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Stay Safe and Warm During a Winter Power Outage

Freezing conditions make winter power outages especially risky.

stay warm in a power outage

(Photo: monkeybusinessimages / iStock / Thinkstock)

Winter storms can be divisive. While some enjoy the whimsical beauty of a fresh-fallen snow, others cringe at the sight of a single flake hitting the ground.

People’s thoughts on power outages tend to be less varied. Aside from some rare, overzealous board-game enthusiasts, most folks prefer to keep their lights, appliances and heat running, especially on frigid winter evenings.

Should you lose power this winter, here are some steps you can take to stay warm without putting yourself at risk, courtesy of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

    • Close off unused rooms to consolidate and retain heat.
    •  Wear layered clothing and use blankets or sleeping bags to stay warm.
    • Never use generators or outdoor heating or cooking equipment, like a grill or propane heater, indoors. In addition to presenting a fire risk, it could expose you and your family to dangerous carbon monoxide.
    • Never heat your home using the stove or oven, either. If you use a generator, keep it outside in a well-ventilated area at least 20 feet away from any door, window or vent.

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    • Limit your time outdoors. If you must venture outside, dress in layers and cover up any exposed skin to protect against frostbite. If your clothes get wet, replace them with dry ones.
    • Know how to recognize hypothermia. Warning signs in adults include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, slurred speech, memory loss and fumbling hands. In infants, signs include bright red and cold skin and low energy.
    • If you’re losing heat and don’t think you can make it until the power returns, head to a relief shelter if you can make it safely. You can locate the nearest shelter by downloading the FEMA mobile app or texting “SHELTER” and your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA). For Spanish, text REFUGIO and your zip code. (Standard text message rates apply.)

Do you have some sound tips for staying warm during a power outage? Let us know in the comments. 

Now that you know how to protect yourself during a power outage, talk to a AAA insurance agent about protecting yourself from liability throughout the year. Get started

  • Danna W.

    I always keep my tank full during the coldest winter months so what about warming up in your car, making sure the garage door is open. 15 or 20 minutes can make a big difference in how you feel.

    • Noreen M.

      If you want to warm up in your car, it’s a better idea to go for a drive instead. I wouldn’t advise warming up in a car in a garage either with a closed or open door. Many places with generators in local towns provide “warming centers.” These are a better idea, although you are still faced with a cold house when you return home.

  • Safety f.

    Safety authorities agree: “Idling a car in a garage, even with the door open, is dangerous and exposes the driver to carbon monoxide and other noxious gases. If the garage is attached, those fumes can also enter the house.“ Many have died from CO poisoning by running gasoline engines even in carports, never mind garages.

    • Jerry M.

      With the engine running (outside of a garage) you’ll need to plug into the car’s USB ports to charge your cell phone, smart watch, hearing aids, bluetooth devices etc.

  • If you have a gas stove you can put a kettle on and drink hot tea or other liquids.

    • I don’t know about that. I have a gas stove and it’s plugged into an electrical outlet. If the power is out, your gas stove isn’t going to work!!

      • You can use your gas range during power outage. Simply turn on a burner and manually light it with a match or lighter. Would not suggest trying to light the oven however.

      • My husband used to put a pot of water on our gas grill outside. It is covered by a roof. So he was only out there to put the pot on the grill. Then he went back out when he knew it was boiling. You can also do that with soups etc.

  • Kevin D.

    To the previous comment, running your car with garage door open is still dangerous. I know of two children killed this way. Move the car completely out of the garage if you’re going to run it.

  • If you have to leave for extended period of time find the water shut off in your house or apartment. Shut off and drain by opening lowest and highest faucet in house to allow draining. Frozen pipes could cause bursting

  • Sheila K.

    Take steps to prevent water pipes from freezing. Check with a professional for the best advise. It may involve shutting off the water from the main valve and draining the pipes.

  • Howard D.

    It’s not a wise move to warm up your car while inside the garage. Some garages are attached or under the house. Carbon monoxide easily seeps into the living and sleeping areas of a house if a car is running in the garage–even if the door is open. Many houses have different layouts, but you should ALWAYS pull the car outside if you’re going to let it warm up.

  • Zeni F.

    Offering guidance to Spanish speakers in the middle of an English message is less than helpful.
    And, many elders do not have Internet. A phone number would be very helpful.
    Thanks for these good ideas.

  • ALAN j.


  • Bill D.

    In addition to keeping you warmed in a emergency, your auto can be used to keep you informed and connected with family, friends and emergency personnel. Just turn on the radio and charge your phone and iPads. With an adapter you can plug in an electric blanket to warm it up and bring it back indoors.

  • Chris N.

    I can keep most of my house plenty warm with our wood stove. Being a camper I have literally dozens of battery operated lights and lanterns. The one (or maybe 2) things I’d like to be able to run with the power out is my heat which is gas and only needs a small amount of power for the fan and my hot water which is also gas and on demand, also a low draw. I’m thinking of either a small generator that runs on Propane (outside) or a battery bank like a Jackery.

  • Larry L.

    Some gas-fired boilers for hot-water baseboard heating have a no-power “gravity-feed” option controlled by the thermal limiter. Check your boiler’s manual for the exact way to get this working. During extended outages many years ago, we were able to keep the top floor heated (hot-water rises) for several days.

    • If power is out, how will you run an electric stove? If you had an outside generator, so that the electric stove would work along with a few other household electric items, then sure the electric stove wouldn’t be a problem for heat.

  • Rosemary M.

    We were fortunate to have a gas hot water heater that worked during the 8 days we had no power with “Sandy” and every morning, my husband would fill the bathtub with hot water and close the bathroom door. We had one “warmer” room.

  • Steve G.

    A couple of things : Generally keeping warm is not a big problem. You can put up an internal shelter. such as a tent, with blankets thrown on top of it. Your body heat will keep you warm, as long as you can trap it. The big thing is, you are already protected from wind and rain.
    A bigger problem IMO is your pipes (heating or water) freezing up and cracking. This can turn into massive damage and expense. A couple of strategies: You can have your hydronic heating pipes filled with antifreeze ( has to be non-toxic) , so that takes care of the 1st problem. Your drinking water supply: You can either shut the water off to the house and let the water pipes drain out (this is your best bet) , or let the taps drip, ensuring the water in the pipes keeps moving a bit.

  • Wear your down coat (or any winter coat) in the house. A down coat is similar to wearing a sleeping bag but obviously easier to move around in,


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