How To Stay Warm When The Power Goes Out

chicago coldIt’s getting cold outside and I AM FREEZING! I can’t even imagine handling life when I feel like an icicle, which is exactly what would happen if the power went. If utilities go out in the winter because of a natural disaster like a snow storm, wind storm or an earthquake, we will all face the prospect of turning into human popsicles unless we know what else we can do to keep warm. The threat is real, but as the Lord said, “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.” That’s why it’s important to educate ourselves and work toward becoming better prepared.

I imagine that some people think they’d be out of the woods in this type of emergency because they have gas appliances. But in many cases, a natural disaster will disrupt gas service, as well as electricity and plumbing. If you’re lucky and it doesn’t, don’t be surprised if your gas appliances still don’t work when the power goes out. In most cases, gas powered furnaces and stove-top ranges/ovens require electricity to use the controls that turn them on. If your gas appliance doesn’t require electricity to be able to start, it may still require electricity to actually circulate heat. That goes for gas water heaters, as well. If your gas water heater has electrical controls on it, you won’t be able to operate it when the power is out. You can still access the water inside the water tank, but it will be far from warm. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to use your gas stove-top range/oven during a power outage, it’s still not a good idea to try to heat your home for long periods of time with it because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Having a generator is a great idea! However, if you don’t have a generator with solar capabilities, can’t afford one, or can’t store the amount of fuel it takes to run a generator for an extended period of time, there are other ways to stay warm when it’s cold outside.

BUILT-IN FIREPLACEfireplaceIt might be obvious, but a permanent wood-burning fireplace is a great heat source when the power is out. All it takes is a good supply of wood to keep it burning. Chimneys of modern fireplaces are triple-walled. The smoke travels up the center part of the chimney. The walls create two air passages around the central chimney, which are connected at the bottom. Cool air from outside enters the outer passageway, traveling downward. When the cool air reaches the bottom, it’s warmed by the fire and travels back up through the second passageway. This ensures that the outer passageway is always cool, preventing the possibility of starting a fire.

The problem with a permanent wood-burning fireplace is that it needs a blower to be able to spread warm air from the fireplace into the home. Inserts can be installed inside a fireplace to draw cool air in from the floor and return it to the room as hot air. These inserts consist of a series of metal tubes that surround the fire. These either work by an electric blower motor or by convection. In the case of an emergency, a convection insert that doesn’t require a motor would be the better choice, as it wouldn’t require electricity to work. However, the convection models don’t move as much air into the home, as do the inserts with blowers.

PERMANENT WOOD OR COAL BURNING STOVEwoodburningA wood or coal burning stove is a like a metal fireplace, which allows the fire to be placed closer to the center of the room. The metal stove radiates heat from all sides, as well as from all sides of the metal tube chimney, making it much more efficient than a fireplace. Often, both wood and coal can be used in metal stoves. The important thing to remember is to store enough fuel for your needs. If the power is out for more than a few days, which is likely in the case of a natural disaster, it’s likely that you’ll need fuel to last for at least a week, and up to a month or more.

Permanent fireplaces and wood-burning stoves are great, but many states have ordinances restricting their use on yellow and red burn days to reduce the amount of pollution in the air. It’s important to know if you are allowed to use this method of heating in your area on a regular basis. I would imagine that in the case of a natural disaster where power is out for a longer period of time, their use wouldn’t be restricted by government, but it’s a good idea to have a backup plan just in case.



For emergency heat, a portable wood-burning stove can be installed on a temporary basis. All you need is a stove, several feet of chimney pipe with an elbow, a piece of plywood and a window. The stove can be placed close to the window and the chimney pipe can be directed out through an opening made in the window by removing one of the glass panes. The extra space in the window made by removing the glass can be closed up with plywood. Just be sure to place a silicon or fiberglass fire-proof mat, or large ceramic tiles underneath the stove to avoid causing a fire and to protect the floor from excess heat or stray embers.

