Lightning and wind and rain – oh my! Severe storms, plus the blackouts and flooding that accompany them, can be life-threatening. But, with a bit of advanced planning, you can weather them with relative comfort and minimal anxiety.
Food and Water
For most short-term emergencies, when the power goes out, experts recommend that you have on hand 1 gallon of water for drinking and sanitation per person per day for at least three days.
Here’s how to do this: When storms threaten, fill jugs with drinking water and fill your bath tub to have water to flush the toilet. (If water pressure fails, you can still flush by pouring water into the tank and flipping the lever.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has information on disinfecting water for drinking and cooking.
Keep on hand some foods that can be eaten without being cooked and can be easily carried if you need to evacuate your home. Energy bars, jerky, dried fruit and nuts keep a long time, are easy to store and carry, and contain concentrated energy and protein.
If you have pets, you also will want to develop a plan for their care and safety, especially if you have to evacuate. Add water for pets to your stored supply and sealable bags of dry food, plus leashes, crates and bowls to eat and drink from, if you have to evacuate. It’s good to have your animals’ shots up to date and their records handy to take with you.
Some folks keep an evacuation backpack ready to go in case of an emergency. If you and your family have to leave the house in a hurry, having just the basic supplies listed below will make the situation more comfortable. Store the backpack in a location that is easily accessible and known by all members of the household. Ready, a government Web site, has more information about emergency supplies.
- Weather radio
- Old cell phone
- Cell phone car charger
- First aid kit
- Water bottles
- Hand sanitizer
- Sealable plastic bags for food
- A rain parka for each member of the family
- Spare batteries
- Cash, including some change
- Addresses and phone numbers of family members and emergency services
- Local map
- Deck of cards
If the power goes out, you won’t have TV, radio or the Internet to provide you with up-to-date information. Battery-powered or crank weather radios, available from $9 to $90, will keep you informed of conditions during a weather emergency.
Even if the power goes out, a landline, non-electric phone may still work, so keep one around. And you can use your car to charge your cell phone using a cell phone car charger, which plugs into the 12 volt DC car power socket (cigarette lighter). And any charged cell phone that can receive a signal, even one without an active service account, can dial 911.
Have a Plan
Know where to go in case a tornado or high water threatens your home. If you don’t have a basement, go to the most interior room or go to the nearest storm shelter. In cases of high water threatening your property, you should know the safest escape route to high ground that will not take you through the flood waters. Practice these strategies with your family so everyone knows where to go in case of a weather emergency.
Unless your house has been damaged by high winds or is being threatened by flood waters, the safest place to be during a weather emergency is your own home. We all cope best during times of stress when we are in familiar surroundings. This is especially true for children, the elderly and pets.
Having first aid knowledge is another valuable resource for your family and your community. The Red Cross and Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) offer first aid, CPR and disaster preparedness classes. The time to take these classes is now, before you need to use the skills.
Ready also has a list of first aid kit supplies that includes the following, plus special supplies for at risk situations:
Two pairs of Latex, or other sterile gloves (if you are allergic to Latex)
Sterile dressings to stop bleeding
Cleansing agent/soap and antibiotic towelettes to disinfect
Antibiotic ointment to prevent infection
Aspirin or nonaspirin pain reliever
With preparation and planning, you can make a short-term power outage relatively easy to deal with. You and your family might even be able to make it a fun experience, similar to camping out.
Heidi Hunt is an Assistant Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. She has been on the editorial staff since 2001 when Ogden Publications acquired the magazine. Heidi especially enjoys interacting with readers and answering the myriad of questions they throw her way.