A young family reads on a small couch. This image is for an article about how to prepare for a winter storm in an apartment. The article includes tips on gathering emergency supplies, how to keep perishable foods safe and more.

How to Prepare for a Winter Storm if You Live in an Apartment

Dec 14, 2023

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Freezing weather is on its way. If you live in an apartment, you may think that you don’t need to prepare for it. Anyone who was here for the Great Texas Freeze of 2021 knows otherwise. A winter storm brings more than chilly temperatures, sleet, snow and ice. Power outages and property damage from burst pipes are not unusual during a freeze, and both can affect homeowners and apartment residents alike. Although you probably won’t need to wrap pipes or ensure your home has enough insulation, there are still many important things you should do before a winter storm to ensure you and your family make it through safe and sound.

Gather Your Emergency Supplies

As the old saying goes, an ounce of cure is worth a pound of prevention. As an apartment resident, that means making sure you’re ready for the worst that a winter storm can bring. Sustained power outages can be dangerous for all kinds of reasons and it only takes eight to 12 hours for the temperature in your home to start to fall without heating. Food, water and warmth are among our most basic needs, and you can ensure those are taken care of by gathering your emergency supplies before you need them.

Here are some helpful items you should get before a winter storm arrives:

  • Extra blankets and sleeping bags
  • Long underwear, hats, gloves and layered clothing
  • Battery-powered CO and flammable gas sensor
  • Non-perishable food items (more on that later)
  • Extra batteries
  • Flashlight and lamps
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Multiple cell phone power banks that are fully charged
  • Sand or cat litter to make frozen sidewalks and stairs walkable

Winter weather can be unpredictable. Having the right supplies on hand can help you endure a prolonged power outage.

Keep Your Perishable Food Safe in a Cooler

Stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and even a fever are just about the last things anyone would want to go through during a winter storm-caused power outage. If your power has been out for four hours and you haven’t taken steps to keep your refrigerated food safe, this can happen to you. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), four hours is all it takes for fresh food to spoil in a closed refrigerator without power. Bacteria like salmonella can grow and multiply at temperatures as low as 43 degrees, which is just above the highest temperature you can safely store food at (40 degrees).

Your meat, fish, eggs, milk and other perishable food items can still spoil even if your apartment is cold. When the roads are icy and the stores are closed, a hard-sided cooler just might be your new best friend. Some of the best coolers out there can keep ice frozen for up to a week, which will come in handy when you need to have somewhere cold to preserve your food. Ice is, of course, just as important as a cooler. Gel packs can come in handy when you don’t have a lot of space for bagged ice. You can also use snow packed into zip-top bags to keep your cooler at the right temperature. Adding loose snow to your cooler should be avoided because it can contaminate your food.

Take all the guesswork out of whether your food is safe by getting appliance thermometers for your refrigerator, freezer and cooler. If your perishable foods are stored above 40 degrees for more than two hours, you should throw them away.

Stock Up on Non-Perishable Food

Keeping your refrigerated or frozen food safe to eat is key, but you’ll also want to stock up on your non-perishable foods just in case of an extended power outage. Generally, you should have about three days of shelf-stable food per person, which can include canned meats, vegetables and fruit; applesauce; powdered juice drinks; crackers; granola bars; cookies and Vienna sausages. Ramen and instant soups, cereals and potatoes are also good to have on hand if you have a way to heat clean water. You have a lot of non-perishable food items to choose from, but you’ll likely find it easier to weather a winter storm when you have things that you already like eating around.

Storing up to three days of food may not be so easy in an apartment. Here are some tips that might help you do so without getting in the way of your day-to-day:

  • Once open, canned food has a limited shelf life. Smaller cans are closer to single portion sizes, which can help reduce food waste while also being easier to store.
  • Pack your emergency food supplies into a plastic container to protect them from bugs and to keep everything organized.
  • Get creative with where you store your food supplies. Keep them in air-tight containers and you can place them anywhere you have space, including in your bedroom or coat closets or under your bed.
  • Use your stored food after six to 12 months.

Choose One Room to Keep Warm

Apartments here in Texas come in all shapes and sizes, but there is one universal truth that applies to studios and three-bedroom units alike: smaller spaces are easier to keep warm than larger ones. Because every apartment is different, you should take the time to choose the room that you can hunker down in if the power goes out for a while. Rooms with carpet typically retain heat better than those with tile or wood flooring, making a bedroom a good choice in most cases. Gather all your supplies in your room of choice and prevent drafts by stuffing towels or blankets under your doors and covering your windows with a window insulation kit. Staying inside of a tent can also keep you warm. Layering up and keeping your doors closed can keep you comfortable throughout a winter-related power outage.

Get Plenty of Drinking Water

From drinking and cooking meals to flushing our toilets, water is essential. However, a power outage or frozen pipes can cut off your access to water. Making sure you have enough to last through a winter power outage is one of the most important things you can do. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you store at least one gallon of water per person per day. Keeping enough water for drinking and sanitation for at least two weeks is ideal, according to the CDC.

Pay attention to the forecast and head to the grocery store as soon as you can to buy water or fill your containers at a water vending machine. Then fill your bathtub with water for use in your toilet. If your bathtub’s drain doesn’t work properly, a plug cover may be a big help here. An alternative is to get an emergency water container that fits in your bathtub like those from WaterBOB or the AquaPod. Both can hold up to 100 gallons while protecting your water from contamination from your tub. You can dispense the water you need and treat it with water purification tablets that you can find at your nearest outdoor supply store.

Although you can survive for three days without water, you can become dehydrated after just a few hours. By storing enough water to last through a winter storm, you’ll go a long way toward keeping yourself safe.

Set Your Faucets to Drip

Listen to your nightly weather report and this is likely the first advice you’ll hear. Your apartment manager or landlord will probably tell you the same. But how does setting your faucets to drip help when you live in an apartment? Water in pipes is less likely to freeze if it’s moving, even if the flow is slow. Setting your faucets to drip does just that. Water leaks from burst pipes can damage your property, which is why it’s important to let your faucets drip. Opening the cabinet doors under your sinks can also help warm air circulate through your pipes, which will also reduce the chances of your pipes freezing.

Turn Up Your Heat While You Have Power

It can take several hours for your apartment to start cooling after you’ve lost power. You can keep yourself comfortable for longer by turning up your heater a few degrees warmer than you normally have it just in case the power goes out. Starting at a higher temperature helps you stay warmer for longer, giving you plenty of time to bundle up and get cozy.

Other Winter Storm Tips for Apartments

  • Fill up your car with gasoline
  • Bring your plants inside
  • Set your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest settings before the storm arrives
  • Unplug non-essential appliances in case of a power surge
  • Charge all your chargeable items and avoid overusing your phone
  • Know where the nearest fire extinguisher is
  • Verify that your smoke and CO2 detectors are working
  • Visit Drive Texas to see road conditions before you drive anywhere
  • Avoid using your stove or oven for heat. Electric ovens may be a fire risk while gas stoves produce carbon monoxide, which can cause serious illness or death

Apartments are just as likely to lose power as homes in a winter storm. Although you won’t need to wrap outdoor pipes or climb into your attic, it’s important to prepare for the worst the storm has to offer. Make sure you have enough food, water and warmth and you'll weather the next big freeze here in Texas. 

About Lone Star Energy

Founded in 2018, Lone Star Energy was founded with one mission: to provide homeowners like you with straightforward electricity plans with competitive rates and friendly customer service. If you’re looking for a new electricity company, we’re here to help. See our electricity plans in your area or call us at 888-853-2882