If you are using a wood-burning stove for emergencies, you may want to consider buying one that uses wood or multiple types of fuel, and not just pellets only unless you plan to store plenty of pellets. The wood pellet-only stoves are more efficient, producing more heat per pound of wood than the others, but they can’t be used with normal firewood. That means that when you run out of pellets, your heat is gone. It is very important to have enough fuel on hand to last the duration of the time you’ll need to use your stove and it’s always a good idea to store more fuel than you’ll actually need, if it’s allowed by law in your area.



These heaters are relatively clean burning and produce a lot of heat. Like a wood-burning stove, kerosene heaters radiate heat from all sides, allowing for maximum heat output. There is no chimney, so heat isn’t lost from a chimney.


buddy heaterPropane heaters like the “Buddy Heater” are generally safe to use indoors, but it’s always a good idea when using any sort of heating method to have a battery-powered carbon monoxide monitor on hand to warn you of possible carbon monoxide poisoning.

KEEP THE COLD OUT BY SEALING DOORS & WINDOWSDoorSealingForWinter-717x300Make sure all of the windows, doors and vents in your home are sealed. If you are running a heater or using a fireplace, be sure to have ventilation for those, but if you’re simply trying to keep out the cold, seal everything. If there are cracks in the windows or doors, having some caulk on hand to seal those up would help improve heat retention. If caulking is not an option, cover any broken seals or drafty doors with duct tape or weather-stripping, and shove blankets, pillows or towels in the cracks. Do whatever you can to stop the outside air from coming in and you will find that the temperature inside will rise.

517664145_5_620_439It’s also a good idea to cover windows with foil, cardboard, plastic sheeting such as cheap transparent shower curtains, blinds, curtains or blankets. This will create another barrier to help trap the heat inside. If it’s sunny outside, though, having the light shine through the windows will help to warm up your home. Covering your air vents will also prevent warm air from escaping and cool air from entering your home.

PICK A ROOMenhanced-buzz-2585-1364494876-15If you’re trying to stay warm, pick a smaller room and congregate there. The heat from multiple bodies will raise the temperature a bit, but you’ll definitely need to close off and seal the room. Pitching a tent or making a blanket fort inside the room will add insulation and can increase your ability to stay warm. If you have hardwood or tile floors, adding carpet, a rug or even a blanket can help with insulation.

SLEEPING BAGSsleeping bagsA great sleeping bag with a negative degree temperature rating will greatly increase your level of comfort at night, but it can also be used to keep you warm during the day. A sleeping bag temperature rating is the manufacturer’s best guess at how warm the bag is for the average person. Manufacturers decide ratings based on those who test the bags in various environmental conditions. Each sleeping bag is tested differently, so as a general rule, it’s a good idea to go with a bag that’s rated as colder than you think you’ll need, or plan on purchasing an additional wool or fleece sleeping bag liners/inserts to increase warmth in colder temperatures.

Many people who spend time in extreme temperatures would likely agree that a sleeping bag is rated about 20-30 degrees warmer than it actually feels. If the temperature is 10 degrees outside, then you will definitely want a -25 degree sleeping bag or a zero degree bag with a really good liner/insert. What you’re sleeping on can also make a difference. It’s a good idea to think about using your sleeping bag on top of an insulated mat or sleeping pad to increase your ability to retain heat. And consider sleeping with another person, as another person’s body heat will help you keep warm. Cuddling with someone while you’re not sleeping is also a great idea.

Here’s an informative post about sleeping bags to help you decide which one is right for your needs:

The following sleeping bags are some of my favorites. They are high quality, durable bags at a reasonable price. They have some great features, including that they can be purchased in a double bag size or individual bags can be zipped together to create a bag big enough for two or three people, depending on the size of the people.

Grizzly Sleeping Bags from Black Pine Sports come with ratings as low as -50 degrees.

