Each year, hypothermia kills 1,500 people in the United States alone. Many of these deaths happen during winter storms when the power gets knocked out. People take their electric home heating system for granted and don’t make any preparations in case it stops working.
Of course, it doesn’t just take a winter storm to knock out the power. There are many types of disasters that can cause blackouts or brownouts, and if it happens in the winter, the number of hypothermia deaths will spike. To ensure that you are able to keep warm no matter what the weather is like, check out these 21 tips.
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1. Build a Fire
We’ll get the most obvious tip out of the way first. If your electric heat goes out, then you should build a fire in your fireplace if you have one (don’t forget to stock up on plenty of firewood ahead of time).
Even if you don’t have a fireplace, consider building a small fire in your backyard. This isn’t so you can sit outside in the freezing cold trying to warm up. You’re much better off inside. Rather, its so you can heat up some stones, which leads me to the next tip…
2. Put Hot Stones in Your Bed
If stones are heated up in a fire, they can maintain their warmth for long periods of time. To use hot stones to warm your bed, you’ll need to place them inside or under the mattress. In the past, people would place hot stones in a thin pan with a long handle and slide the pan into a slit in the mattress.
However you get the hot stones inside or under your mattress, they can be great for keeping you warm on cold nights.
3. Get Out Your Sleeping Bags
Sleeping bags aren’t just for camping. The high-quality ones are incredibly good at holding in your body heat. You don’t have to sleep on the floor. Put it right on your bed, crawl in, and snuggle up.
4. Wear Thermal Underwear
Few articles of clothing are better at keeping you warm in cold weather than thermal underwear. Thermal underwear is specifically designed to trap your body heat. Best of all, thermal underwear does not inhibit your movement like other, bulkier winter clothing.
5. Drink Hot Drinks
Drinking a hot cup of coffee or hot chocolate can raise your body temperature and help keep you warm.
As a side note about drinks keeping you warm, the idea of drinking alcohol to stay warm is actually a myth. While it may make you feel warmer by bringing blood to the surface of your skin, it actually lowers your body temperature. Stick to hot teas, coffee, and cocoa and leave the whiskey for other purposes.
6. Do Lots of Cooking and Baking
Last winter, I spent more time in the kitchen than any other room. I cooked meals and baked bread, cookies, and other treats. The oven kept the kitchen nice and warm, which made my children hang out in the kitchen with me.
7. Reverse Your Ceiling Fan
It’s well known that hot air rises, meaning that the air at the top of your home is going to be warmer than the air at the floor level. By reversing your ceiling fan, you can make it so that this warm air is blown down, keeping the heat in your house from gathering near the ceiling.
8. Insulate Your Windows
Windows allow more heat to escape than any other point in your home. To reduce heat loss through your windows, it’s a good idea to insulate them as well as you can with a window insulation kit. Plug any air leaks using caulking and make use of heavy curtains to help trap heat. Even if the power doesn’t go out, doing this will at least save you money on your heating bill.
9. Block Drafts
Drafts can be a real problem in the winter months, making for an uncomfortable breeze of cold air. When the temperature drops, try to find any drafts in your home and insulate them as best you can with caulk, towels, or blankets.
10. Use Hand and Feet Warmers
Chemical hand and feet warmers such as HotHands should be a part of your survival stockpile if cold weather is a concern. These warmers can last for several hours and are a great way to keep your extremities warm.
11. Get Some Space Heaters
Space heaters are a godsend on cold winter days. However, make sure you don’t get electric space heaters as they won’t work if the power goes out. Instead, get some propane space heaters. Don’t worry, they’re safe to use indoors as long as the room is well ventilated.
12. Close off Unused Portions of Your Home
Small spaces are much easier to heat than large spaces, especially if your heat is coming from a single source such as a fireplace. In order to more effectively heat the areas that you use the most, you can shrink the size of the space you’re heating by keeping doors closed and hanging up blankets over hallways and entrances without a door.
13. Get In The Smallest Room
If you close off unused rooms and everybody gets into the smallest room, your collective body heat will make the room several degrees warmer than the rest of the house. However, only do this if you have a family that can stand being in close quarters with one another. Otherwise, you might drive each other crazy.
14. Wear a Hat
More heat escapes through your head than through any other part of the body. However, the head is also the part of the body that is most likely to go uncovered in cold weather. Invest in a thick hat or a thermal stocking cap to help keep more of your body heat from escaping.
15. Alternate Between Hot and Cold Showers
Assuming you have the means to take a shower, briefly flipping the water to cold can help keep you warm after your shower is over. This may sound counterintuitive, but a blast of cold water can open up your circulation and get your blood flowing better. Just be sure to end your shower with hot water so you don’t step out of it freezing cold.
16. Seal Doorways with a Pool Noodle
If there is any gap between the bottom of your door and the floor, one great way to seal it is with a pool noodle. Cut the pool noodle in half, then slide the slit along the bottom of your door between the door and the floor to help lock in heat.
17. Eat Fatty Foods
There’s a reason many animals bulk up in preparation for winter. While putting on a few pounds won’t be an instant fix and may not sound ideal, the extra fat can help you prepare for freezing temperatures. (I know this tip sounds ridiculous, but it helps me rationalize all the holiday goodies.)
18. Open Your Blinds During the Day
No matter how cold it is outside, if the sun is shining, it’s still generating warmth. During the daylight hours, it’s a good idea to open up your blinds to let in as much sunlight as possible. This creates a greenhouse effect, making your home nice and warm even in the dead of winter.
19. Insulate Hard Floors with Blankets and Rugs
Hardwood and tile floors can get quite cold and can allow heat to escape. To keep this from happening, insulate your hard floors by covering them with blankets and area rugs. Not only will it help keep the heat in, it’ll also feel a lot warmer on your feet.
20. Use Candles
For areas that are far away from your fireplace, you can light candles to help keep them warm. If you have a few kerosene lamps, these work even better. Just be careful not to start any fires.
21. Stay Active
If all else fails, exercising can be a great way to raise your body temperature and help keep warm. When you exercise, your body burns calories, which produces heat. Exercise also helps get your blood flowing to your extremities. Just make sure you’ve got the calories to burn; if you’re short on food, you may want to conserve as many calories as you can.
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