Last week, as we are all well aware, Southern Ontario was hit with some of the harshest winter weather yet.
Local weather reporters called the epic storm “historic,” while the rest of us just called it awful.
Flooding, icy roads, piles of snow, power loss—these conditions are nothing most Ontarians haven’t experienced before now, but to have them arrive all together can still be overwhelming and dangerous!
But what can you do to prepare now for more unpredictable weather that may be still to come? Read on for timely safety tips to keep your home safe, warm and dry!
Address Immediately Visible Risks NOW
One of the most difficult parts of preparing for an oncoming storm is having to rush around doing everything at the last minute.
So don’t wait. Address visible risks now, before the next storm cycles in.
1. Remove loose or damaged exterior detritus
Shoring up the fort means removing dead foliage, tree limbs, loose items on patios and porches, and anything else (bicycles, kids toys, lawn chairs, potted plants, etc.) that could turn into a missile in the grips of high winds.
2. Repair what needs repairing
Trim off dead or damaged tree limbs and repair loose boards, shutters, screens, and railings. Clean out your gutters and exhaust vents. Weather strip and seal windows and doors, and add or repair storm shutters as needed.
3. Create (or replenish) your emergency supplies
You will want to keep handy the following: a basic first aid kit, flashlights with fresh batteries, rain boots and ponchos, pet supplies, plenty of fresh water, emergency rations, a portable charging device for cell phones, some emergency cash, extra pairs of glasses, etc.).
4. Create a step-by-step home security and evacuation family plan
If you can safely ride out a storm in your own home, of course this is preferable for most of us. But to do this, you will need to think clearly about what to do as the storm is rolling in.
Since storm stress can scramble even the most organized brain cells, write out your checklist now. This includes these basics:
- Knowing where your breakers are and how to turn them on or off.
- Learning how to operate emergency backup power like a home generator.
- Deciding in advance which appliances to turn off and which to leave running.
- Deciding what to do about perishables (we recommend turning the fridge and freezer down to their coldest settings and keeping doors closed).
- Keeping a portable, battery-powered radio handy to monitor the weather and evacuation orders during power outages.
- Subscribe to weather-related social media for your area so you can monitor breaking news from your phone.
- Keeping your car filled up with gas at the first signs of a newly forming storm.
- Planning and practising a family evacuation route together.
5. Talk to your insurer about flood insurance
As flooding becomes more common even in areas that previously rarely flooded, flood insurance can start to look less like a luxury and more like a necessity. You may want to consider talking with your insurer about adding flood insurance to your home insurance policy.
Stay Warm (Or Cool) During Power Outages
One of the best ways to keep your family safe during power outages in extreme winter or summer weather is to invest in a backup generator. If this is not a solution that will work for your situation, there are additional things you can do to keep warm or cool.
Heating tips for winter storms
Setting your heater to a higher temperature just before a storm arrives can preheat your home if a power outage is anticipated.
Once the power goes out, keep all windows and doors closed and sealed as best you can. You can put rolled up towels or blankets along door jambs and on window ledges to help keep heat in.
Choose a central, smaller safe area inside your home where your family will gather to ride out the storm. Close doors leading to and from that room to keep the heat in.
Make sure you have a stash of warm blankets and winter clothing handy. You can also purchase inexpensive emergency heat ponchos or blankets online and keep them handy as the need arises.
Cooling tips for summer storms
Keeping cool during summer storms is all about keeping air circulating and staying well hydrated. Be sure you have hand fans to use during power outages.
Setting your air conditioner to a lower than normal temperature before the storm can pre-cool your home if a power outage is expected.
Be sure everyone in the family is drinking water regularly to stay hydrated.
Cover your windows and doors to keep cool air in and heat out.
Protect Your Major Appliances
Your air conditioner and heating system represents thousands of dollars of investment. If your appliances sit on the ground level and your area typically floods or has started to more regularly, you may want to have your contractor move them to the second story.
The same wisdom applies to your home’s electrical system, including breaker boxes, wiring, and sockets. Hiring a contractor to elevate these systems can help you avoid a costly repair or replacement later.
Finally, adding an automatic sump pump can keep your basement from turning into a flood risk.