Saturday, October 20, 2007

Notes From A Windstorm

A windstorm rolled through here a few days ago and left most of the area without power for about 48 hours. Here is a list of random notes that I put together (by candlelight) as we waited out the storm.

  • Always keep at least a half tank of gas in your car. Trees and power lines were down so in order for many to get home they had to drive way out of their way to find alternate routes around the damage; you don't want to have to do this when the gas stations don't have power and your car is running on fumes.
  • Know how to drive during a power outage. With street lights out, you need to drive slower than normal. With stop lights out, you need to treat every intersection as a four way stop, however don't assume cross traffic will stop, especially on dark roads--the cars may not even know they are passing though an intersection. Watch out for downed trees and power lines as well as for people walking alongside the (very) dark roadways.
  • Your car should have a sufficiently stocked BOB just in case you end up camping out at your office.
  • Your car emergency bag should be stocked and ready to go any time you need it. It should also be well organized so you can dig the flashlight out of it by feel in order to light your way through the pitch dark path from your vehicle to your home.
  • Know how to manually open your garage door.
  • For obvious reasons (like suffocation) don't use a grill or BBQ in the house for either cooking or warmth. Anything that emits carbon monoxide needs to be used outside or in a well ventilated area (like a garage with the doors wide open).
  • If power outages are one of the most common disasters you face in your area, keep a power outage box at the ready. The box (one of those big plastic tubs with a lid) should have in it: lots of candles, matches, one flashlight per person in the household, lots of spare batteries, a radio that works on batteries and with a crank charger, spare batteries for the radio, a land line phone handset (the kind that only connects to the phone jack), a manual can opener, a wind up or battery operated alarm click if necessary, and a battery operated TV (not necessary but nice to have).
  • Of course you will also want to have stocked lots of bottled water and have a good-sized cache of food that doesn't need to be cooked to be edible. Remember to add some "comfort food" as well (cookies, candies, pop tarts, etc). MREs may be fine in the field but aren't tolerated very well by the family after a very short period of time.
  • Make sure your alternative source of heat is ready to go. Do you have adequate wood for the fireplace or wood stove? Does the kerosene heater work properly and do you have enough kerosene (safely stored) to last for a period of time? Do you have plenty of spare matches?
  • If you have a gas stove and hot water tank, you will still be able to cook and take showers. Nice.
  • Keep your cell phone charged. This is often your only option for communication and internet access during a disaster.
  • If you have a generator (or two--some people have a separate generator for their wells around here), use it expeditiously. If someone needs 24/7 power for medical reasons that's one thing but you don't really need to run it all night long. It keeps the neighbors awake and is a waste of fuel. Note: have the generator professionally installed and ALWAYS have it located outside so as to safely vent the exhaust.
  • Have a security plan if needed. How will you get in your building if you need to swipe a card through an electronic reader to get in and there is no power? How is your neighborhood in general? Roving bands or kids or thugs may necessitate a security response--know what you would do in this situation.
  • Check on elderly or infirm neighbors to make sure that they are keeping warm, hydrated, and fed.
  • Be extra careful--a fall off a ladder or sliced hand in not good under normal conditions, really bad under less than optimal conditions.
  • Sign up for emergency alerts. Our county DEM (Department of Emergency Management) office has an email list people can subscribe to to receive emergency notifications. Besides being all over the news, I knew a windstorm was coming about twelve hours in advance from a DEM notice sent to my email inbox.
  • Keep cards and games on hand. After the initial shock of not being able to use the computer/TV/XBox/etc., the family is going to need to be able to entertain themselves--a foreign concept to be sure, but something that can be done if necessary.
  • Enjoy the peace and quiet. It is actually very dark and very quiet and very peaceful at night during a power outage.

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