Preparing Your Home for Winter

winterize-home

It’s time to start preparing for the winter months. Preparation now will help prevent damage to your home later and will save energy and money. You can spread these home projects out over several weeks to make it easier.


 

  1. Check seals around doors and windows: You may be surprised by the little cracks and spaces that heat can escape through during the winter.  Look around window frames for any cracks on the outside and apply caulk.  Check on air leakage around electrical outlets and switch plates. You can install insulation or outlet gaskets very easily.
  2. Inspect furnace and filters: Have the furnace checked for efficiency and clean or replace filters. If a furnace has a dirty filter, it will not function as efficiently.  Air vents also fall into this category; be sure to vacuum them and check for possible leaks that decrease efficiency in the home.
  3. Reverse ceiling fan blades. Most ceiling fans have a switch to reverse the direction of the blades. The clockwise rotation forces warm air down where people can enjoy it rather than allowing it to escape to the ceiling area.
  4. Clean chimneys: Since ash and creosote can build up in a chimney, it is important to have a professional clean it at least every other year, or more if you use it frequently. You can use a flashlight to check for bird nests or other items that may be blocking any part of the chimney.
  5. Drain outdoor hoses and faucets: Water expands when it freezes and can ruin faucets and hoses if they aren’t properly taken care of. After draining pipes, store hoses indoors. Cover outdoor faucets with insulated frost-free hose bib covers.
  6. Wrap indoor pipes: Pipes may be exposed to the cold in the basement, inside cabinets or in the attic.  To avoid them bursting from freezing, wrap them in heat tape or tubular pipe insulation sleeves.
  7. Winterize evaporative cooler: Turn off the power and water to the cooler. Turn off water pump and fan, remove them and store indoors. Drain water out of lines and out of the swamp cooler pan. Disconnect the water supply line to the cooler and drain or blow it out to keep any residual water from being trapped in lines and freezing. Place cover or tarp over the cooler and tie it down securely. To prevent warm air from escaping through the ceiling inside the home, close the air diffuser vents and place a diffuser cover over the vent or place an evaporative cooler pillow plug inside the diffuser.
  8. Make necessary repairs on roof: Take a look at your roof and look for any possible places for leaking, missing shingles or weak corners, especially on older homes.
  9. Clean out rain gutters and make repairs: This is especially important for preventing unnecessary damage.  After all the leaves have fallen, you can clean out your gutter and check for possible broken parts.  This helps prevent gutter damming, which happens when draining water gets backed up and leaks into the home.
  10. Mow leaves into the lawn: This will act as mulch and help nourish your lawn during the winter. There is a helpful tutorial at USU Extension’s Live Well Utah blog here.
  11. Prepare the lawn mower for rest: Use all the gas in the lawn mower or add stabilizer to keep it from decomposing over the winter and causing problems when it’s time to use it again.
  12. Pull out the snow removal equipment: Gather snow blower, fuel, snow shovels and chemical ice melt, and place in a readily accessible location.
  13. Check or replace emergency supplies: Inspect fire extinguishers, batteries, candles, flashlights and propane lanterns or heaters.
  14. Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors: Make sure they are working properly.  Carbon monoxide is a dangerous, odorless gas produced by gas furnaces and ranges.
  15. Replace light bulbs in exterior light fixtures: This will provide safety in lighting up walkways and steps during the dark winter nights.

 


This article was written by Kirsten Lamplugh, USU Extension Intern, Salt Lake County and Marilyn Albertson, Utah State University Extension Associate Professor, Salt Lake County

Resources: 

energy.gov   Cozy Up to Colder Weather: 5 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Fall and Winter (parts 1 and 2)

Style at Home How to Prepare Your Home for Winter.

https://extension.usu.edu/htm/news-multimedia/articleID=2129  Ask a specialist: Do you have tips for winterizing my home?  Richard Beard, Utah State University Extension Agricultural Engineering Specialist,  2006




How to Winterize Your Car

winterize-your-car

Winter is on its way. Follow these steps to winterize your vehicle and ensure that you are ready for whatever this winter may bring. 


