Saturday, November 3, 2012

How to Prepare for a Power Outage/Hurricane

WARNING: This article is area-specific. I live in the woods and hills of Western Massachusetts, so what I would do to prepare for a hurricane is very different than what someone in Florida would do (or the people in New York city). Please research the ways to prepare for a storm for your specific area if you are facing a natural disaster. 

   Growing up in Flint, Michigan, the only natural disasters my siblings and I ever had to worry about were snow storms and tornadoes. We didn’t do much of anything to prepare for a snow storm (except pray that school would be closed) or for a tornado. When we’d hear the sirens go off, we’d gather up all of our important belongings into our pillowcases and go sit in the basement (Unless you were my dad, in which case he would be listening to his Ham Radio and running outside to watch the funnel clouds. Apparently, he had no fear.). That was pretty much it. So when I moved out east and into a location where I didn’t have city water, I wasn’t sure what I needed to do to prepare when a hurricane was predicted last week. 
   Last year, during the massive October snow storm, we lived in the city so we still had access to water and we had a gas stove in our apartment (which was very helpful). However, it was still chaotic when we finally lost power. We drove for an hour in search of coffee. We eventually found one McDonald’s with power and there were so many people there that a line had formed out of the parking lot and down the street. I’ve never seen people in such a state of panic! People were pretty much camping inside, sipping coffee and making use of the free Wi-Fi. Eventually, we had to drive to New Hampshire to find a hotel room. It was pretty nuts. Anyhow, after doing some research and talking to the people that live in my city, I created a list of things that I needed to do in case the power went out. Here’s what I did to prepare for the storm:

1. Bought extra water. I knew we’d need water for drinking, cooking, brushing our teeth and washing our hands, so I made sure that I had several gallons and bottles.
2. I also put a gallon of water in the freezer to freeze. I read that if you have a large, solid block of ice in your freezer, your frozen items will stay cold longer after the refrigerator shuts off.
3. Bought a bag of ice. If we needed to put items in a cooler to travel somewhere, I wanted to be prepared. Obviously, the ice would have eventually melted had we been without power for days, but the idea was that if we needed to leave, we would have a way to save a few items while we were traveling.
4. Filled two large plastic storage containers with water from the hose, as well as filled our bathtub with water. This water was going to be used to fill the tanks of the toilets if we had to go to the bathroom. We put one container of water in our half bathroom, next to the toilet, and the other container we kept out in the garage (and then we had the bathtub of water in our full bathroom). If the power stayed out for days and we ran out of water, we planned on putting the containers out in the driveway to collect rainwater.
5. Ground a few days worth of coffee and stored it in air tight containers in a dark place. We also cleaned our French Press and put everything near each other so that we could easily make coffee in the morning.
6. Did laundry. We wanted to make sure our clothes were clean ahead of time!
7. Stocked up on propane for the grill. Unfortunately, we no longer have a gas stove so we needed something to cook on. We also had a small burner for camping that we should have purchased some fuel for, but we ran out of time and the stores ran out of supplies.
8. Stocked up on candles, matches, flashlights, and batteries. Luckily, we have these items all of the time so this wasn’t really an issue.
9. Stocked up on wood for a camp fire. If it wasn’t raining and we needed to cook, we planned on making a fire in our pit to save propane.

10. Planned meals. We had a lot of meals already in the freezer (because that’s what we normally do any way) so we already had some soup, chili, and meatballs that we could have thrown in a pot and put on the burner on the grill. We also purchased some hot dogs and tofu because we knew these things wouldn’t spoil as fast as raw meat. 
11. Purchased snacks and food that wouldn’t require cooking. We had a lot of bread, peanut butter, beef jerky, nuts, and fruits for snacking on (or if we ran out of meals). 
12. Charged our phones, computers, and iPods. We probably should have purchased some battery operated chargers too, but we didn’t get a chance to do that.
13. Filled the cars with gas.
14. Parked facing the street in our driveway. That way, we didn’t have to worry about backing out.
15. Picked up small items from the yard. We had some flower pots and building materials that could have been blown around so we just made sure we picked it all up and put it in the shed.
16. Stocked up on paper products and plastic ware. That way we wouldn’t have to worry about doing dishes. We also wanted plenty of trash bags, toilet paper, and paper towel.
17. Made sure all prescriptions were filled. We didn’t want to run out of medicine if the pharmacy was closed. 
18. Picked up things from the basement floor in case of flooding. We live on the side of a hill, so we didn’t have to worry too much about flooding but we wanted to be prepared just in case. 
19 Took out some cash. We didn’t take out large amounts of cash but we had some paper money on hand in case we needed it.
20. Stocked up on toiletries. You'll want to make sure you enough of your soap, shampoo, face wash, feminine hygiene products, and all of that good stuff. 

   So there you have it! That was our hurricane preparation list. Most of these things were easy because we just live this way all of the time. My dream is to make the house more self-sufficient so that won’t have to do much to prepare in the future (like converting the fireplace back to a wood-burning fireplace, fixing the chimney, getting a gas stove or one that can run on propane, and purchasing a generator that runs on propane). I learned a lot this fall and preparing helped me feel like I had more control if disaster was to strike. My heart goes out to all of the people in New York and along the east coast who couldn’t do anything to prepare or had to evacuate their homes! Please donate to help out the Hurricane Sandy survivors if you can! 

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