We're in the peak of the 2011 hurricane season, by all accounts, a very active one. While those of us in Florida may have dodged a rather large bullet with Hurricane Irene, there's no guarantee we'll be as fortunate the next time a storm heads our way. This article will attempt to offer some advice that we've learned for coping with power outages, whether they're created by storms or some other phenomenon.
The first thing everyone should do when preparing for a power outage is to create a list of important supplies and make certain that those supplies are kept updated. These supplies should be kept readily available, so that you may easily retrieve them in the event of a power failure, or in the event that you need to bring them with you on any necessary evacuation trip. The following list may not be exhaustive, but should serve as a helpful list of the basics. Your family's needs might vary. As always, common sense and an understanding of your lifestyle should be applied to this list to create your own stockpile of supplies that suits your specific situation.
A person needs at least one gallon of water per day. You should plan on having 3 to 7 days worth of water available for each person in your household.
You should plan on having enough food for 3 to 7 days, ideally enough to match your water supply. This food should be non-perishable packaged or canned foods, fruit juices, foods for infants if necessary, and snacks. You should keep a non-electric can opener with your food supplies, as well as additional items of convenience, such as paper plates, plastic utensils, a propane stove, and fuel.
An appropriate first aid kit should never be overlooked, and can make all the difference in coping with a medical emergency. Your first aid kit should be regularly inspected to ensure that any medicines have not expired. Your kit should also contain an appropriate dosage of any prescription medication you may need in the event that you must evacuate your home.
Ideally, you should never use candles for emergency lighting, due to the possibility of fire. Flashlights are a much better choice. With your flashlight, you should keep a separate supply of good, well-charged batteries.
A battery operated radio can be a huge help in successfully dealing with emergency weather conditions. Make certain that all members of your family know how to use it, and that they're aware of the proper dial position for emergency communications in your area.
You should have on hand copies of important documents. These should be stored in a waterproof container, and should include such documents as driver's licenses, Social Security cards, medical records, insurance papers, bank account numbers, etc. Never underestimate the usefulness of road maps of your city and state, as well as maps of nearby states that your evacuation route may pass through. Familiarize yourself and the members of your family with your surrounding areas.
You should have a waterproof container filled with all necessary personal hygiene items, including hand sanitizer, diapers, wet wipes, bathroom tissue, facial tissue, toothpaste, mouthwash, soap, shampoo, shaving equipment, etc.
fully-charged cell phones, a traditional corded phone if applicable, car chargers, etc.
A good set of travel tools can certainly come in handy in the event you need to make repairs on the run.
If you have pets, you should include identification and immunization papers, medicines, an ample supply of food and water, a muzzle or leash, a carrier or cage, etc.
Once you've stocked your emergency supplies, you should be ready for any power outages that come your way. The next thing to be aware of is how to deal with the outage itself.
If you experience a power outage that appears as if it will last for a while, you should unplug and turn off all power-using equipment in your home, including appliances, electronics, and air conditioning or heating. The stove should never be left on if power is interrupted while it is in use. Turning off electrical equipment will avoid the potential for power surges when electricity is restored, and will reduce the possibility of fire or other emergencies.
Check your circuit breakers for the possibility that they've simply flipped. Look outside at street lights, neighbors' homes, etc., to try to determine whether the outage has occurred in only your home, or if it's also affecting neighboring homes or businesses. Contact the power company, if possible, to determine a timeline for the restoration of service, in order to prepare your family for what to expect from the outage.
In general, you can stay in your house for as long as you are safe and comfortable, and as long as your emergency supplies will last. Make sure you are prepared for any emergencies and that you have a plan for safe lighting when the sun goes down.
If you have to use candles, be very aware of the dangers of fire. Candles must never be left unattended, and should never be used by small children. As mentioned previously, flashlights are a much better alternative, and the newer LED flashlights on the market can be very helpful due to their reduced power consumption and, therefore, their increased battery life.
You should conserve water as much as possible. Flush the toilets only when necessary. If you have warning of a power outage before hand, you may choose to fill the sinks and bathtubs with fresh water in the event that your water supply is compromised. You can refill toilets for flushing simply by removing the lid and filling the tank with an appropriate amount of water. How much you will need to use depends upon your specific toilets, but you should always use as little as possible to successfully flush, as part of your water conservation efforts.
If you have enough time to prepare, it can be a huge help to freeze several two liter bottless or gallon jugs of water in order to keep your food items cold. You can put the frozen bottles in either a cooler with your important perishable food items, or you can put them in the refrigerator. Open the refrigerator or freezer only when necessary, and always be mindful of the safety of perishable food items before consuming them.
If you decide to cook, you should make certain that you've familiarized yourself with how to use any propane cookers or grills you intend to use. You must never use these items indoors, as the fumes produced by such stoves can be harmful or deadly. A fire extinguisher should be kept on hand in the event a fire grows out of control. This page of propane safety tips should prove useful for most situations.
The above checklist should help you to cope safely and comfortably with any power outage. Of course, a much better option, if you have the time and money, is to invest in appropriate surge protection for electrical devices and a good, properly-sized generator. A generator can greatly increase the comfort you and your family will experience in an outage. At Spectrum Electric, Inc., one of our specialties is generator and surge protection consultation and installation. Call us at 407-880-8977 or contact us via our contact form today to see how we can help with the full spectrum of your generator or surge suppression needs. There are many cost-effective solutions now on the market, and their affordability has made them much more accessible for the home, apartment, or business.