With winter approaching, thoughts turn to safe driving. Now is a great time to winterize your car and add to your car emergency kit.  You never know when you might be stopped on the freeway or stranded away from home.

Winterize Your Car:

  • To be prepared for inclement weather, keep your car filled with gas. Never let your tank get below half full.
  • Keep your car serviced. Check the oil, brake fluid, antifreeze and windshield washer fluid reservoirs to make sure they are full, and keep them at correct levels.
  • Put your snow tires on, check tire pressure and tread depth on all tires including your spare tire. Make sure all tire changing equipment works on the tires on the vehicle. Carry a full-size spare tire if you can.  Also carry canned air and tire sealant to repair a tire.
  • Test your heater to make sure it works. Inspect your battery and make sure it is charged and the terminals are clean. Inspect your windshield wipers and replace if worn.
  • Check the condition of your jumper cables. A heavy duty set of jumper cables is recommended.

Winterize Your Car Emergency Kit:

If you already have water, food, a first aid kit, a fire starter kit, a flashlight, blankets and toilet paper in your basic car emergency kit, add some additional items:

  1. Cell phone charger – A phone can save your life in inclement weather, but batteries don’t hold a charge as long in cold weather. Consider carrying an external portable charger with you.
  2. The Winter Survival Kit app – This tool will help you find your current location, call 911, notify your friends and family and calculate how long you can run your engine to keep warm and stay safe from carbon monoxide poisoning. It’s available free for both Android and iOS systems from the North Dakota State University Extension Service. Go to: Winter Survival Kit at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/extension/apps/winter-survival-kit.
  3. Windshield scraper and small broom – Having tools to keep heavy snow off windshields, the roof of your vehicle and away from exhaust pipes is important in snowy/icy weather.
  4. Water – To keep water from freezing or getting too hot and leaking in your vehicle, wrap with a space blanket (or other blankets) or store in an insulated cooler bag.
  5. Survival medications – Carry an emergency supply of necessary medications in case you are stranded away from home for more than one day.
  6. Extra jackets, gloves, hats and boots – Make sure everyone has enough clothing if you had to walk outside for at least an hour in cold weather. Add hand warmers and include heavy gloves.
  7. Hand sanitizer/wet wipes/extra diapers/sanitary supplies/plastic bags – Carry a large empty can with a plastic cover, tissues and paper towels for sanitary purposes. These items can be important if you are traveling with small children or if you have other personal sanitary needs to address during an emergency.
  8. Tool kit- Make sure to carry basic tools that can be used on your vehicle, including a multi tool with knife and duct tape.
  9. Safety Tools: Tow Straps – These straps should be used with caution to avoid harming the frame of your vehicle but can be very helpful in pulling the vehicle out if you are stuck. Shovel – A compact shovel with a telescoping handle is a must in snowy weather. Make sure it is sturdy enough to handle hard-packed snow. Sand/cat litter – Carry this to help give you traction if you get stuck.  Emergency flares and distress flags, warning triangles/whistle – These can alert others to your situation and also allow emergency personnel to find you.
  10. Tire Chains –If you don’t have a 4-wheel drive vehicle and are traveling in mountainous areas, they may be required.
  11. Fire extinguisher – Make sure the extinguisher is designated for use with a vehicle, and understand how to use it.
  12. Compass and map of the area- This is the old-fashioned form of GPS and can be helpful when cell service is not available. In stormy weather, the compass is a must because you can easily lose your bearings and be confused about directions.
  13. Collapsible fuel container for gas – This is a great item to have if you run out of gas and have to carry it to your vehicle. Gas stations may not have extra fuel containers.
  14. Entertainment – Pack a deck of cards, a paperback book, dice, paper, markers, pencils, coloring books and other games to keep everyone entertained.
  15. Cash – Keep enough cash in small bills (ones, fives, tens and change) to fill your car with gas or possibly cover a night’s stay in a motel or cover minor repairs. Store in a secure place in the vehicle.
  16. Emergency information – Keep an envelope in your glove compartment with family contact information, towing service, AAA Road Assistance, police or emergency services and your insurance company. Always let someone know where you are going if you travel.

Good luck in getting your vehicle ready for the season ahead!

