This past weekend, the east coast was punished by a brutal winter storm. Even areas of the south dealt with unprecedented amounts of snow. Tragically, some people lost their lives while trying to stay warm and survive the poor weather conditions. For this reason, it’s a great time to get familiar with tips for keeping your family safe as the temperatures drop.

1. Warm

This one seems pretty obvious but it’s not always as easy as it seems. In your home, identify any areas that seem particularly drafty or where the insulation may have been installed incorrectly and address these issues. Not only will your home stay warmer but you will save money on energy bills.

If there is an impending storm that may cause you to lose power, have warm clothes and blankets in a convenient location so that you can layer up if the temperature inside your home begins to drop. Along the same lines, make sure that your vehicle is equipped with emergency blankets in case you become stuck outside in inclement weather.

2. Prevent Fires

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, more than 900 people die in winter home fires each year. The most common time for these fires to occur is in the evening between 5:00 – 8:00 PM. A number of things can be done to minimize your family’s risk.

  • Never use a hot stove or other cooking device anywhere but in the kitchen. Cooking is one of the leading causes of winter fires.
  • When using a space heater, make sure that it is always more than three feet away from anything flammable and is placed on a level, hard surface. Make sure heaters are turned off before going to bed or falling asleep.
  • Use a glass or metal fire screen when creating a fire in a traditional, log fireplace.
  • If using a generator, always leave it outside and never connect it to the home’s wiring.

3. Check Detectors

It’s not enough to have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the house. They must be connected, fully operational and stocked with fresh batteries every six months. It’s incredible how many lives could have been saved by using these devices properly. Check with your local fire department to see if they offer in-home inspections and suggestions.

4. Stock Up on Supplies

Sometimes, you have enough forewarning to get prepared for a storm and, other times, it just seems to come with no warning. The best thing you can do, as the winter months roll in, is make sure that you maintain a steady supply of non-perishable food items in case of emergency. Try to make sure that each family member’s basic nutritional and hydration needs can be met for a period of, at least, 48 hours.

You should also make sure you have enough essential supplies including toilet paper, hand sanitizer (in case water is scarce), first aid/hygiene products and medication. Keep an eye out for sales and/or coupons and create a little stockpile that is kept separate from your regular supplies so that they are ready and untouched if you need them.

5. Have a Plan

It’s a good idea to discuss escape and survival plans as a family on a regular basis but it’s even more essential when you know a storm is heading your way. Sit down as a group and discuss what each person is expected to do in the case of a fire or evacuation. Go over the plan a few times and then do a couple “surprise” drills. After practicing the routine a couple of times, you will all have a better idea of what to do in an emergency.

Were you affected by the winter storm? What tips do you have to share?