Blizzards and winter storms remain the most common emergency situations facing residents in Southern Manitoba, though a few simple steps can ensure your family is prepared for the worst.

Southern Emergency Response Committee Director Darin Driedger explains winter storms can be accompanied by power outages lasting anywhere from a few hours to several days. Rural residents should especially be aware restoring power or clearing roads may take longer. However, he says planning ahead and preparing emergency supplies can make a vital difference in managing even the most severe situation.

The Basic Home Emergency Kit is key, Driedger says, which includes water and basic food and hygiene items, a battery powered radio and flashlights, a first-aid kit and sleeping bags.

See below for a full list.

Basic Home Emergency Kits should include:

  • Water (two liters of water per person per day)
  • Food (canned food will last the longest, energy bars and dried food are also good options – these should be replaced once a year). Don’t forget to have extra food for your pets!
  • Toiletries and personal hygiene items. Also include garbage bags, cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer
  • Battery powered Radio & flashlights along with extra batteries
  • First Aid Kit / necessary medication for all family members
  • Basic hand tools including duct tape and plastic sheeting

When preparing for a power outage in the winter also consider the following:

  • Candles (with proper holders) and matches or lighters
  • Extra sleeping bags and blankets
  • Consider an indoor heater such as a portable electric heater powered by a generator. Have a supply of wood for a wood fireplace if your home has one
  • Home generators can also be used to keep certain appliances running including a gas furnace (keep in mind that these connections will usually have to be professionally installed beforehand)
  • Extra fuel for vehicles and necessary machinery
  • Playing cards, puzzles and other non-powered toys to keep children occupied

Before a storm arrives:

  • Consider a quick trip to the store to stock up on grocery items and any necessary medication. Don’t forget to fuel up your vehicle! (even after a storm passes and the road are cleared, power may still be out which means gas stations may not be in service).
  • Prepare & update your home & vehicle emergency kits.

Tips while on the road:

  • Avoid all unnecessary travel! If you have to travel let someone know your route and arrival time; pack extra clothing.
  • If you get stuck remain in your vehicle unless help is very close and you are able to see. Run your vehicle engine for about 10 minutes every hour to keep warm, check to ensure you vehicle exhaust is not plugged by snow. Turn on hazard lights and place any flares.
  • Allow fresh air in your car by opening a window slightly on the sheltered side – away from the wind.
  • Do not overexert yourself trying to get your vehicle unstuck. This can cause you to sweat – which will soon freeze and rapidly make your body colder. Change into dry clothes immediately if you get wet.
  • To avoid falling asleep and keep your extremities warm keep moving by stretching your arms and legs, clapping ect.
  • Keep watch for vehicles and emergency personnel.

Preparing for Winter Storms

During a power outage:

  • Turn off appliances, equipment to protect against a power surge once power is restored.
  • Limit opening doors that lead directly outside, instead use a garage or patio that acts as an air lock to prevent heat loss.
  • Houses will cool once utilities are lost, however most houses will stay above freezing for several days depending on the conditions.
  • Allowing a slow trickle of water to run through your pipes can prevent water from freezing, however if pipes are at risk of freezing shut off main water valve and open taps, drain the hot water tank. Pour plumbing antifreeze down drains and in toilet bowls.
  • While typically cooler than the rest of the house, the basement will likely be the warmest place during a power outage. Consider moving down to the basement, keep everyone in the same room.
  • Never use anything more than a candle for open flame heat indoors. Other outdoor heaters/barbecues and gas powered stoves are not safe for indoor use including inside a garage; the carbon monoxide they create cannot be seen or smelled and can quickly become life threatening!
  • Make sure to never leave any candles or indoor heaters unattended.
  • If using a generator ensure it is running outside and follow manufacturer guidelines.
  • Keep a battery powered radio and tune into local radio stations to receive updates.