 


This article was written by Marilyn Albertson, Utah State University Extension Associate Professor, Salt Lake County

Resources: 

ASK A SPECIALIST: DO YOU HAVE TIPS FOR PREPARING AN EMERGENCY CAR KIT? Answer by: Carolyn Washburn, Utah State University Extension family consumer science agent, Washington County.   http://extension.usu.edu/htm/news-multimedia/articleID=6233/print=true, Posted by Dennis Hinkamp on Nov 12, 2012

Winter Storm Survival Kit for Cars,   https://web.extension.illinois.edu/disaster/winter/ws_surv.cfm

Winter Survival Kit, North Dakota State University Extension at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/extension/apps/winter-survival-kit




Ask an Expert // Shelf-life of Home Preserved Foods

shelf-life-graphic

You’ve had those bottled peaches from Grandma for two years now — are they still good? Are they safe? Find out just how long you can keep home-preserved foods in your pantry.


 

A common question at USU Extension offices usually goes something like this, “There was a good buy on boneless, skinless chicken breasts this week so I bought 40 lbs. and now I want to can it. How long will it stay good in the jar on the shelf?” Before answering this question for readers, let’s consider the following basic information about home food preservation.

Canning is an important, safe method of food preservation if practiced properly. Home food preservation generally involves placing foods in jars and heating them to a temperature that destroys microorganisms that could be a health hazard or cause the food to spoil. Processing times and temperatures are scientifically determined and must be followed exactly to assure not only quality but safety of these home preserved foods.

So, back to the question about shelf-life…. With the prevalence of emergency and disaster preparedness education, at least in Utah, families obviously want to build up their food storage for the proverbial “Rainy Day.” This is a good practice so long as it is also practical.

Many dry goods (wheat, sugar, dried beans, etc.) have an excellent shelf-life when stored in air-tight containers and are wonderful to have on hand as part of a basic food storage supply.

On the other hand, home preserved fruits, vegetables and meats should be treated differently. Instead of asking how long a home-preserved food will last, a better question is, “How much chicken will my family use in 1 to 2 years?”  When foods are preserved at home, it is true that families can control the quality of the food and to some degree how much additional sugar and salt are added. We cannot, however, duplicate the ultra-high temperatures or fast field-to-jar (or can) process commercial manufacturers use.

To ensure the home preserved food on pantry shelves are at ultimate quality, food should be rotated on a regular basis and not stock-piled for several years. After as few as two short years, foods will begin to darken or lose firmness. Does that mean they are no longer safe to eat? No. It does mean that the nutritional value is decreasing and will eventually be good to eat only for added calories. In other words, the food may fill you up but you won’t reap much in the way of vitamins or minerals.

A few additional tips for optimizing quality of home-preserved foods come as follows from the National Center for Home Food Preservation (nchfp.uga.edu ):

 

  • If lids are tightly vacuum sealed on cooled jars, remove screw bands, wash the lid and jar to remove food residue; then rinse and dry jars. Label and date the jars and store them in a clean, cool, dark, dry place. For best quality, store between 50 and 70 F. Can no more food than you will use within a year.
  • Do not store jars above 95 F or near hot pipes, a range, a furnace, in an uninsulated attic or in direct sunlight. Under these conditions, food will lose quality in a few weeks or months and may spoil. Dampness may corrode metal lids, break seals and allow recontamination and spoilage.
  • Accidental freezing of canned foods will not cause spoilage unless jars become unsealed and re-contaminated. However, freezing and thawing may soften food. If jars must be stored where they may freeze, wrap them in newspapers, place them in heavy cartons, and cover with more newspapers and blankets.

 

The satisfaction of having shelves full of high-quality foods preserved at home is nearly always seen as worth the time, money and effort by those who participate in home canning. Take the time to determine how much food is actually necessary and preserve only that much using tested and approved recipes. This will help minimize waste, offer nutritious foods and provide an on-going sense of self-reliance.


Kathleen Riggs is the Utah State University Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Professor for Iron County. Questions or comments may be sent to kathleen.riggs@usu.edu or call 435-586-8132.




