By now, the news story about an elderly man freezing to death in his own home after the electric company shut off his service has drifted to that file we all keep in our head. You know the one I mean. Isn’t that awful? How could it happen? Where were his neighbors and relatives? The file you shut and and forget about. But I just can’t forget. I keep putting a face to this story. It is the face of the elderly man from church and dear old lady who lives down the street. I put my face on those nameless neighbors who didn’t check.
All of this got me to thinking about how we will keep warm in the coming cold days and I do not mean just this winter. I am going to do this post in three parts. First:
Preparedness is aabout a whole lot more than food. In fact, you will be remiss if you don’t consider the clothing you have on hand as part of your supplies. Every member of you household should a at minimum
a pair of long underwear. Do not buy cotton longjohns. Invest in a set (or two) of good quality 2-piece, sweat wicking underwear. They can be pricey, especially if you go to a high end sports store or use a glossy catalog. I always sugest you check out Salvation Army, Freecyclye, resale shops and Craig’slist. I got my daughter’s from a tagsale for $2.00. I got a set for myself on a markdown rack because they were a men’s small (not a popular size). I can wear a youth’s large and those are generally less expensive as well.
socks: You need several pair with wool being your best bet. You will probably need to buy adult stuff new but I got 6 pair of smartwool socks for my Phoebe for free in a box of stuff that a friend was taking to the SA.
Pants: A good pair of wool pants is easy to come buy second hand (are you catching a theme here?)
shirt. Think layers. a wool or flannel shirt with a down or fleece vest will keep you toasty with the ability to take something off if you get too warm
A cap: A wool beanie or fleece hat will be necessary even if you are inside, if it’s really cold.
slippers: A good pair of heavy duty slippers will keep your feet warmer than they will be in shoes. I just purcahased a pattern for slippers from homesew.com. The pattern is doable for beginner sewers and has sizes for everyone from infants to adults. I plan to use some worn out wool skirts with some fleece scraps for liners. I also got some non-slip yardage for the soles. I could see someone who is handy with a needle amking a nice little cottage industry out of this.
gloves: I always buy extra pairs of those thin, stretchy gloves when I find them on sale. They provide some protectection but leave you hands free enough to get some work done.
outerwear: Obviously, you need really good outerwear if you have be outside. I like three piece jacket systems for value although you may need to settle for an ugly color to get a good end-of-the-year deal. Ijust got Bruce a heavy, wool lined canvas coat and he claims it is the warmest coat he has ever owned and this is coming from a guy who down-hill and cross-country skiis.
boot: Waterproof boots with a removable liner are usually your best bet. I pick up extra liners if I find them as the liners wear out before the boots do. I would also suggest stocking up on Shoe-Goo. This a terrific product that we use for repairing sneakers, boots, infact, all foot wear. I stock up on extra shoe and boot laces as well.
The next time you need to get a gift for someone, especially an elderly someone, consider some of these items. They probably already have enough “stuff” but warm clothes coud save their life.
Every bed in your house should have 2 set of heavy duty flannel sheets (I have gotten sheets second-hand when spendthrifts are upgrading to a larger bed) Top with fleece or wool balnkets and a down comforter and you can sleep well in a room with no heat if you wear your thermals and a hat to bed. Two sleep warmer than one and a big dog can help. I buy sleeping bags when I find them cheap enough. I never know how many I will need to provide bedding for and a sleeping bag on the sofa will do in a pinch.
This is hard bit for me to write because there are so many variables and the wrong choice can have disasterous consequences. We lost a couple of folks in Massachusetts during the last big power outage, not from cold, but from carbon monoxide poisoning. Every house needs smoke detectors, CO2 detectors and fire extinguishers. If you can’t afford them, call your local fire department. They can probably provide them free of charge. If not, check with the faith based community. Do not let pride stand in the way. Healthy, properly dressed adults and older children can withstand a good deal of cold but infants, the ill and the elderly are far more vulnerable. Eat higher fat and calorie laden food, drink warm fluids and avoid alcohol. It is easier to keep smaller spaces warm. Hanging a blanket from a doorway may help. Open drapes when the sun is shinning and close them at night. If the worst happens, you may need to go to a shelter. It would not be anyone’s first choice but it is better than freezing. If you are thinking about alternative heat sources, have a professional walk through the options. Do not ever burn charcoal in the house or to heat a room with you stove or oven.
As things go from bad to worse, community becomes more important and none of us are disposable. Check on your neighbors. If you find someone in need, gather together to meet the need. No one deserves to die old, alone and cold.