Winter Emergency Preparedness: Creating a Home Survival Kit

Winter brings with it quiet beauty in a snow-covered landscape. Even if there’s no snow in your forecast, this seasonal change offers the opportunity to slow down and spend some quality time with loved ones — the longer nights make for perfect snuggling weather.

But winter can bring with it some challenges, too. Whether you’re dealing with heavy winter rains and wind or blizzards of epic proportions, emergencies can arise without warning. It’s critical to create and maintain a home survival kit to keep you and your loved ones safe.

Why a winter emergency kit is important

Not everyone has to deal with multiple feet of snow or ice, and if you just bought a home, it might be the last thing on your mind. But even people living in locations with just occasional rough weather need to stock their emergency kits for winter. Why?

Power outages

When was the last time you went without power for more than an hour or two? High winds, icy lines, and heavy snow can bring down power lines and make it impossible for repair trucks to get to trouble spots.

Hypothermia or frostbite

If you have electric heat, how will you stay warm when the power is out? You may also need to shovel walkways and driveways, or walk to a store. In freezing temperatures, frostbite and hypothermia are potentially life-threatening dangers.

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Leaking propane heaters (or outdoor-use-only heaters used inside) increase your risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless and can disable a person quickly, potentially leading to death.

Burst pipes

In cold weather, a burst pipe is an emergency situation. Depending on the weather and the demand, work crews may not be able to repair the pipe for days, leaving your family without water.

Food shortages

There’s a reason grocery stores are packed with people at the mere hint of bad weather. Icy or snowy roads can cause serious delays in food delivery to grocery stores, resulting in food shortages that can last for weeks,

Creating your winter home survival kit

While you cannot predict every emergency, you can take steps to mitigate their impact on your family. A well-prepared, well-organized home survival kit can make a difference in a winter emergency. It’s important to tailor your kit to your specific winter challenges, but most kits have some key items in common.

Food and water

Non-perishable food like canned goods, energy bars, peanut butter, and dried fruits are good to have on hand. Choose foods your family enjoys (especially important if you have children). You’ll also need to store one gallon of water per person per day. Aim for a three-day supply of food and water.

Extra blankets and warm clothing

If your home doesn’t have a fireplace, extra warm clothing, and blankets are a critical part of your winter survival kit. Add sleeping bags, blankets, and clothing like hats, gloves, scarves, and thermal socks. Consider adding chemical hand warmers.

Flashlights and batteries

Flashlights and plenty of batteries not only illuminate the darkness; they also let you play cards and read books while you wait out the winter emergency. Don’t rely on just one flashlight. Have one per person, and consider headlamps and battery-powered lanterns, too.

Cellphone charger

A portable cellphone charger can power your phone when the lights go out. Check it at the beginning of the season and charge it periodically so that the battery capability stays at 100%.

First aid kit

Every home needs a well-stocked first aid kit year-round, but it’s especially important during a winter emergency. Keep extra prescriptions, plenty of bandages and wound care items, and supportive wraps for twisted ankles. Check your kit periodically, rotating out prescriptions that have expired and adding supplies as needed.

Personal hygiene items

Stock your home survival kit with plenty of personal hygiene items, including toothbrushes and toothpaste, sanitary supplies, and extra diapers and wipes. Individual family members might also want to add an extra set of contact lenses or other items to stay clean and comfortable in a winter emergency.

Indoor heater

A portable heater can keep the chill off if your heat goes out. Make sure it’s rated for use indoors, and only use it with proper ventilation in a room that has a carbon monoxide detector.

Generator and fuel

If your family has members who rely on electricity to power critical medical equipment, invest in a generator to power essential equipment. Keep a stockpile of fuel.

Alternative communication devices

Anyone born after the year 2000 might not remember what it was like when cellphones and computers weren’t all around us, but one good blizzard can knock the whole family back to the 1800s. In this case, a battery-powered or hand-crank emergency radio is the best way to stay informed about weather updates and to hear emergency instructions.


When the power goes out, so do cellphone and computer chargers, and any kind of digital entertainment. It’s important to add books, games, and other entertainment options to your kit to keep family members occupied and stress low.


Another thing to consider when the power goes out is that many ATMs and store credit card machines don’t function without power. Keeping a small amount of cash means you can purchase emergency items if needed.

Important documents

Store copies of important documents (e.g., identification, insurance policies, and medical records) in a waterproof container. They will come in handy if winter weather leads to damage to your home or a medical emergency.

Stay safe at home

Creating a home survival kit is a must for anyone living in a harsh winter climate. But no matter where you live, taking steps to protect your family in case of an emergency is always a good idea. Remember to check your kit before winter weather threatens, replacing expired medications and restocking as needed. You may never need your survival kit, but if you do, you’ll be glad you had it ready to go.

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