Utah Prepare // Emergency Preparedness Made Easy

Utah Prepare

Saturday, September 12, 2015
South Towne Expo Center, Sandy, Utah
Utah’s Largest One Day
Preparedness Conference and Expo
50+ Exhibitors  |  30+ Preparedness Classes

Utahns interested in learning about emergency preparedness can visit the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy on Saturday, Sept. 12, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. for workshops, speakers, emergency preparedness vendors, door prizes and giveaways.

“We began this Utah State University Extension-sponsored conference in 2009 to help people understand that there are things they can do to be in charge, even when there is much out of their control during an emergency,” said Teresa Hunsaker, USU Extension family and consumer sciences agent. “By thinking ahead and having necessary items on hand, they can better ride out the storm, so to speak.”

Workshop topics include mock root cellars, meals in minutes with food storage, sheltering in place, emergency fuel storage, emergency communications, emergency childbirth, powerless cooking, special needs preparation, survival tips from the experts, water purification, preparedness and terrorism, water and emergency first aid.

Keynote speaker is Lori Prichard, morning anchor for KSL TV, who will share her first-hand experience with preparedness while in Joplin, Missouri.

“We really try to have this be a one-stop shop where Utahns can become educated and learn what they can do to help themselves, their families and their pets in the event of a barrage of emergency scenarios,” said Hunsaker. “Our goal is to help keep damage and casualties to a minimum should one of these events take place.”

Cost of conference is $5. Tickets are available online or at the door.

Find more information at utahprepare.com




Emergency Checklist // Are You Prepared?

Emergency

Overwhelmed by emergency preparedness? Here’s a simple checklist to help you get started!


Preparing to Prepare

Have you ever wondered how to prepare for an emergency? Here is a checklist of basic emergency preparedness questions that need answers if you are to be safe in an emergency.

If you answer NO to any of them, take time to work on getting them completed.

GENERAL

If you are to evacuate your home, do you and your family have an identified common meeting place?

Have you established an out-of-state contact? Does each family member know the name, phone number and address of this contact?

Do you have a working emergency radio to receive emergency instructions?

Do you have a functional flashlight in every occupied bedroom? (Candles are not recommended unless you are sure there is not a natural gas leak nearby.)

Do you have a first-aid kit in your home and each vehicle? If you have a motor home, be sure to put one in there too.

Do you have work gloves and basic tools for minor rescue and clean up?

Do you have emergency cash on hand? (Small bills and coins. During emergencies or loss of power, banks and ATM machines are closed.)

Have you stored/rotated a month’s supply of needed medications?

If you wear glasses/contacts, do you have an extra pair in case of breakage?

EARTHQUAKES

Do you keep shoes (not sandals) near your bed to protect your feet against broken glass and other objects that may be on the floor?

Does your family know what to do before, during and after an earthquake or other emergency situation?

Do you have heavy unsecured objects hanging over beds that can fall during  an earthquake?

UTILITIES

If water lines are ruptured, do you know how to shut off the main water line?

Can the main water valve be turned off by hand without using a special tool?

If a special tool is needed to shut off the water main, do you have one near the turn off or know where to find one in an emergency?

Do you know where the main gas shut-off valve to your house is located?

Natural gas valves need a special tool to turn off. Do you have one nearby?

Without electricity and gas, do you have the means to heat at least part of the house?

Do you have means to cover broken windows and doors?

Do you have a plan for toilet facilities if there is an extended water shortage?

FIRE

Has your family rehearsed fire escape routes from your home?

In case of a minor fire, do you have a fire extinguisher? Do you know how to operate it? Is it charged?

Do you have working smoke alarms in the proper locations in your home?

FINANCIAL PREPAREDNESS

Do you have duplicate keys and copies of important documents stored outside of your home or in your evacuation kit?

Do you have a copy of your will, trust and insurance papers that can be taken with you?

Do you have a copy of your household inventory (CD or photos with serial numbers, etc.) for insurance purposes?

EMERGENCY FOOD

Do you have a supply of food, clothing and fuel (where appropriate) for 1 month, 6 months or 1 year?

Do you have sufficient food?

Do you have means to cook food without gas or electricity?

