Of all our seasons, winter seems to be the one with the higher odds of catastrophic events. Winter is the one season when many things can go wrong. There are more natural forces at work during the winter than during other seasons. Those include freezing temperatures, high winds, rain, snow, ice and shorter days.
What can go wrong you ask? Anything from freezing pipes to loss of power and heat. As a prepper, we often look at individual events. What happens if we look at seasonal events as a way to prepare for the unexpected?
5 Ways to Overcome the Threat of Winter in Your Home
1. Water Supply
The first consideration is to protect what you already have in place. That means making sure that your water delivery system is well insulated so that pipes do not freeze. Your local county likely offers building code standards that list minimum depth for in-ground pipes. Consider those a guideline and improve them where you can.
If the code calls for 18-in in-ground pipe depth consider extending it to 24-inches for those winters when the temperature is colder than normal. Another part of protecting your existing water supply is to make sure that outside walls are insulated enough that indoor piping cannot freeze. Create insulated covers and housing units for exposed outdoor pipes and spigots.
Develop a backup plan for loss of water. This may be as simple as freezing 1-5 gallon containers of water in a chest freezer. Remember that outdoor temperatures can remain below freezing even without snow or rain. Do not count on collection of water from snow as it may not be available. Frozen water also helps keep frozen food cold during power outages.
2. Emergency Power
High wind can easily topple trees that in turn knock out power lines. In a massive storm, it may take the electrical company days or weeks to restore power. Solar power generators, gas power generators, and even electric automatic standby units such as those offered by Generac can keep your home in power when traditional power sources fail. Solar energy systems can also be beneficial and can be used long-term.
Keeping your house and outbuildings heated during electricity loss is difficult if you rely solely on electrical heating systems. A possible alternative is to install wood heat such as a wood stove. An excellent option is an old-fashioned kitchen stove that is designed for cooking.
These not only produce heat, they provide a place to cook food if gas or electricity services are not available. Geothermal heating is also an option. The ground beneath your home is warm even during the cold winter months. Geothermal heating systems use a heat pump that circulates air. These systems can be operated on limited power such as a generator.
4. Flood and Excessive Rain Control
Flooding may not enter your mind initially when you think of winter weather. However, depending on the area you live in, flooding might be more likely than snow or an ice storm. Coastal areas are especially prone to flooding in the winter.
Surviving major floods requires pre-thought and planning. Property owners can focus on two aspects of floods. The first being how to draw water away from their structures and the second is how to escape the property when the first option fails.
Begin with the second option and that is escape. Perhaps keeping a small motor boat such as an aluminum skiff or a fleet of canoes is an option. Knowing when to evacuate is also an important part of surviving a flood. Make an evacuation plan and stick to it. If you live near a river, make a depth meter that easily measures river depth. If the river rises to a specific point, consider leaving.
Options for drawing water away from your home may include features such as French drains. These small ditches are filled with pea gravel that allows the water to enter then and flow downhill away. Those work well for directing water during heavy periods of rain. They can be added to by connecting gutter systems in such a way that downspouts empty directly into the drains. In-home, basement sump systems can empty into a French drain too.
5. Emergency Roof/Leak Systems
The fastest way to repair the roof in a storm is to use a tarp. However, keeping a tarp on a roof in a storm presents its own problems. One solution is to use a layered system. Start with plastic tarps to cover the roof. To the top of those, add canvas tarps that become waterlogged and add weight to the tarp structure. The edges will need to be secured so that the wind cannot undo the system.
The goal is not to fix the roof, but to cover it so that the threat to water damage is removed until the storm passes. The best time to fix the roof is when it is not raining. To that end, plan on evaluating your roof each summer and schedule repairs as needed. Good maintenance is the first step in preventing emergency situations.
The editor of Resounding Earth, and pursuer of relatively interesting information, Simon has a Masters Degree in Creative Writing and Journalism from the University of Wales, and is a photo-journalist and writer whose written and photographic work has been represented by the AFP news agency and appeared in newspapers across Europe and Asia.