Whenever the TV weatherman starts filling evening newscasts with endless reports of an ominous snow storm, everyone does one thing: rushes to the store to buy all the bread, water, and milk they can find. While it’s good to stock up on those food basics, being storm prepared involves a bit more than that — and it’s better to get yourself ready long before the first weather reports come in. Here’s what you should have in your house and your car to weather the storm with ease — even if you’re holed up indoors for a few days.
1 A flashlight
When winter storms are at their worst, they sometimes knock out your electricity. So invest in a flashlight (or several!) to hold onto at all times. A few candles won’t hurt either (and give a nice ambiance post-sunset), but flashlights or portable lanterns are definitely safer.
2 A wireless radio
Just make sure it’s a hand-crank or battery-powered radio so you can stay in-the-know even if your electricity goes out.
Your battery-operated safety devices (like your flashlight and radio) are no good if they don’t have their source of electricity.
4 A first-aid kit
Just in case you get stuck in your house — and can’t make it to a hospital in case of an accident — make sure you have one of these safety kits that contains all of the essentials.
5 Extra blankets for warmth
Also, file warm jackets, hats, gloves, and really anything that will keep you toasty warm in the event that the power (and your heat!) go out under this category.
6 A full week of medications
Since not taking your medicine could have extreme consequences, you should keep up to seven days worth of meds on-hand before a storm (or really ever). The American Red Cross also recommends stocking up on any additional health-related items, like contact lenses, syringes, or hearing aids with extra batteries.
7 Copies of personal documents
This includes medication and pertinent medical information, proof of address, the lease or deed for your home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies, credit cards, and social security cards.
8 All your toiletries
We’re talking toothpaste, face wash, shampoo and conditioner — really anything you need to stay clean (and sane) during your time inside.
9 A gas-powered space heater
“When the power goes out, you want to limit the heat distribution to one room to save energy,” explains Arne Bostrom, a Test Engineer in the Consumer Electronics Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute. But be careful: They can be dangerous if not used properly. Never leave your heater unattended, and steer it clear of drapes, shades, bedding, and anything flammable.
10 A backup power generator
While pricy, generators are your best bet when you lose power, since they can keep your water hot, your fridge cold, and your heat on even if a winter storm knocks out your electricity.
11 A three-day supply of non-perishable food
Think: canned food, peanut butter, all the usual suspects. But Sharon Franke, Director of the Kitchen Appliances and Technology Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute, also recommends uncut fruit and shelf-stable milk from Horizon Dairy, because they don’t require refrigeration.
12 A three-day supply of water
Bostrom warns that sometimes your water supply can be compromised or contaminated during a heavy storm or bad weather — so keep extra water on hand as a back-up. The American Red Cross recommends one gallon per person.
In the case of a power outage, Franke says you can light the surface burners with a match on your electric ignition gas or dual fuel range or gas cooktop: “Hold a lighted match to the burner, then turn the knob to the low position.” But she says to use extreme caution when lighting burners and warns that not all models are equipped to be manually lit, so you should refer to your Owner’s Manual before attempting this.
14 A non-electric can opener
Because what good is your can of corn if you can’t open it?
15 Pet food and supplies
Animals have to eat, too! Make sure you have at least a three-day supply of food for your pet and anything else they might need while you’re stuck at home, like a collar, leash, ID, carrier, or bowl.
16 A cooler filled with ice
If you don’t have a backup generator, you should keep a cooler filled with ice on-hand so you can put refrigerated food in it to keep it cold if the power goes out and won’t be back on again for more than four hours, according to the United State Department of Agriculture.
17 Baby food and supplies
Since your baby can’t eat the same food as you, make sure when you hit up the grocery store you also get jars of baby food, formula, bottles, and plenty of diapers.
18 Tire chains
To help your tires track in the snow, you should invest in a pair of chains. Bostrom says they normally cost between $100 and $200 for a quality pair, but that you should check the chain laws in your state before purchasing.
19 A bag of sand
In case you get stuck in snow or ice, have a bag of sand on hand to sprinkle on your driveway. Look for play sand or traction sand, which contain more grit and are gentler on pet’s paws and plants.
20 A shovel
Keep a plastic one in the trunk of your car so you can shovel out your tires if you need to travel in the snowy conditions. And stick with plastic at home, too — metal shovels can deposit tiny metal filings on the surface of your drive or walks.
21 A full tank of gas
And always make sure your car’s tank is filled in case you don’t get a chance to hit up the gas station — often in weather emergencies gas gets tapped out quickly at local stations