Do you have sufficient water for drinking, cooking and sanitary needs?

Do you have a 72-hour evacuation kit? Could you or someone in your family carry it?


This article was written by Christine Jensen

christine-jensenChristine Jensen has been employed by Utah State University Extension in Emery County for 15 years.





Do You Have an Emergency Kit for Your Car?

By: Cindy Nelson, Utah State University Extension assistant professor, with information from Carolyn Washburn, USU  Extension associate professor and Teresa Hunsaker, USU Extension educator

Do you have an car emergency kit?

The best gift you could give yourself and your family this holiday season may be peace of mind. One gift to help bring peace of mind is an emergency car kit that includes needed supplies in the event of a misfortune on the road such as a flat tire, engine trouble, being stuck in a remote area or something more serious like poor road conditions due to bad weather or natural disasters such as floods, fires or earthquakes.

An emergency car kit is like a 72-hour kit on the go but also includes tools specific to vehicle emergencies. You can purchase a ready-made emergency car kit, or you can assemble one that fits your family’s needs.

Your kit should include items typically found in a 72-hour kit:

  • Snacks, water, non-perishable foods and a can opener.
  • Water bottle with a purifier or a filter so you can use water from a stream or melted snow.
  • Emergency thermal blanket to provide warmth or shelter.
  • Warm clothing, including gloves.
  • Contact information for family members, doctor, insurance, mechanic, etc., either on a piece of paper stored in the glove box or stored in your cell phone. Be sure to have a car charger for your phone as well as a backup charger that is either battery or solar powered.
  • Tissues or toilet paper and diapers if you have young children.
  • First aid kit, including basic first aid supplies and necessary medications for allergies, pain, etc.
  • Microfiber towels that are highly absorbent and quick drying, and/or compressed towels that save space.
  • Matches or a lighter.
  • Cash.
  • Notebook and pen.

Then add items specific to vehicle emergencies:

  • Distress sign or emergency sign to hang in car window or on antennae.
  • Orange safety vest.
  • Portable power unit, which can be invaluable in many emergency situations.
  • Jumper cables.
  • Snow and ice scraper.
  • Flares.
  • Flashlight or spotlight with extra batteries, or solar powered or windup lights.
  • Portable radio that is wind up or battery powered.
  • Rope, tie downs, bungee cords.
  • Spare tire, jack, lug wrench.
  • Basic tool kit and a shovel.

It can be difficult to find space in a vehicle to store all of the necessary emergency equipment. Rather than using one big container, items can be stored in multiple small containers that can be tucked into cubbies, under seats, in the glove box, trunk or door compartments.

Other things to consider for peace of mind on the road:

  • Let someone know where you are going and when you will return.
  • Keep the gas tank at least half full at all times.
  • Check weather and road conditions before leaving home.
  • Assess your surroundings for safety.
  • Stay with your vehicle.
  • Carry a roadside assistance card at all times, or know how to use assistance services such as OnStar.




Ask A Specialist: Tips for Preparing Your Yard for Winter

By: JayDee Gunnell, Utah State University Extension Horticulturist

Tips for Preparing Your Yard For Winter

By the time the gardening season winds down, many gardeners, like their lackluster plants, are spent. It is all too easy to ignore the work that waits outside. But by accomplishing a few simple chores before winter takes over, you can ensure healthier and happier plants next spring.

  • Flowers – Many perennials become crowded and may benefit from being divided every four to five years. As a general rule, perennials that bloom in the spring should be dug and divided in the fall. Perennials that bloom in the fall should be dug and divided in the spring. Dig perennials three to four weeks before the ground freezes.
  • Trees – Tree trunks can be damaged by winter sun from both the south and west. Protect young tree trunks by wrapping them with white tree wrap available at any local nursery or garden center. The white wrap helps reflect the sun from the tender trunks.
  • Lawns – Late October to early November is the best time of year to feed your lawn. Apply a quick-release nitrogen fertilizer after the last mowing. Even though the grass doesn’t appear to be growing, energy is being shipped down to the root system for storage. This stored energy will present itself in early greening next spring.

