The Derecho that slammed into our region on June 29, 2012 left a huge portion of our area in the dark. Many were left scrambling to cope not just with the lack of power but also the record breaking heat that followed. My heart certainly goes out to everyone who was impacted by this storm and especially those who had to go a week before their power was restored.
I can certainly sympathize, as during my time working and living in Florida we were hit by Hurricane Wilma. That storm also left myself and others without power for a week or more. The obvious difference between a hurricane and a Derecho is the advance notice. With a hurricane you typically have days or even weeks. However, with a Derecho the advance warning is very limited. Because a weather or disaster event can strike at any time the best thing you can do is be prepared at all times. You can do this simply by having an emergency plan and kit in place for you and your family. During Wilma and again during this event my emergency my emergency kit proved to be indispensable. So here are some simple things you can do so you are not caught scrambling or unprepared the next time a weather emergency happens.
1) Gather Information: Have a list of reference contact information including your Local Emergency Management Office, County Low Enforcement, County Public Safety Fire/Rescue, State, County and City/Town Government, Local Hospitals, Local Utilities, Local Red Cross Office, Local TV/Radio Stations, and Property Insurance Agent.
2) Plan & Take Action: Remember that you and your family may not be together when a disaster strikes. You will need to formulate a plan of how you will find and contact each other. You may have to consider leaving or evacuating your home. Where will you go? What will you do if water, gas, electricity or phone services are not available? These are things that you and your family need to discuss and decide upon. Also, do not forget about your pets they are also affected so make sure you have a plan for them as well.
3) Put Together A Disaster Kit: (Below is what FEMA recommends for a Basic Disaster Supplies Kit.)
- Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
- Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and NOAA Weather Radio with tone and alert with extra batteries for both
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter in place
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can opener for food
- Local maps
- Cell phone with charger, inverter or solar charger
Remember to refresh your kit every once in a while to ensure that both food and batteries remain fresh and ready to go. For additional emergency supplies that supplement this basic kit check out this link to FEMA.
During this recent power outage many folks didn’t know what to do from not knowing how long food would last in the refrigerator to what to do if you encountered downed power lines. It may seem like common sense to most of us not to drive over downed power lines yet right in from of my own home I witnessed countless cars doing just that. So I thought it would also be a good idea to give you some information on what to and what not to do if the power goes out.
4) What you should do or not do if the power goes out.
- Check the fuse box to see if there is a blown fuse or tripped circuit breaker. Sometimes the power outage will be limited to your own home.
- If you determine that a fuse or circuit breaker needs to be replaces, turn off all large appliances or unplug them before replacing a fuse or breaker to avoid damage to the electrical system.
- Check your neighborhood to see if others are without power.
- Call to report the power outage.
- Do not go near any fallen or sagging power lines, call the utility company and notify them of the problem
- Sometimes when the power is restored, power levels can vary considerably. The variation can damage electrical appliances.
- Turn off the lights and electrical appliances except for the refrigerator and freezer.
- Unplugging TV, computers, and other items is also a good idea to prevent damage.
- Leave one lamp plugged in so that you know when the power is restored.
- Wait at least 15 minutes before turning on the remaining appliances after the power has been restored.
How long will the food in my refrigerator and freezer remain cold enough to prevent food borne illness?
- First keep the freezer and refrigerator doors closed to prevent the loss of cold air.
- A fully loaded refrigerator may keep food fresh for about six hours.
- A fully loaded freezer may keep food frozen for up to two days.
- If the food in the refrigerator or freezer gets above 41 degrees F, trash it!
A few words on generators.
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the use of your particular generator.
- Since most generators are powered by gasoline they generate carbon monoxide gas so never run them indoors and make sure to place them where the fumes cannot be drawn into your home.
This is by no means a complete guide on being storm or disaster ready but should definitely put you ahead of the game should another weather emergency or disaster impact the region. For a complete guide and more information you can visit FEMA’s web page.