Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How to Survive the Freezing Cold


Surviving in Your Home
A smoke and carbon monoxide detector is something every home should have.
A smoke and carbon monoxide detector is something every home should have.
Tim Boyles/Getty Image News

Not every cold-weather survival scenario involves being in the middle of nowhere. If you live in a frigid area and rely on electricity for your heat, you might find yourself freezing in your own home. Winter power outages can be scary situations for the young, elderly and infirm. Wintertime road travelers should also take extra care in planning their journeys.

If you live in an area that gets severe weather in the wintertime, you should have a gas-powered heater on hand in case of a power outage. Kerosene heaters are fairly inexpensive and easy to operate. Pick one that's wide and has a low center of gravity. This makes it difficult for you or a pet to knock it over. You should also avoid using flammable solvents and sprays near the open-flame heater.

No matter how cold you get, never use your gas oven as means to warm your home -- the same goes for gas clothes dryers. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious threat and hard to detect -- the gas is odorless and colorless. It can lead to nausea, headaches, coma and even death. Invest in a carbon monoxide detector. Many smoke detectors also sniff out carbon monoxide. Have your furnace checked once a year to make sure there's no buildup of carbon monoxide in the system.

If you have a fireplace, use it as your main heat source. Sleep in the room with the fireplace if possible. It's not a bad idea to make sure you have a nice stockpile of wood -- some outages can last weeks. You need to make sure your chimney is clear and clean and always use a fire screen to keep hot embers where they belong. If you're suffering from a power loss and you have no gas heater or fireplace, the same clothing principles as outdoor survival should be used. Layer your clothing well, put on several pairs of socks and always wear a hat. If you have a sleeping bag, put it under the covers of your bed and sleep in it at night. If you get a deep snow, only shovel it if you're in pretty good physical shape -- you could have a heart attack and end up freezing to death in your own driveway.

If you're traveling in wintry conditions, think ahead and put some blankets or a sleeping bag in your trunk. Always keep some waterproof matches or a lighter in your glove box, and if you get stranded and go for help, don't forget to take them with you. You should also have a map of the area you're traveling through, even if you know it well. Blizzards can disorient you, and a good map can be the difference between life and death. You should also let someone know when and where you're going, and pack an emergency kit for the trip. Aside from blankets and matches, a first-aid kit, a gallon jug of water and some energy bars or chocolate can come in handy.

If you want to read more about surviving extreme conditions, you can look into the articles on the following page.