 

  • Weed control – Annual weeds begin from seed, grow, then produce seed all in one year’s time. These weeds, such as crabgrass and spurge, are best controlled in the early spring (before mid-April) with pre-emergent herbicides. Perennial weeds come back every year from the same root system. Perennial weeds, such as dandelions and field bindweed, are best controlled in the fall. After the first light frost, energy within the weed moves downward to the root system. Spraying perennial weeds at this time is effective because those chemicals have a better chance of destroying the roots.
  • Planting – Fall is one of the best times to plant nursery stock. Cooler weather makes the transition easier for the plants. It also gives the plants a head start for next spring by producing root growth this season.

 

For more information from USU Extension on preparing your yard for winter, see the video:

http://tinyurl.com/m4tgh5t.




Utah Prepare Conference and Expo Recap

Utah Prepare Conference and ExpoWere you able to attend the Utah Prepare Conference and Expo last weekend? It was a full Saturday of learning everything about being prepared. While I am a strong supporter of being prepared for a disaster, I also really appreciated that fact that they also had preparedness tips and equipment to handle the small emergencies of life. The conference and expo really had something for everyone.
Utah Prepare Conference and ExpoThe classes were amazing. I had no idea all the resources locally available during a disaster. The conference provided classes ranging everywhere from how to cook without power, health care without traditional medicine, and preparing for extremes such as terrorism.

The equipment found there was also top notch. It was so inspiring to get myself as well as my family prepared for the small to big disasters of life.

Utah Prepare Conference and Expo
Even though National Preparedness Month is over, it doesn’t mean it’s too late to prepare! To get started, I am going to put together multiple first-aid kits for cars and home as well as gather 72 hour emergency kits. Where are you going to start?




Are You Prepared? An Emergency Checklist to Help You Prepare

Author – Christine E. Jensen

Are You Prepared? An emergency checklist to help you prepare for the worst | Live Well Utah

Have you ever wondered how to prepare for an emergency? Do you know what is important to store and what isn’t? Here is a checklist of basic emergency preparedness questions that need answers if you are to be safe in an emergency. If you answer NO to any of them, take time to work on getting them completed. This is only a brief questionnaire to help you get started.

GENERAL

If you are to evacuate your home, do you and your family have an identified common meeting place?

Have you established an out-of-state contact? Does each family member know the name, phone number and address of this contact?

Do you have a working emergency radio to receive emergency instructions?

Do you have a functional flashlight in every occupied bedroom? (Candles are not recommended unless you are sure there is not a natural gas leak nearby.)

Do you have a first-aid kit in your home and each vehicle? If you have a motor home, be sure to put one in there too.

Do you have work gloves and basic tools for minor rescue and clean up?

Do you have emergency cash on hand? (Small bills and coins. During emergencies or loss of power, banks and ATM machines are closed.)

Have you stored/rotated a month’s supply of needed medications?

If you wear glasses/contacts, do you have an extra pair in case of breakage?

EARTHQUAKES

Do you keep shoes (not sandals) near your bed to protect your feet against broken glass and other objects that may be on the floor?

Does your family know what to do before, during and after an earthquake or other emergency situation?

Do you have heavy unsecured objects hanging over beds that can fall during  an earthquake?

UTILITIES

If water lines are ruptured, do you know how to shut off the main water line?

Can the main water valve be turned off by hand without using a special tool?

If a special tool is needed to shut off the water main, do you have one near the turn off or know where to find one in an emergency?

Do you know where the main gas shut-off valve to your house is located?

Natural gas valves need a special tool to turn off. Do you have one nearby?

Without electricity and gas, do you have the means to heat at least part of the house?

Do you have means to cover broken windows and doors?

Do you have a plan for toilet facilities if there is an extended water shortage?

FIRE

Has your family rehearsed fire escape routes from your home?

In case of a minor fire, do you have a fire extinguisher? Do you know how to operate it? Is it charged?

Do you have working smoke alarms in the proper locations in your home?

FINANCIAL PREPAREDNESS

Do you have duplicate keys and copies of important documents stored outside of your home or in your evacuation kit?

Do you have a copy of your will, trust and insurance papers that can be taken with you?

