Winter survival emergencies occur in three general situations:

  • In a home or cabin after the loss of a primary heating source
  • In a motor vehicle
  • On foot, while engaged in an outdoor sport

Winter survival at home

At home, or in a cabin, the primary heating system can fail for many reasons. These reasons include gas failure, power failure, and equipment failure. This often happens during heavy winter weather, where you may not be able to leave the house and rescuers may not be able to reach you. In fact, you may not even be able to call rescuers!

The following steps are recommended to prepare your home or cabin for a winter survival emergency:

  • Maintain a supply of food which can be eaten without the need for heat or electricity.
  • Maintain a supply of drinkable water.
  • Keep at least two flashlights and maintain a supply of fresh batteries.
  • Keep a supply of candles and matches.
  • If possible, obtain a secondary heat source, such as a wood stove or a kerosene heater. Maintain a good fuel supply for your secondary heat source.
  • Maintain a fire extinguisher in your household.
  • Monitor your heating vent to ensure it is unobstructed and that it allows carbon monoxide to escape.
  • Maintain a good supply of other necessities, such as medicines.

Winter survival in your car

Winter survival emergencies occur in motor vehicles when:

  • A motor vehicle accident renders the automobile or the driver incapable of continuing travel.
  • Winter weather prevents the motor vehicle or the driver incapable of continuing travel.
  • The motor vehicle runs out of gas.

The top three steps you can take to prevent a winter survival emergency in your motor vehicle are:

  • Drive safely — including not driving at all when conditions make travel unsafe.
  • Maintain your motor vehicle properly — including snow tires or chains when necessary.
  • Maintain a survival kit in every motor vehicle.

Winter survival outdoors

Human beings do not have thick coats of fur to keep us warm. Outside of our homes and vehicles we are at the mercy of the elements.

The most important steps to avoiding an outdoor winter survival emergency are:

  • Always tell someone where you are going before you leave
  • Take a map with you and maintain an understanding of your position on the map
  • Walk safely – even a mildly sprained ankle can impact your chances for survival
  • Carry a small survival kit with you whenever you leave sight of an occupied building under winter conditions
Be sure to check out the Equipment section for Military Gear.
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