Teton Sports Bags come with ratings as low as -35 degrees.

layering infographic

What you’re wearing can make all the difference when it comes to staying warm. The greatest amount of heat can be lost from the head, so cover up with a hat, wrap a scarf around your neck or head, and wear lots of layers.

When layering, it’s best to start with just a few layers and add more when you need them. It’s a good idea to have a base layer to wick moisture away, a mid layer to trap heat in and a waterproof outer layer for protection against the elements. In addition to tips like choosing wool over synthetic fabrics, it would be a good idea to wear an outer layer with zippers and vents to let in air, in case you get too hot and perspiration gets trapped inside your jacket. Gloves and a thick pair of calf or knee-length socks, especially wool socks, are a must. Bathrobes, blankets and snuggies are a great additional layer to help keep you warm when the power is out.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NATURAL & SYNTHETIC wool blanketWool is great because it insulates when wet, unlike cotton, which only insulates when dry. Cotton is hydrophilic, meaning it’s not good at wicking wetness away from the skin and can become damp by being exposed to humidity. Never use cotton as a base layer in cold weather situations. Once cotton is wet, it can lose up to 90 percent of its insulating properties and will wick away heat from your body 25 times faster than when it’s dry. When cotton gets wet, water fills up the tiny air pockets that otherwise would provide insulation. Water doesn’t cling as well to wool as it does to cotton, wool can get wet without its tiny air pockets being filled up with water, so it still reduces heat loss by convection.

Synthetic fiber insulation like Thinsulate and PrimaLoft works like natural fiber insulation. According to Joel H. Benington, Ph.D., “the best insulation will pack as many tiny air pockets as possible into the smallest possible space with the least weight of material. There should be enough fiber between the air pockets to minimize convection, and yet enough space between those fibers to let moisture pass through the fabric to wick away from the body. Ideally, the fibers will also be made out of molecules that water does not readily cling to, so the air pockets don’t fill up with water when the fabric gets wet.”

HAND & BODY WARMERSheatAside from gloves, hand warmers are a good idea to keep “handy.” You can stuff them inside of gloves or shoes for instant warmth. Hand warmers can be homemade or store bought. Rubber water bottles filled with hot water can also be used to create warmth, as well as wrapping a hot rock in a towel and placing it next to the body or in the bottom of a bed or sleeping bag. But don’t forget that if you are using water to keep yourself warm, in an emergency situation water will likely be a rare commodity that must be used sparingly. If you haven’t store enough water for drinking, cooking & cleaning, you might not have any to spare. If you’re using water as a heat source, be sure to be careful and reuse it as often as possible.

MOVE YOUR BODYpractice-for-perfect-push-ups-imageWhen your body temperature is dropping, a little vigorous movement can warm you up quickly and keep you warm for a while. Jumping in place or doing push-ups is something you can do anywhere space is limited. If you’re hunkered down with the family, try playing games like charades that get you moving. Not only will you start feeling warmer, you’ll be able to get your mind off the miserable cold.

PREVENT FOOD & WATER FROM FREEZING1335930049000Often, when the power is out for long periods of time during cold weather, it’s a good idea to bring your food and water into the area where you’ll be staying to prevent it from freezing. Chances are that if you’re without power, you’ll also have to figure out how to heat your food. If you don’t have a way to cook your food, you definitely won’t want to have to try to figure out how to thaw your food and water that has frozen. Keeping food and water in the same room with you will help you avoid multiple trips to the kitchen, preventing you from letting cold air into the room you’re trying to keep warm.

If you do a little work to plan carefully and have a few heat sources on hand, you can feel confident that you’ll be able to survive a few weeks in the cold!

Temporal Preps: Where to Begin?

In the October 1980 General Conference, President Ezra Taft Benson said, “Too often we bask in our comfortable complacency and rationalize that the ravages of war, economic disaster, famine, and earthquake cannot happen here. Those who believe this are either not acquainted with the revelations of the Lord, or they do not believe them. Those who smugly think these calamities will not happen, that they somehow will be set aside because of the righteousness of the Saints, are deceived and will rue the day they harbored such a delusion. The Lord has warned and forewarned us against a day of great tribulation and given counsel, through His servants, on how we can be prepared for these difficult times. Have we heeded His counsel?”

