How Do I Prepare for a Storm?

out of electricity can cause some major problems, including frozen water pipes. How you prepare for a storm can make a lot of difference to your health and comfort. During the last storm, I was lucky enough to have some great advice that I had not ever thought about: make sure the gas tank in your car is full, in case you have to get out of Dodge in a hurry – gas stations lose electricity, too, and the pumps don’t work without it. While you are at it, get cash, too – the ATM’s may not be working, either. And pick up the milk and bread. Get any prescription medications refilled – you probably will not want to, or may not be able to, make an emergency run to the drugstore. If someone in your home is on life-support devices, make sure you have made arrangements with the power company there are Life Support Equipment (LSE) programs that have a 24 hour hotline and special services. small_3893399951Double check the battery situation – make sure the batteries for computers and cell phones are fully charged, and that you have enough D sized batteries to last – those are the first to go at any store because they are the most popular size for flashlights, radios, portable CD and DVD players, which are also wonderful items to have when there is no electricity. (While you are stocking up batteries for Christmas toys, get a few extra for yourself – safety first, then entertainment!) If you have the proper accessory, you can recharge a cell phone with your car battery, and that may become important. If the base station of your cordless phone plugs into the wall, you will not be able to use it in a power outage. You can get an independent pre-paid (burner) cell phone to have on hand for emergencies if you don’t have a regular cell phone. Speaking of communications, have a radio that can be hand-cranked or runs on batteries so you can hear the latest news after your computer battery loses power – better to conserve that computer battery for communications if possible. Set automatic station points for weather updates and changing conditions, and program emergency numbers into your cell phone. You can also program your cell phone with the power company numbers for reporting outages – it is a lot faster than trying to look those numbers up in the yellow pages, or trying to get through to Information Please (and cheaper). The same goes for the numbers to get storm recovery updates and restoration times – these are usually automatic. Of course a household generator would solve a lot of immediate problems, like running the furnace so the water pipes (and I) don’t freeze, so I checked with one of my sons and asked him how much a generator that I could start by myself would be. When he told me the probable price, I asked, “How much for one I can’t start?” Back to making other preparations while I budget for one of those. I have figured out that holding a flashlight to read by is not the thrill it was when I was twelve, so I’ve purchased a LED light for the next time the power goes out – a small price to pay for a major convenience – those lamps are bright and last quite a while. Using candles or ever oil lamps, although romantic, is not the safest thing in the world, especially with an active dog or cat or children in the house – way too easy to tip over. If you are using light-able lights, check for a supply of dry and usable matches. I have an astounding number of flashlights in every possible place I might need them – they are hard to find without lights. I love the LED flashlights – even a small one of those lets you see across the street – great for reading street signs, so yes, I have a couple in my car. I also keep an extra pair of boots, gloves and a warm hat in the car in the winter, along with some large red ribbon (off an old holiday wreath) to put on the antenna or door handle if I get stuck somewhere, and the AAA emergency number is on speed dial. If you have well water, fill the bathtub and a couple of buckets with water, especially if you want to be able to flush the toilet – that may not seem so necessary in the short run, but flushing will probably become more important as time goes by. Water for drinking is essential, check that you have enough for yourself and your pets, as well as water for washing: dishes, hands and face and any other things you want to keep clean. If you have some advance notice you can make a thermos or two of hot liquids, including soup – you’ll appreciate those when the temperature drops. Some people keep a supply of disposable paper products (plates, cups, napkins) for just those occasions, along with wet wipes and hand sanitizer. Food – if the outage is only a day or so, things in the refrigerator and freezer will keep fine, especially if you don’t open the door too often. Things in the freezer are OK to refreeze if there are ice crystals still in them – if not, don’t risk it. If it is frigid outside, you can pack the freezer things up and put them outside. Plan how you are going to feed yourself, your family and your pets – it is good to keep a supply of easy-to-use canned and dry foods as well as bottled water – in a winter storm, the pizza places may not be open or delivering, especially if you live on deep country roads. Juice boxes are great for non-perishable things to drink. Check that you have a manual can opener for the cans. If you want to heat things up and are using a grill of any kind, use it outside. Dr. Oz suggests five essentials to keep in your house at all times in case of emergencies: can tuna and salmon (these will keep up to four years), canned lentils (will keep up to three years) peanut butter (will keep up to two years and does not need refrigeration after opening) and single serving milk that is pasteurized by a special process that will keep on the shelf up to seven months, and also does not require refrigeration after opening. All these will provide a lot of protein. The last item is water purifying tablets that can be found in any sporting goods store. Speaking of sporting goods stores, check out the camping gear – much of it is useful for no power days. Fuel – Way before any storm hits, check to see that your furnace is in working order and the fuel tanks are at least half full – it is not very convenient to be out of fuel or have a furnace on the fritz when the power comes back on. If you are lucky enough to have a working wood stove or fireplace, and wood to burn, have a supply close at hand and you can usually keep your home at a comfortable temperature, and your water pipes flowing. A lot of homeowners keep their water pipes wrapped with insulation to hold whatever heat for the longest period of time – of course any electric insulation won’t be working, but at least the insulation part will. If your water runs without electricity, you can leave water dripping in each faucet to keep the pipes from freezing. If you shut the water off at the mains, you have to drain the pipes so the water inside won’t freeze, probably not something you are going to want to do if it is frigid outside. Some people have propane or kerosene heaters that can be used in emergencies – again, please be very careful, especially with children in the house, if you use these stoves. In case you have to leave your home, it is a great thing to have all your important papers in one folder that can be picked up easily when you are in a hurry. People who travel a lot often take the contents of their wallets and important documents like a passport, and copy all of those, with copies kept in different in different places. With identity theft as a concern, perhaps it is better not to have these items scanned into a computer file, but hard copies kept separately from the items  can be invaluable if you need to have cards and licenses replaced in a hurry. Copies of legal documents can be helpful if the originals are kept in a more secure place, such as a safe-deposit box. Finally – have an emergency contingency plan – somewhere you could go if the outage or emergency is going to last a while. Especially elders, infants and young children (and some pets like birds and tropical fish) will not do well in a very cold house. Elders often don’t realize they may be at risk. Please check on any elder neighbors if you can. Body temperatures can drop fast without heat or warm food and drink. Do you have any tips for storm preparations? Please share – Penelope Jewelllarge__2678607948      ]]>