Four Essential Ways to Stay Warm Outdoors

It's critical to stay warm when winter weather comes to stay comfortable and healthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), exposure to the cold can cause several severe illnesses. Here are a few essential tips to stay toasty and healthy through the winter:

You don't need an expensive, high-tech jacket to stay warm. Like your home's insulation, multiple layers can help contain your body heat. The Appalachian Mountain Club created the W.I.S.E. system to keep yourself warm outdoors in cold weather.

  • Wicking base layer- Your wicking base layer can help you stay warm while keeping you dry. Due to their wicking properties, synthetic blends, wool or silk are recommended. 
  • Insulating layer- According to the W.I.S.E. system, the insulating layer should provide the most insulation. Fleece and down jackets maintain a lot of warmth. 
  • Sheltering layer- Your sheltering layer should resist the elements, like wind and precipitation, to protect the overall effectiveness of your outfit.
  • Extra layers- The final piece to your outdoor winter outfit should help in the case of changing weather. 

In addition to overexertion taxing your heart, overexertion in cold weather can cause you to sweat, making you lose body heat quickly. Whether you're shoveling off your driveway or have to put in a full day's work in the cold, it's essential to be mindful of your perspiration levels to avoid losing body heat. When wet, you can lose body heat 25 times faster than normal! If you begin to feel hot, you will actually retain more heat by removing excess layers than by allowing yourself to sweat. 

Hydration is key to staying warm and healthy during extreme winter weather. According to an article from Pennsylvania State University, hydration and proper nutrition are key to helping your body maintain its regular temperature. The diuretic nature of alcohol and caffeine can quickly dehydrate you. If you need a hot drink, the article suggests drinking a broth soup, warm apple cider or herbal tea before turning to the traditional cup of coffee.

If you begin to shiver in the cold, this is your body's attempt to prevent hypothermia by generating heat through movement. If you start to shiver in the cold, this is a strong indication that your body isn't warm enough. Whether you're taking care of chores outside or playing in the snow with little ones, you should go inside to warm up. If you can't go inside, you should make sure you are dry and add another layer to regain some of your warmth.

Now that we've had a chance to talk through some essential ways to stay warm outside, let's focus on staying safe indoors during a winter storm.

Six Crucial Tips for Weathering the Storm at Home 

A winter storm or severe cold weather can affect you at home. Prior to the cold weather, make sure your home is well-insulated and adequately weatherized. In addition, if you notice trees with limbs that could fall on power lines, call us to have them professionally trimmed. Here are some additional tips to prepare and things you should know about staying warm, safe and healthy during the storm:

You want to have your essentials together in an accessible location in the case of a power outage. Some items you'll want to have on hand include:

  • Non-perishable food and bottled water- A supply of drinking water and non-perishable foods, like canned meats, peanut butter and bread, can help you stay hydrated and energized during an outage.
  • Flashlights- An extra, reliable flashlight outside your phone can help you find your way around your home if a power outage occurs at night.
  • Weather radio- Make sure you can get updates on the weather as the winter storm progresses.
  • Extra batteries- You want to make sure you can keep any accessories, like your flashlight, powered up.
  • A general first-aid kit- It's always a smart idea to have a first-aid kit on hand to address minor injuries or ailments that could occur due to the cold weather.

If you use another heat source instead of or in addition to your home's primary heating system, like a wood fire stove or space heater, you need to follow the manufacturer's instructions for placement, ventilation and duration of use. Improper use can lead to a house fire. Only use these heat sources while they are supervised.

Adding layers to your loungewear and using blankets in your home can help you reduce your reliance on your home's heating system.

If mother nature knock's out your power and you have a generator to provide emergency electricity, be sure to use it safely. Review the manufacturer's instructions ahead of a storm. Never use a generator indoors or near an open window, and be sure to have a working carbon monoxide detector in your home.

When the weather is very cold outside, water pipes located in vulnerable places like basements, attics or exterior walls may be vulnerable to freezing. The best protection is to insulate these pipes before the cold hits. You may also add heating tape to prevent freezing. If you have not had time to do these things before the cold sets in, you can open the cabinet doors to help circulate warm air around the plumbing. When it is very cold overnight, you may let cold water drip from one faucet served by an exterior or vulnerable pipe. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle – may help prevent it from freezing. To avoid wasting this water, leave a bowl or bucket under the faucet and use the water for something later.

As we talked about in our article covering winter road safety and traveling through hazardous conditions, freezing rain and ice can quickly build up on tree branches and power lines. Any time you go outside after freezing rain has come through, make sure to look around your front and backyard for low-hanging power lines or tree branches that could collapse on a nearby power line. If you see a sagging power line, make sure to contact your local cooperative as soon as possible.  

Caring for the Vulnerable

Being a part of an electric cooperative is about community and caring for your family, friends and neighbors through difficult times. Winter storms can put older adults, children and individuals with chronic health conditions at higher risk of injury or illness. It's important to check on neighbors and family members to make sure they are staying warm and safe. A quick phone call or text can go a long way. 

Power Outages and Your Local Cooperative

While winter weather can cause temporary power outages, it's essential to remember that we are working around the clock to ensure you have the power you need. Even so, it can take days to repair the devastating damage of a winter storm. If you are in the midst of storm recovery, avoid going outside if possible. Downed power lines could be submerged in snow and ice and difficult to identify. When outside, treat all downed and hanging lines as if they are energized electric lines: Stay away, warn others to stay away and immediately contact us immediately. Remember that downed power lines do NOT have to be arcing, sparking or moving to be live and deadly.

If you encounter a power outage during a winter storm, you can visit the About Us page to find your local cooperative's website. From there, you can find contact information and report your outage. 

For more great tips about weathering winter storms, power outages and electrical safety, listen to the Power for Your Life Podcast while you are on the go!