President Benson admonished, “Should the Lord decide at this time to cleanse the Church—and the need for that cleansing seems to be increasing—a famine in this land of one year’s duration could wipe out a large percentage of slothful members, including some ward and stake officers. Yet we cannot say we have not been warned.” (Conference Report, April 1965, pp. 121-125.)

Those are powerful statements! We have been told by our modern day prophets, time and time again, that it’s a commandment to become temporally prepared. There’s so much to do and so much to learn, and it can be a little overwhelming to try to figure out where to begin. In this post, We’ll outline some of the basics of becoming temporally prepared. Each of these topics can be found on the LDS church’s Provident Living website.



According to H.H. Mitchell, Journal of Biological Chemistry 158, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery: 31%.

Each day humans must consume a certain amount of water to survive. Of course, this varies according to age and gender, and also by where someone lives. Generally, an adult male needs about 3 liters per day while an adult female needs about 2.2 liters per day. Some of this water can come from our food.

Water regulates our internal body temperature by sweating and respiration. It also aids in metabolism and in flushing waste. It acts as a shock absorber for brain, spinal cord, and fetus. It forms saliva and lubricates joints. Water is critical for our survival. You can make it 3 weeks without food but, generally, you’ll only make it 2-3 days without water.

Aside from water being a basic survival need, think about all of the ways you use water and how rough life would be without it.

When storing water, you’ll need to store enough to drink, bathe, wash dishes & clothes; and store enough for cleaning and sanitation. A good rule of thumb is to store at least one gallon per person per day for at least 3 days–that’s 2 quarts for drinking and 2 quarts for food preparation and sanitation. Some sources say that a family of four should store a minimum of 12 gallons of water. But honestly, you’ll need much, much more. I plan on storing at least a 55 gal barrel of water per person, plus several cases of bottled water. In an emergency situation such as an earthquake where power and water systems could be down for weeks, it’s ideal to have as much water on hand as possible, in addition to many different forms of water purification. Click here for more information on water storage.



In the April 1974 General Conference, President Spencer W. Kimball said, “We encourage families to have on hand a year’s supply; and we say it over and over and repeat over and over the scripture of the Lord where he says, ‘Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?’”

President Brigham Young asked, “If you are without bread, how much wisdom can you boast, and of what real utility are your talents, if you cannot procure for yourselves and save against a day of scarcity those substances designed to sustain your natural lives?” (Journal of Discourses, 8:68.)

Food is vital to our temporal and spiritual well-being. If we’re hungry, we’re going to have a hard time hearing the whisperings of the spirit over the grumble of our tummies. Our prophets are wise to ask us to set aside food for the future. In the case of economic downturn, personal tragedy or natural disaster, having food set aside will protect us and bless us. A year’s supply of survival food and a 3 month supply of rotatable goods, will surely come in handy.

President Harold B. Lee said, “Perhaps if we think not in terms of a year’s supply of what we ordinarily would use, and think more in terms of what it would take to keep us alive in case we didn’t have anything else to eat, that last would be very easy to put in storage for a year … just enough to keep us alive if we didn’t have anything else to eat. We wouldn’t get fat on it, but we would live; and if you think in terms of that kind of annual storage rather than a whole year’s supply of everything that you are accustomed to eat which, in most cases, is utterly impossible for the average family, I think we will come nearer to what President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., advised us way back in 1937.” (Welfare Conference, 1 October 1966.)

The LDS Church has a wonderful resource available to everyone. Home Storage Centers are stocked with basic food items such a wheat, rice, beans, pasta, dry milk, and some vegetables and fruits. Food is available for purchase online or at Home Storage Center locations. There has been a lot of research done on the amount of food that should be stored. BYU’s food storage department just updated their food storage requirements list. It’s based on a 2000-2400 calorie diet. Consuming a  higher calorie diet is necessary while enduring times of stress or crisis, so it would be wise to follow the counsel of the prophets by storing AT LEAST one year’s worth of food.

