Are you and your family prepared for severe weather?
The two key elements to weather safety are to prepare for the risks and to act on those preparations when alerted by emergency officials. When you know what to do, you can plan with your household and prepare in advance to be ready. Storm threats come in many forms, including storm surge, high winds, tornadoes, and flooding. Here are some steps to take before the storm hits:
- Prepare your home and stock an emergency home kit.
- Pack a go bag for every member of your household that includes emergency supplies that each person would need if you have to evacuate your home.
- Plan your evacuation route in advance of the storm.
- Have two weeks worth of your important medications on hand as a reserve.
- Close storm shutters and board up all windows.
- Stock up on drinking water and non-perishable goods.
- Have a supply of batteries and be sure you have flashlights and a portable radio in good working condition.
- Review how to shut off utilities in an emergency with all family members.
- Secure all outdoor objects or move them inside.
- Secure your boat or move it to a safer place.
- Fuel your car in case you must leave immediately.
- Fill your home's oil tank and ensure the cap is tight to prevent spills. Above-ground tanks should also be strapped to a secure fixture to prevent tipping in case of flooding.
- If you have a generator or chain saw, fuel it up ahead of time, but operate it only outdoors and away from open windows.
How to recover from a severe storm
Before you begin storm clean up, take inventory with a camera so you can document any damage claims.
Before you enter your home, there are certain important steps to take; walk carefully around the outside and check for loose power lines, gas leaks,structural damage, roof, foundation and chimney cracks. If you have any doubts about safety, have your residence inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer before entering.
Be sure to check for the following inside and outside your home:
- Natural gas - If you smell gas or hear a hissing or blowing sound, open a window and leave immediately. Turn off the main gas valve from the outside, if you can. Call the gas company from a neighbor’s residence.
- Sparks, broken or frayed wires - If you see sparks or broken or frayed wire or if you smell burning installation; turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for advice. Electrical equipment should be checked and dried before being returned to service.
- Water and sewage damage - Flood waters and standing waters pose various risks, including infectious diseases, chemical hazards, and injuries. By taking certain safety measures you can keep your family safe.
- Food - Keeping food safe during and after an emergency, such as a hurricane, Nor'easter, flood, fire, national disaster, or the loss of power is extremely important. If power fails, keep your refrigerator closed as much as possible to help prevent food from spoiling. Throw out all food and other supplies that you suspect may have become contaminated or come into contact with floodwater. During a prolonged power outage, the following foods are potentially hazardous if not stored below 41 degrees Fahrenheit and should be discarded: meat, poultry, seafood, cold cuts, hot dogs, eggs, cream, sour cream, yogurt, milk, custards, puddings, soft and shredded cheeses, cut fruit, cooked vegetables, pasta, casseroles, unbaked cookie and bread dough, gravy, creamy salad dressings, fish sauces, hoisin sauce, opened spaghetti sauce and garlic in oil. REMEMBER, WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT.
- Appliances - If appliances are wet, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. Then, unplug appliances and let them dry out. Have appliances checked by a professional before using them again.
- Portable Generator - The primary hazards to avoid when using a generator are carbon monixide (CO) poisoning from the toxic engine exhaust, electric shock or electrocution, fire and burns. Never run generators indoors, including inside garages, basements, crawlspaces and sheds. Get to fresh air right away if you start to feel dizzy or weak. Always follow the instructions that come with your generator. The simplest and safest way to provide power using a generator is through a manual transfer switch installed by a licensed electrician. With this type of switch you can only get power from the grid or from the generator, not both. There is no possibility of accidentally feeding electricity back into the grid and injuring a lineman trying to restore power to your house. If you choose to power your appliances through extension cords plugged into your generator, be sure to use only heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cords. Make sure extension cords are free of cuts or tears and the plug has three prongs. Overloaded cords can cause fires or equipment damage. Always be sure to switch your power off from the main breaker when using a generator to supply your electricity. This will avoid back feeding to the grid which can hurt linemen, as well as delay the recovery process since trees and limbs on power lines cannot be removed.
- Chain saws - The potential risk of chain saw injury increases after storms and other natural disasters, when chain saws are widely used to remove fallen or partially fallen trees and tree branches. When possible, it's best to have a chain saw operator who has training and experience in safe chain saw use and cutting techniques to fell and remove limbs from trees. If you must use a chain saw, be certain to operate, adjust, and maintain the saw according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Properly sharpen and lubricate chain saw blades and always choose the proper size of chain saw to match the job. Wear the appropriate protective equipment, which includes a hard hat, safety glasses, hearing protection, heavy work gloves, cut-resistant legwear and boots. Always cut at waist level or below to maintain secure control over the chain saw and take care to avoid contact with power lines. Bystanders or coworkers should remain at least two tree lengths away from anyone felling a tree. If injury occurs, apply direct pressure to areas of heavy bleeding and call 911 for medical help.
- Garbage and Rodents - Garbage invites insects and rodents. After a storm, rodents are often looking for food because the storm has destroyed their homes and normal food source. Store your garbage in watertight, rodent/insect-proof containers with tight-fitting covers. If your garbage pick-up has been interrupted, check with your municipality to find out when it will resume.