Emergencies and disasters can strike at any time, leaving you without access to basic necessities, including heat. Whether it’s a power outage during a winter storm, a breakdown in your heating system, or being caught in the wilderness, staying warm is crucial for your survival and well-being.
The Right Clothing is Crucial
Heaters like those from Mr.Heater are excellent for helping you stay warm, but there are other things you can do, too. Layering your clothing is one of the most effective ways to trap heat close to your body.
- Use Insulating Materials: Insulating materials like wool and fleece are excellent for retaining heat. Wool, in particular, can still provide insulation even when wet. Wear wool socks, hats, and gloves to keep extremities warm.
- Keep Your Head Covered: A significant amount of heat is lost through the head. Wearing a hat or a beanie helps retain heat and keeps you warm. It’s especially important in cold and windy conditions.
- Wear Thermal Underwear: Thermal underwear provides an additional layer of insulation for your torso and legs. It’s designed to trap heat and keep you warm in cold environments.
- Use Emergency Blankets: Emergency blankets, also known as space blankets, are lightweight and compact. They reflect body heat back to you, providing warmth in emergency situations. Keep a few in your emergency kit.
Finding shelter is crucial in extreme conditions. Whether it’s a building, a tent, or even a car, seek shelter to block wind and precipitation and conserve heat. If you’re outdoors and have no immediate access to shelter, consider building one. A simple lean-to or debris shelter can provide protection from the elements and help retain heat. Cold surfaces can quickly sap your body heat. Use insulating materials like leaves, pine needles, or a foam sleeping pad between your body and the ground to create a barrier.
Physical activity creates body heat. If possible, keep moving to stay warm. Simple exercises like jumping jacks or brisk walking can help maintain your body temperature.
Huddle for Warmth
If you’re with others, huddle together to share body heat. The collective warmth can help everyone stay warm.
Use Hot Water Bottles
Fill a hot water bottle with warm (not boiling) water and place it inside your clothing or sleeping bag. It can provide valuable warmth for hours.
Eat and Drink
Eating high-energy foods and drinking warm liquids can help raise your body temperature. Hot soups, tea, and coffee are good options. Avoid alcohol, as it can actually lower your body temperature.
Wet clothing loses heat much faster than dry ones. Stay dry by using waterproof gear, umbrellas, or rain ponchos.
Use Body Heat
If you’re with another person, share body heat by huddling close together or holding each other. This can be particularly effective in extreme cold.
Know How to Start a Fire
In outdoor emergencies, knowing how to start a fire is a valuable skill. Carry fire-starting tools like waterproof matches or a fire starter kit in your emergency gear.
- Gather the Right Materials: Begin with tinder, which is a highly flammable material that easily ignites. Examples include dry leaves, grass, twigs, and small, dry branches. Next, gather kindling, which consists of small sticks and branches that are slightly thicker than your thumb. These will sustain the initial flames from the tinder. Collect larger pieces of firewood, such as logs or split wood, to keep the fire burning once it’s established.
- Choose a Safe Location: Select a safe location for your fire. If you’re in a controlled environment like a campsite or designated fire pit, use that. If not, choose a spot away from overhanging branches, dry grass, and flammable materials. Clear a small area of debris down to the bare ground.
- Create a Fire Ring or Fire Pit: If you’re in a non-designated area, build a fire ring or pit using rocks or a fire pan to contain the fire. This helps prevent it from spreading.
- Prepare the Fire Area: Lay down a base layer of small rocks or gravel to further reduce the risk of the fire spreading beyond the designated area.
- Build a Fire Lay: Arrange your tinder in the center of the fire pit or ring. Create a teepee-like structure with your kindling around the tinder. Leave an opening on one side to light the fire.
- Ignite the Tinder: Use a fire starter, such as waterproof matches, a butane lighter, or a fire starter rod, to ignite the tinder through the opening in your kindling. Hold the ignition source close to the tinder, and blow gently to encourage the flames to catch.