President Spencer W. Kimball taught, “As we become more affluent and our bank accounts enlarge, there comes a feeling of security, and we feel sometimes that we do not need the supply that has been suggested by the Brethren. … We must remember that conditions could change and a year’s supply of basic commodities could be very much appreciated by us or others. So we would do well to listen to what we have been told and to follow it explicitly.” (Spencer W. Kimball, Chapter 11: Provident Living: Applying Principles of Self-Reliance and Preparedness, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, (2006), 114–23)



“We encourage you wherever you may live in the world to prepare for adversity by looking to the condition of your finances. We urge you to be modest in your expenditures; discipline yourselves in your purchases to avoid debt. … If you have paid your debts and have a financial reserve, even though it be small, you and your family will feel more secure and enjoy greater peace in your hearts” (All Is Safely Gathered In: Family Finances).

Avoid debt. Save for emergencies. Have some cash on hand. Create a budget and live by it. Avoid over-spending. Live within your means and learn to be frugal and modest in your expenditures. All of these tips can be studied in more depth, here.

Pay an honest tithe and give a generous fast offerings.

President Henry B. Eyring said, “If we decide now to be a full-tithe payer and if we are steady in paying it, blessings will flow throughout the year, as well as at the time of tithing settlement. By our decision now to be a full-tithe payer and our steady efforts to obey, we will be strengthened in our faith and, in time, our hearts will be softened. It is that change in our hearts through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, beyond the offering of our money or goods, that makes it possible for the Lord to promise full-tithe payers protection in the last days. 5 We can have confidence that we will qualify for that blessing of protection if we commit now to pay a full tithe and are steady in doing it.” (“Spiritual Preparedness: Start Early and Be Steady”, General Conference, October 2005)


“We live in turbulent times. Often the future is unknown; therefore, it behooves us to prepare for uncertainties. When the time for decision arrives, the time for preparation is past.” (Thomas S. Monson, “Are We Prepared?”, Ensign, September 2014)

Have you considered what you might do in the case of an emergency? What plans do you have in place? Do you have a 72-hour kit of basic survival items that you can grab quickly in case of an earthquake, fire, flood, hurricane, tornado or other natural disaster? Do you know how to reconnect with family or friends in case you get separated in a disaster? Does your family know what to do? Do they know where to go if you’re not together when something happens? These are scenarios we should play through our minds when thinking about what to do in an emergency. What would you take with you if you only had 10 minutes to leave? Do you know how to fix a flat tire, put on snow chains, or jump start the car battery? Do you know how to shut off the utilities to your home? Do you know how take care of your sanitation needs when you’re without plumbing? What are you going to do when it’s dark and the power is out? All very important things to think about. We’ll go into further depth about emergency plans in future posts, but for now, here’s a few resources to get you started:

  1. Church guidelines for emergency communications
  2. Utah’s 72 hour kit checklist
  3. An example of a 72 hour kit
  4. Another example of a 72 hour kit
  5. An example of a prioritized evacuation list



There is much we can learn from the experiences had by the early Mormon pioneers. “Before leaving Nauvoo, members had Church-published lists of what to take with them. But when the first companies left in February 1846, several hundred members panicked and crossed the Mississippi River without proper clothes, food, or shelter. As a result, they brought suffering upon themselves, slowed down others, and drained resources from those properly prepared. Trail death tolls reveal that the highest numbers of deaths were among infants and the elderly. Some pioneers became cold and wet because wagon covers and tents were not waterproof. Others suffered sunburns when they lost their hats. Their lips chapped from the dry air, wind, and sun. Many suffered diarrhea and lacked medicine to stop it. Some travelers, while dressed properly for summer heat, lacked coats and gloves for the cold mountain temperatures experienced before reaching the Salt Lake Valley. In addition, pioneers had to guard against wildlife, particularly snakes and wolves. In many campsites they suffered from swarms of mosquitoes that badly hurt children and angered horses and cattle,” (William G. Hartley, “Sturdy Shoes and A Waterproof Tent,” October 2001).

