in new construction homes but by running pipes deep into the ground and running water through the pipes the earth will heat up the water. This requires no power only gravity. That water can then be channeled to little tube in the floor of the house to provide a heated floor that will intern help heat the room. This is a very costly solution to install but if you have the money it’s well worth it.
- Kerosene Heaters: The best classic stand-by for a short-term emergency is a kerosene heater. I have one of these and keep enough fuel on hand for one week on continual use. That fuel can easily be stretched to last a lot longer as you won’t need to continually warm your house in most situations. Browse the Last Minute Prepper Amazon Store’s selection of Kerosene heaters.
3. Keep yourself warm
- Layer your clothing. The primary aim is to trap as much heat as possible. Goretex clothing is great for keeping you warm in all weathers
- Stay Dry: Don’t let water or moisture creep in. This includes not exerting yourself enough that you start sweating on the inside. The same layers that provide insulation will now continuously take heat away once they absorb the sweat. In case you do start sweating, change out of your base layer immediately.
- Cover your head: Put simply, if you don’t have a woolen cap on, you lose heat through your head, just as you would lose heat through your legs if you were wearing shorts.
- Eat and drink warm foods: Your body will need more calories just to stay warm. If you are active (which will also help you stay warm), your calorie needs will increase even more. Eating raises your metabolism, which generates some additional internal heat. Consider a calorie dense bedtime snack to help get you through the night. Make sure to keep hydrated. Drink plenty of liquid. Hot beverages such as tea or hot chocolate can act as hand warmers while you drink and warm you from the inside out. They also add variety to emergency meals.
- Mylar Space Blankets: Developed by NASA and commonly used in emergencies where someone is going into shock these blankets trap 95% of your body heat. Mylar is a foil substance that reflects the body heat. If you are truly desperate this can help you stay warm as long as you can keep your metabolic rate up to produce body heat.
Assuming you have the long term food and supplies put back surviving a cold winter by staying indoors is actually pretty easy. Your biggest concern would be having to forage for food or supplies in the middle of the cold and being trapped outside. Now is a good time to start planning for what you would do if you lost heat this winter. The peace of mind in knowing that you have a plan is valuable.
How would you handle this scenario?
Would you do it differently or are there other strategies you would use? Tell us in the comments below to help educate your fellow preppers.