- Add Kindling: Once the tinder is burning well, carefully add small kindling sticks to the fire lay. Gradually increase the size of the kindling as the flames grow.
- Maintain Proper Ventilation: Ensure that there is enough airflow around the fire to keep it burning. Avoid smothering the flames by adding too much fuel at once.
- Extinguish the Fire Properly: When you’re done with the fire, let it burn down to a bed of hot coals. Use a long stick to spread out the coals and ash, ensuring they’re no longer glowing. Then, pour water over the coals and ashes and stir them with a stick to thoroughly extinguish the fire. Repeat this process until the area is cool to the touch.
Use Heating Sources Safely
Portable propane heaters are a convenient and efficient way to provide warmth in various settings, from camping trips to emergency heating during power outages. However, safety should always be a top priority when using these heaters, as propane is a flammable gas.
- Choose a Well-Ventilated Area: Propane heaters emit carbon monoxide (CO), a colorless, odorless gas that can be deadly in high concentrations. Adequate ventilation helps disperse CO and ensures that fresh air is available for breathing.
- Never Use Indoors Without Ventilation: Never use a propane heater indoors without proper ventilation. This includes enclosed spaces like tents, campers, or garages. Always use the heater outdoors or in areas with sufficient ventilation to prevent the buildup of harmful gases.
- Maintain Clearance: Maintain proper clearance around the heater. Keep flammable materials, furniture, curtains, and any combustibles at a safe distance from the heater to prevent fires. Refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines for the recommended clearance distances.
- Check for Leaks: Before each use, inspect the propane cylinder and hose for any signs of damage or leaks. If you detect a propane odor or suspect a leak, do not use the heater. Turn off the gas supply and address the issue immediately.
- Use Only Approved Propane Cylinders: Use only propane cylinders that are specifically designed for the heater model you are using. Avoid modifying or using incompatible cylinders, as this can lead to dangerous situations.
- Position the Heater Safely: Place the heater on a stable, flat surface to prevent tipping. Some portable propane heaters come with built-in stands or tripods for added stability. Make sure the heater is on a level surface to prevent accidents.
- Supervise the Heater: Never leave a running portable propane heater unattended.
- Keep Children and Pets Away: Ensure that children and pets are kept away from the heater at all times. The heater’s surface can become hot, posing a burn risk.
- Use the Right Size Heater: Choose a portable propane heater that is appropriate for the size of the space you intend to heat. Using a heater that is too large for the area can lead to overheating and safety issues.
- Follow Lighting Instructions: When lighting the heater, follow the manufacturer’s lighting instructions carefully. Do not use matches or open flames to light the heater; use the designated ignition system.
- Turn Off Before Sleeping: It is generally recommended to turn off the portable propane heater before going to sleep. If you plan to use it for overnight heating, ensure the heater is equipped with safety features like an oxygen depletion sensor (ODS) and a tip-over switch.
- Be Prepared for Emergencies: Have a fire extinguisher nearby when using a portable propane heater, and know how to use it. Additionally, have a plan in place for what to do in case of an emergency, such as a gas leak or fire.
- Turn Off and Disconnect: After using the portable propane heater, turn it off, and disconnect the propane cylinder. Store the heater and propane cylinder separately, following manufacturer instructions for safe storage.
Signal for Help
If you’re lost or stranded and need rescue, use signaling devices like whistles, flashlights, or brightly colored clothing to alert rescuers to your location.
Stay informed about weather conditions and emergency alerts. A battery-powered or hand-crank radio can help you stay updated on the situation and receive important instructions.
Prepare an Emergency Kit
Having an emergency kit with essentials like warm clothing, blankets, food, water, and first-aid supplies is essential for staying warm and safe during emergencies. Keep your kit readily accessible and up to date.
Remember that staying warm in emergency situations is a matter of preparedness and resourcefulness. By following these tips and having the necessary supplies on hand, you can increase your chances of staying safe and warm when the unexpected happens.