Each year it's my guess you have a major or minor crisis at your home because you failed to take the time before it got really cold to prepare for Old Man Winter. Technology in the form of your smartphone, tablet or laptop computer seems to amplify the stress of everyday living sucking away time from traditional chores done by many of us so many years ago.
The solutions to weather-related problems are not always easy to come by when things go sour because hundreds or thousands of other residents around you find themselves in the same situation, scrambling for the same supplies or service providers that you're trying to secure.
The smart homeowners take the time to get ready now for the surprises that happen when the winds howl and the snow is blowing. I'd like you to be one of these astute prepared people.
Degree of difficulty: One hammer out of five
Step One: Cold weather produces freezing temperatures that can cause public water mains to break. A deep cold spell could overwhelm your municipal water department and you could find yourself without water for days. Now's the time to save two-liter soda bottles or any other plastic container you have that can store potable drinking water. My mother used to have 20 or 30 Clorox bleach bottles of water at our house.
Step Two: Your furnace or boiler will probably fail on the coldest day of the year. Do you think your heating repair company can get to you in an hour or two? Think again. Now's the time to assess the real condition of your furnace or boiler. If it's near the end of its life, replace it now, not when the temperature inside your home has dropped to 38 degrees and you and your family are holed up in a local motel.
Step Three: Do you use outdoor equipment of any kind that has a small gasoline engine? Go start it now, not when there's a foot of snow on the ground. Fill it with fresh gasoline, check the oil level and change the air filter. Make sure you can start the engine with one or two pulls.
Step Four: You've been putting off getting a gas-powered generator for years. Is this the season a massive ice storm cuts your electricity for days or even a week? Your furnace and boiler need electricity to operate.
Step Five: Flashlights are often overlooked. In a power outage, that LED flash on your cellphone is only going to last so long. What's more, you don't want to be wasting the battery on your cellphone for lighting. Newer flashlights work so much better than old flashlights, and modern batteries provide lots of power. You can even buy small flashlights that have a hand crank and require no batteries. I have two of these.
Step Six: Do you have a small transistor radio that will keep you in touch with the world? Yes, your cellphone that connects to news services may allow you to pull down news feeds, but what happens if your cellphone dies or a severe storm cripples cellphone towers? Small radios are inexpensive and you'll be able to tap into a radio station news feed about what's really happening.
Step Seven: Will conditions get so bad that you have to evacuate and drive a distance to be safe? If so, always keep your car or truck gas tank topped off so you can avoid long lines at gas stations. It's possible some weather event will make getting gasoline quite problematic and you could get stranded at home.
Step Eight: Do you know how to turn off your main water supply to your home? Does the valve even work? When was the last time you tried doing this? Do you know how to drain the water lines in your home in case you need to leave your home in bitter cold weather?
Summary: Don't underestimate the confusion and stress that can happen if very bad weather hits. Remember, there are always far greater numbers of residents in an area than first responders, utility crew linemen and grocery store workers. It's up to you to protect yourself, your family and your possessions.