Despite the walloping winds created by Frankenstorm (aka superstorm Sandy), our power is still on. Fingers crossed that it remains so. Power outages are impossible to predict and when they do hit, there’s no telling how long they will last. It’s for this reason all of us need to be prepared.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other emergency preparedness specialists offer the following guidelines for making it through a power outage safe and sound.
Unless you’re planning to abandon ship and head to the nearest hotel with room service, it’s a good idea to have a supply of food that does not require refrigeration. According to the CDC, if the refrigerator or freezer loses power for two hours or less, then the food inside will be safe to consume. Even so, to maintain a cooler temperature avoid opening and closing the refrigerator and freezer door.
“When the power is out for longer than two hours, different rules apply,” according to the CDC. “If the freezer is half full, food will be safe to consume for 24 hours. If the freezer is full, then the food will be safe for 48 hours.”
If the power is out for more than two hours, store milk and other dairy products, meat, fish, gravy and anything that can spoil in a cooler surrounded by ice. The CDC also recommends using a food thermometer to check the temperature of food before cooking and eating. If the food has a temperature greater than 40 F, it should be discarded.
If you live in an area where repairs take a long time, consider filling the bathtub with water for washing and flushing. It is also a good idea to pick up an extra case of bottled water. Keep it stored in a cool place (not freezing) and away from any heat sources (to protect the integrity of the plastic bottle).
Once winter hits, consider filling clean plastic milk jugs with water and put them outside to freeze solid. If the power goes out they can be used in a cooler to keep food cold, or as a source of fresh water.
A report by the Farmer’s Almanac offers this tip, “As soon as the power goes out, drape all windows with blankets or whatever you have. Uncover south-facing windows during the day to let in the sun’s warmth.” The Farmer’s Almanac also advises homeowners to choose one room in which people – and pets – gather together and close off the doorway to allow the collective body heat to accumulate in the room.
A lot of homeowners, having dealt with continuous power outages, invest in generators. However, they are machines that require proper handling: If you’ve never used one, talk to the salesperson about how to use it and/or read the directions carefully.
Have candles and flashlights in areas designated for emergency equipment. Wrap a piece of glow-in-the-dark tape to your flashlight to make it easy to find.
“Family members with elderly relatives who live alone should make every effort to contact those relatives and ensure everything is all right,” according to the CDC report. “Make sure the elderly or the ill have adequate food, clothing, shelter and sources of heat. If necessary, insist elderly or ill friends and family stay over until the power comes back on.”
This will also help authorities and hospitals that might be dealing with a backlog of problems created by superstorms like Sandy.
For more information on safely making it through a power outage, visit the CDC at www.cdc.gov.