Do you have a copy of your household inventory (CD or photos with serial numbers, etc.) for insurance purposes?

EMERGENCY FOOD

Do you have a supply of food, clothing and fuel (where appropriate) for 1 month, 6 months or 1 year?

Do you have sufficient food?

Do you have means to cook food without gas or electricity?

Do you have sufficient water for drinking, cooking and sanitary needs?

Do you have a 72-hour evacuation kit? Could you or someone in your family carry it?

christine-jensenChristine Jensen has been employed by Utah State University Extension in Emery County for 15 years.




Are You Prepared for Financial Emergencies?

Author – Marilyn Albertson

Emergencies Coming Your Way? Are You Prepared?

Have you ever had a major emergency in your household? Did you have the cash flow to handle it? As you move through life, events often come up that you cannot anticipate but that require money immediately. Start now to build a strong financial foundation with an emergency fund.

Emergencies might include personal injuries, auto accidents, natural disasters, loss of jobs, major home or auto repairs, or a death in the family with accompanying expenses not covered by insurance. If your are in the farm or ranching business, emergencies could include  poor crop prices, poor crop yield based on weather conditions, natural disasters, lack of adequate grazing for cattle, higher prices for feed and farm equipment, illnesses in herds or flocks and more.

What should you have saved?

Financial experts suggest having 3 to 6 months of take-home salary or 6 to 8 months of living expenses saved.  (source 1 & 2)  Another way to calculate your needs would be to assess the time it might take to find a new job of equal or higher pay if you were laid off your current job.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics for June of 2014, detailed unemployed persons by duration of unemployment.  The report indicated that 48.5 percent were unemployed 15 weeks or longer, with 32.8 percent experiencing 27 weeks or longer of unemployment.

When should you start?

If you have not started an emergency fund, now is the time to start.  You may feel you have debt you need to pay off before you can start saving.  You might consider splitting your extra funds between the debt and an emergency fund.  Even a little saved will reduce the interest costs at the time when you have to pay for an emergency.  Financial planners advise consumers to wait to invest in retirement accounts, IRAs or the stock market until they have an emergency fund established that is easily accessible for the risks that could come up.

How will you save?

Start by creating a monthly budget and tracking your spending.  Identify areas where you could cut back within your flexible expense category.  For example, to help save you might try the “Step-Down Principle” by Alena Johnson, M.S.  On a piece of paper create a stairway with four to six steps. Write down the way you now purchase the item on the top step.  Then look at ways to step down the expense and keep working down the steps until you get to the least expensive way to purchase the item on the bottom step. Then ask yourself if you can step down one or more of the steps with this purchase.  This idea can also be used for stepping down the number of times a purchase is made.  For example, if eating out daily at lunch, could you cut back to three times a week or once a week and brown bag it the other days?  This could add up to a significant savings over time to build the emergency fund.

Another way to calculate how to save is to use the PowerPay.org website.  Calculators are available to determine how much to save and ways to pay down debt more rapidly to free up money for savings.  You may download the free PowerPay Mobile app by visiting the iTunes app store.  For a more comprehensive version go to www.PowerPay.org.

Where will you save it?

Compare interest rates at your local bank or credit union.  Check out online banks, which also have good service and offer competitive rates.   Some have higher rates but make sure they are FDIC insured institutions. Some accounts can be tied to your checking account so automatic deposits can be made directly from checking to savings.  They may offer money market accounts which are variable and have teaser interest rates for the first 6 months with a guaranteed one-year rate for new customers.   Read the fine print for features and limitations.  It is wise for you to check periodically to see if you are still getting the best competitive rates.  If not, don’t be afraid to move your money to another institution as long as it is insured.

Good luck saving for those unexpected emergencies!

And, for more preparedness information, be sure to come and visit the Utah Prepare Conference & Expo on September 27, 2014.
marilyn-albertsonMarilyn Albertson, M.S., CFCS, has been a Utah State University Extension associate professor in Salt Lake County for 29 ½ years.  She provides family and consumer sciences education with emphasis in money management for children, youth and adults; housing education;  family resource management including food storage and emergency preparedness; and marriage and family relations for teens and adults.