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Fall is my favourite season. The crispness in the air, the leaves turning colour, the back-to-school buzz, and the thought that winter is just around the corner. OK, so that last one isn’t really a reason to love fall. But it is a good reminder to start your fall maintenance to help you have a better winter.
It’s no secret that weather is getting more extreme, more frequently. In Toronto we’ve seen ice storms that left thousands without power for days and temperatures so cold that incoming water lines remained frozen for a week or more for some. While we all hope that we are not affected, by the time winter weather does strike it’s often too late to effectively protect our homes against damage. (It was after hosting family who lost power over Christmas a few years ago that inspired our family to be more prepared for these storms in advance.)
You can take a few steps this fall so that your home can be a safe place to hunker down in during stormy winter weather. Here’s how.
After the last leaves have fallen, be sure to clear your eavestroughs and downspouts of debris and repair any broken segments that may be leaking down your walls. This will ensure that autumn rain and melted snow can be carried away from your house. Also make sure downspouts are emptying away from your foundation – you can add extension pieces that carry the water into a garden or directed towards pavement that slopes away from your home.
If you have a fireplace or wood stove already, make sure the flue is clear and stock some wood so you’re ready for action if the power goes out. If not, consider investing in a small back-up generator to allow you to run some space heaters and heat water. This is one of those insurance polices you hope you don’t need, but the chances of using it are increasing (we have one and it has come in very handy in the past couple of years).
If you live in an urban setting, you don’t need power to have running water. But, as we experienced in Toronto last year, your pipes can still freeze. Make sure you have some large bottles of water on-hand to last you a few days (you can also melt snow for non-potable uses like dishwashing and toilet flushing). Camping jugs are a reusable alternative to disposable bottles but you’ll want to rinse them out and replace the water every month or so (you can use the water to water indoor plants, flush toilets, brush teeth, etc. if you want bonus points for conservation). And yes, I know you probably don’t like to eat or drink out of plastic, but a few days with water stored in plastic is better than a few days with no water at all.
Now is a great time to check the batteries in your emergency flashlights (which you already have in strategic and known places around the house, right?). Remind yourself where they’re located so you can grab them quickly if the lights go out. If you need new flashlights, consider having a couple wind-up ones that you can charge up manually when needed.
All of these can be done in a weekend (maybe with the exception of the generator if you need to factor it into your budget) and will make a big difference to your comfort and safety in the event of the next ice storm or mega snowfall. Your friends and family might scoff at your preparedness now, but they’ll owe you big time when they’re knocking on your door knowing that your house is the place to be in an emergency.