The Biggest Risks to Your Apartment During a Winter Storm

Heavy snow, cold temperatures and high winds can cause hazards inside your home. To stay safe and protect your property, take some time to get to know your apartment.

Winterize your apartment, stock up on basic supplies and prepare for an emergency. Learn where the water and gas shutoff valves and the circuit breakers are located. Know the biggest risks to your apartment during a winter storm and follow these suggestions to prepare for them.

Cope with a power outage

powerlines in snow

A loss of power is the most common risk to you and your apartment during a winter storm. According to Eaton, the U.S. experiences more power outages (more than 3,500 a year) than any other developed country. Here are key safety tips you should keep in mind during a power outage.

  • Use battery-powered flashlights or lanterns rather than candles. If you do use candles, never leave lit candles unattended as they can lead to fires.
  • Never use generators, grills or camp stoves inside your apartment. The fumes are deadly.
  • Protect yourself from carbon monoxide by installing a battery-operated detector

Keep warm

If you have a power outage and an electric furnace, you’ll lose your heat. Be sure to follow these tips to heat your home safely.

  • Check the weather forecast often and gather together extra blankets and warm winter clothing before the storm hits. Be sure to have plenty of extra layers, coats, hats, gloves, scarves and snow boots.
  • Use a fireplace or wood stove and follow the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Use electric space heaters with automatic shut-off switches and keep them away from flammable materials, like curtains or blankets
  • Avoid unnecessarily opening doors or windows to conserve heat
  • If you’re not able to keep warm, make temporary arrangements to stay elsewhere

Protect your water supply

dripping faucet

Extreme cold can cause water pipes to freeze and sometimes rupture or break. During a winter storm, leave your water taps slightly open so they drip continuously. Keep the temperature inside your apartment warm.

If your pipes freeze, call your landlord to arrange for maintenance. If your pipes are frozen but you have power, try to thaw the pipes slowly with warm air from an electric hair dryer. If you can’t thaw your pipes or the pipes have broken open, use bottled water until your plumbing can be repaired.

You should keep enough bottled water for at least one gallon per person, per day and store enough for at least three days. See also, tips for cutting back on water consumption.

Keep your food safe

Refrigerated or frozen foods may spoil during a power outage. According to the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA), meat, poultry, fish and eggs should be refrigerated at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and frozen food at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. If you experience a power outage of longer than 24 hours, you should toss any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture.

safe food chart

Source: CDC

It’s smart to plan ahead and stock up on food items before a winter storm. Canned goods, dry mixes and other foods that require no refrigeration, water or cooking are best. Make sure you have a manual can opener and disposable utensils. If you lose power, use the foods from the refrigerator and freezer first. To keep your food safe to eat, limit the number of times you open the refrigerator or freezer door.

Prepare a winter storm supply kit

Every household should assemble a winter supply kit and keep these products on hand and up to date. It will help you stay safe and be more comfortable if you can’t get out during a storm. Here are suggested contents:

  • Three-day supply of nonperishable food
  • Three-day supply of water (one gallon of water per person, per day)
  • Portable, battery-powered radio or television and extra batteries
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Hygiene items (hand sanitizer, toilet paper, cleaning supplies)
  • Extra clothing and blankets
  • Kitchen accessories and cooking utensils
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications

Buy renters insurance

It’s a good idea to protect yourself and your possessions by purchasing renters insurance. While your landlord is responsible for weather-related repairs to your apartment, they’re not responsible for your belongings.

Renters insurance is quite affordable and if something gets damaged during a winter storm, you’ll be glad that you have it.

Protect yourself from these risks

It’s easy to be prepared for a winter storm. Plan ahead and you’ll stay safe and keep your apartment and belongings in good condition. Enjoy the opportunity to stay home and recharge.

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Rachel CooperRachel Cooper is a freelance writer and author with more than a decade of online journalism and content creation experience. She has written for, Washingtonian, Federal City Council, Montgomery Parks, Destination Maryland, Conde Nast Traveler, Payscale, Valpak,, Washington Parent and more. Her books include Quiet Water: Mid-Atlantic, AMC’s Canoe and Kayak Guide to the Best Ponds, Lakes and Easy Rivers; 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Washington, D.C. and Images of Rail: Union Station in Washington, D.C.

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