Winter Storm Preparation Tips
It takes at least two things to get through the adverse effects of a severe storm - preparation and patience. Not only can they make an uncomfortable situation tolerable, sometimes they also may actually save your life.
By following these suggestions, you will be as ready as anyone can be to handle the unexpected knocks of a nasty storm:
- Check medications that require refrigeration -- Be sure you know if they will be affected by a prolonged interruption of power. You might want to talk with your pharmacist. You also might want to keep a small cooler handy.
- Put refrigerators and freezers at their coldest settings -- Do this a half day or so before the storm is forecast to hit. Keep a blanket handy to throw over these appliances for added insulation, if need be. And be sure to return the settings to their normal position as soon as the crisis has passed.
- Get extra ice -- Ice helps maintain cold temperatures in your freezer and refrigerator. Use plastic bags filled with ice (or water, if you have enough time to freeze it) in the freezer. Use block ice, if possible, in the refrigerator. And should the ice melt, you can drink the water.
- Set aside water -- This is vital if you depend on a water pump that might be disabled during a storm. Sanitize and fill spare containers with water for drinking. Fill your bathtub with water for use in the toilet. A bucket of water poured in the toilet bowl is all that's needed for flushing. If you don't have an adequate supply of water to save and are unable to get enough from friends or neighbors, call local officials to ask about nearby water sources.
- Take steps to prevent water damage -- As outside temperatures dip below zero, residents without power should turn the water off, drain pipes and turn the water heater off. If water is not drained, pipes can freeze and possibly burst. Or, homeowners can also allow the water to trickle from faucets for a constant water flow during the outage. To drain pipes, turn off the water heater power and main water supply and keep all faucets open in the house. Also, drain all toilets by holding the lever down until the tank empties. Open cabinet doors that encase pipes to allow any heat in the home to get to the pipes.
- Be prepared to cook outside -- You might wish to use your backyard grill for cooking. However, please beware! Do not bring the grill indoors. A grill without proper ventilation can be deadly. It is possible to use Sterno or a comparable fuel indoors to heat food.
- Stock up on batteries and easy-to-prepare food -- Give yourself the greatest flexibility in meal preparation, and the greatest comfort once the sun goes down. Don't forget flashlights (one for each person in your family), batteries and a manual can opener.
- Prepare alternative sources of heat -- Even a gas or oil furnace needs electricity to operate, so if you have a fireplace or wood stove as an alternative heat source, be sure you have enough wood. A portable electric generator can be a valuable backup source of power to operate your furnace and appliances - have it installed by a professional with a double-throw safety switch. And NEVER run a portable generator inside your home or garage! If you have no alternative heat, find out where an emergency shelter will be, if it is needed. Call your local fire or police department or local Red Cross chapter.
- Unplug sensitive equipment -- Voltage irregularities can occur for any number of reasons during or after a storm, especially if there has been damage on or near your home. The safest thing to do is to unplug any sensitive electrical devices, such as the TV, VCR, stereo, microwave, computer, answering machine and garage door opener. Planning ahead, you might wish to consider surge suppressors.
- Have an evacuation plan -- Ice storms can lead to outages of two weeks or longer, and you might need to leave your home. Be sure to fill your car's gas tank before the storm hits. What's more, your automobile can be a place to get warm - as long as you don't operate it inside your garage, keep it well-ventilated and don't sleep while the engineis running.
- Plan to live without everyday tools that need electricity -- Your garage door opener, for example. Be sure you know how to get the door open and shut manually. And if you keep your cellar free from flooding by using an electric sump pump, consider installing a battery powered back-up pump.
- Keep a battery-operated radio handy -- Receive safety tips, updates on the storm's progress and clean-up operations. Don't forget fresh batteries.
- Stay away from downed power lines -- Don't drive over downed lines, and if a downed line is in or near water, keep your distance from the water, even a little puddle. And whether a power line is down or not, don't touch anything that might be in contact with it - like a tree limb for example.