Central Maryland winters often catch us scrambling to buy winter storm essentials like food, water, and medicine before any big storm hits. Maryland nor’easters and inland snowstorms can get pretty rough as anyone who’s lived here for a while can attest to. Many of us have already invested in the bigger-ticket essentials like snow blowers and generators. But if you haven’t, Clarks Ace Hardware in Columbia and Ellicott City keeps a complete line of winter storm needs in stock and ready for you to cross off your emergency checklist.
What’s on an Emergency Action Plan?
Any emergency action plan should be discussed with your family first so you can tailor your plan to their specific needs. Emergency winter storm plans need to cover what your family should do in the event snow and ice knocks out power, heat, or communication. Every plan should include the following snow storm essentials:
- Medical needs
- Shelter and heat
- Snow blower, shovels, and ice melt
- Emergency transportation
Including a checklist of family-specific food and medical needs will help you keep organized and save you time as you compile the essentials to get you through the next snowstorm.
First Priority, Check Your Snow Blower
Make sure that your snow blower is working if it has been sitting idle since last winter. Clean around the spark plugs, add new oil and gas. If you change your oil, start up your snow blower and let the oil get hot so it’s easier to change. Hot oil moves around more efficiently. Cold oil can get thick and gummy. Using a gas additive also helps keep the gas in the tank clean all season for easier starting. Start it up and you’re on your way. Not sure if your snow blower needs a tune up? Contact our Ellicott City repair shop at 410-465-9633..
Do You Have the Right Shovel?
Ergonomic snow shovel handles are bent in the middle to save wear and tear on your arms and lower back. There are many shovels of varying lengths and scoop size so choose one that fits your body’s height. Shoveling is a total body aerobic workout and if you have been ill or have a chronic condition like heart issues, diabetes, or high blood pressure, hire someone to shovel for you.
If you choose to shovel, warm up before you venture outdoors into the cold. Always lift with your legs to save you from back strain. Keep centered and don’t throw snow over your shoulder.
Ice Melt: Driveway, Sidewalks, and Porches
Use salt to melt ice on driveways, sidewalks, and porches. What kind of salt you need depends if your driveway is concrete or asphalt or gravel. Magnesium chloride based salt won’t badly pock-mark your concrete and is safer for children and pets. Calcium chloride is best for asphalt.
Next, Stock Up on Non-Perishable Food
Stocking your pantry with extra food may not be easy with grocery prices at a premium these days. However, non-perishable food tends to have longer expiration dates, so you may be able to store the food for months or years. Plan ahead for family members with special diets due to gluten intolerance or food allergies.
Plan on a minimum of 3 days of food per person – and don’t forget your pets. You may need to stock up up to a week’s worth per person if the snowstorm is major. Consider that you may also need to ration food to stretch it out if your pantry is running low and you can’t get out to buy more.
Store food in a cool, dry place with a temperature range of 40 to 70 degrees F.
Bottled Water is a Must
Store 1 gallon of water per person per day for a minimum of 3 days with a safety net of 2 weeks.
Some generic or store brand water bottles have flimsier plastic and are filled to the brim which can lead to spilled water when opening or clutching the bottle. Buying water stored in sturdier plastic bottles ensures less spillage and wasted money. At Clarks, we carry bottled water so you can conveniently stock up on your storm prep supplies in one place!
Prescriptions and Hygiene Items
At the start of the winter season, ask your doctor if your prescriptions are available in a 90-day supply so there’s no danger of running out during a snow emergency. Buying hygiene items like toilet paper, sanitary items, and soap in bulk can save you cash when there’s an emergency money crunch.
Tote Along Car Emergency Kits
Your car’s emergency kits should consist of the following:
- One kit if you get stuck in the snow while on the road: kitty litter, sturdy shovel, a crank-powered SOS radio or transmitter.
- One kit for emergency food, blankets, sundries: healthy snack items like dark chocolate, fruit bars, protein bars and bottled water.
- One kit for pets: food, water, potty bags, cage, leash, depending on the needs of your pets.
- One kit for comfort items: toys for kids and pets, healthy snacks that provide quick energy and protein, bottled water, reading materials.
This may seem like a lot of items to store in your car, but organizing in small totes and labeling them keeps everything clean and handy. Don’t leave home unless necessary in a snowstorm, especially one with lots of snow and ice. If you have to leave, even if you don’t have a long distance to drive, make sure that you have your car emergency kit with you.
What if the Power Goes Out?
Snowstorms and ice can down power lines and interrupt power in substations. Be prepared for anything from overnight power outages to several days of living without electricity. It’s always a good policy to police your cabinets in the fall for batteries, flashlights and candles. Look for battery corrosion, broken bulbs, and candles. Replace as needed.
Candles and gas burners or ovens should never be used for light and heat. Propane space heaters should only be used on non-carpeted floors and away from anything that can catch fire. Any open flame must remain supervised, especially around children and pets.
You may hear your smoke or carbon monoxide detectors begin to beep when power goes off. It’s best practice to check them when time “springs forward” in the springtime and “falls back” in the fall. It’s a good time to change batteries or install new smoke or carbon monoxide detectors. These days, you can find both in one unit which saves time and money. Remember to have one on each floor of your home.
Snowstorm warnings are a good time to check on your neighbors and to check to see that emergency numbers are logged into your cell phone or posted next to your landline.
Lastly, Make Sure Cell Phones are Charged
Technology allows today’s meteorologists to give you plenty of warning when a storm is days away and when it is imminent. Always make sure your cell phones, tablet computers, and laptops are fully charged. Battery life wears out more quickly on partial charges than at 100 percent.
Always have an emergency communication plan mapped out with your family in case you get separated.
The Next Snowstorm May Hit Before You Know It
Maryland nor’easters and inland snowstorms can dump a lot of snow in a short amount of time. Preparation is key to remaining safe and comfortable during any snow or ice emergency. Don’t let the next snowstorm catch you by surprise – cross off your storm needs before it hits. Clarks Ace Hardware keeps many storm necessities on its shelves so you can zip in and get what you need quickly. We’ve been helping keep our communities safe for 175 years no matter what kind of storm interrupts your norm.