We may not have to pack up and leave our homes like the pioneers, but have you ever thought of needing an alternative shelter to your home? Often, during natural disasters or times of war, homes are destroyed or deemed unsafe for the time being. Having a tent on hand could really come in handy in an emergency.

In a recent article from Meridian Magazine, entitled, “7 Things I Learned from an Earthquake in the Third World,” author Scot Facer Proctor states that, “Shelter, after an earthquake, is nearly the number one need—and tents are the most economical temporary solution. There are a number of things that are great about tents: They are very economical. They are easily obtained in India and China and can be trucked right to the places of greatest needs. If you are in a tent during an aftershock (and we felt many of these after the Haiti earthquake in January 2010), you are safe. If the tent is knocked over, you just put it up again. You can’t be crushed by rip-stop nylon. A tent provides shelter from rain, sun, insects and cold.”

It would be wise for every family to have a tent on hand in case of an emergency when your home could be destroyed or temporarily unavailable.



Have you ever been cold? Like really cold? Alaskan Mountain, Arctic Tundra cold? It’s no fun. What if you were displaced from your home in the winter? No heat, no electricity for days or weeks and no way to travel to the nearest hotel with a fancy hot chocolate maker in the lobby?

If it was winter and an earthquake or other disaster damaged your home and/or the other homes in your neighborhood, and you couldn’t get to a hotel, and even if you could, it didn’t have the power to run a furnace, you would probably end up sleeping in that tent of yours in the backyard or in the nearest park or football field. How would you stay warm? A nice warm sleeping bag would be perfect! You’ll want something that’s at least 0 degrees or below (they never feel as warm as they claim to be). And for the time that you’re not in your bag, you’ll need warm clothing. Coats, hats, gloves, boots, long sleeved shirts and warm long pants, wool socks, thermal underwear… the list could go on and on.

“Concerning clothing, we should anticipate future needs, such as extra work clothes and clothes that would supply warmth during winter months when there may be shortages or lack of heating fuel. Leather and bolts of cloth could be stored, particularly for families with younger children who will outgrow and perhaps outwear their present clothes. ‘The day will come,’ said President Wilford Woodruff, ‘when, as we have been told, we shall all see the necessity of making our own shoes and clothing and raising our own food’,”  (Ezra T. Benson, Prepare Ye, Ensign, January 1974, (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, p. 166)).

It’s no fun to be cold or unprepared, so just plan to have some of these items on hand, where you can access them easily in case of an emergency.


fuel sources

Why in the world would you need fuel in an emergency? Well, fuel can heat your home (or temporary home, aka. tent), heat your food, give you light, and run a vehicle or generator.

President Ezra Taft Benson suggested that “Wood, coal, gas, oil, kerosene, and even candles are among those items which could be reserved as fuel for warmth, cooking, and light or power.” (“Prepare Ye”, Ezra T. Benson, January 1974)

Things to think about when it comes to fuel… What kind of fuel do I need? What will I be using it for? How should I store it? LDS Living goes into detail in their article, “Safely Stored Fuel is an Essential.”


President Marion G. Romney stated: “It is my opinion that we Latter-day Saints, because of the knowledge we have received in the revelations, are better prepared to meet the perplexities of our times than are any other people. We know more about the difficulties which are coming, and we have the key to their solution,” (If Ye Are Prepared Ye Shall Not Fear, July 1981).

There is so much to do to become better prepared for the unexpected, but there’s no need to be overwhelmed because we have been given the guidance we need to move forward. By working toward obtaining these essentials, your supply will begin to grow; you will begin to have peace, and when the times comes, you’ll be prepared!