5 hacks to help you through a winter storm

Genie Leslie is a copywriter (as well as regular writer) and actor in Seattle.

Your car’s been swallowed; your front door barricaded. You’re snowed in. The luminous drifts glistening under a starry sky may be beautiful, but the power’s out, you don’t know how long the storm will last—and your phone battery is dead.

Now what?

You should already have your emergency kit prepared with items like water, non-perishable food, medications, first aid supplies, a flashlight, batteries, and more. If not, use this list of emergency kit items to assemble one. Go do that now. We’ll wait here.

But do you know where to get your storm information when the power’s out, or how to make your own heat? Try these hacks to go beyond basics and get through the storm more comfortably.

1. Keep your devices ready

In an emergency, the last thing you need is a dead phone battery. It’s your source of communication, and don’t forget it may double as a flashlight. On many smartphones, you can turn on the flashlight from your quick-access panel or control menu. You may need to use it to find your way to the emergency kit when the power goes out. So keep it charged, and invest in a portable charger (or several) to provide external backup battery power for your phone. Dedicate a spot for portable chargers in a central location—like the kitchen—and keep them charged. Charging cases and car chargers may also be phone-savers in a crisis.

2. Be prepared with apps and contacts

Bookmark web pages and download apps now that will be helpful when the storm hits. Ready.gov has tons of information on just about every natural disaster you might encounter. The American Red Cross has mobile apps for information on different types of emergencies, plus first aid, pet first aid, and blood donation. Weather apps, like Dark Sky, can help you track the storm in real time.

3. Get urgent info and updates

Keep informed about the storm and what’s happening in your area. Make sure you know how to get and send the latest updates. Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs), Twitter, and texting are all great options.

WEAs: Many smartphones automatically receive these messages. They pop up unexpectedly on your phone with an attention-getting sound. They’re used for AMBER alerts, presidential messages, and imminent threats, which would include dangerous storms in your area. Older phones or software may not be able to receive these, so check with your service provider to find out if your phone is capable.

Twitter: Follow your police and fire departments, local and national weather services, and your local news network. If you choose to receive notifications for these accounts on your phone, you’ll be alerted any time they tweet new information.

Texting: Phone lines can get overloaded in emergencies. Text messages, however, are more likely to reach your loved ones quickly. Make sure you’ve got the numbers you need, and that all family members know the basics of texting.

4. Try some DIY protection and warmth

You can take a few easy steps, using materials around your house, to protect from ice and snow. Lay an old towel or blanket on your windshield, and put long socks over your wipers, before the storm starts. For slick driveways or sidewalks, buy cheap kitty litter or baking soda to toss on the ice for safer walking. If you’re biking anywhere, try giving your tires extra traction by tying zip ties around them every few inches.

For personal heat, you can make your own hand warmer with two sealable plastic bags (one a little bigger than the other), ice-melt pellets that you can buy at a hardware store, and water. Fill the smaller bag with water and seal it. Place it inside the larger bag, and fill the larger, outer bag with salt. When your hands need warmth, squeeze and pop open the inner bag to mix the water and the salt, then shake to get the heat started.

5. Entertain to stay sane

Ice and snowstorms may mean that you and your family are cooped up in close quarters for several days. Prepare some entertainment, for the kids’ sanity as well as yours. Download a few movies, books, games, and music to your devices—as long as you’ve got chargers and batteries to keep them powered. Stitcher is a great app for radio shows and podcasts, and with Pocket you can download any articles or videos you’ve been meaning to get to.

Once you’ve been cooped up for a day or so, you may want to get moving. With fitness apps like Pocket Yoga and 7 Minute Workout Challenge downloaded on your phone, the workout is waiting for you when you’re ready—no streaming required.

If you’ve followed all the steps and prepared for every possibility, all you can do now is sit back and ride out the storm.

Published on AT&T Thread, November 01, 2016