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September is National Preparedness Month. Are You Ready to Weather the Storm?

Sep 20, 2017 06:00AM ● By Juli Couture

Storm Surges Batter Swampscott

September has been recognized by the Department of Homeland Security as National Preparedness Month, and if you’ve been paying attention to the weather lately, it is not hard to see why. Nestled in New England, we’ve dodged many a hurricane bullet, however, we are not immune to other severe weather emergencies. Here, our biggest nuisances have been Nor’easters, blizzards and the errant powerful thunderstorm. With all of these storms bringing coastal flooding, high winds and power outages, it is wise to plan ahead to get yourself prepared in case of a severe weather emergency. Creating a plan and preparing for an emergency well before one happens can ensure the safety of your family and property, and doing so well in advance can save you from long lines, depleted supplies and chaotic stores.

Getting real-time information and warnings about severe weather is the first step in getting prepared. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association is a great source for everything from sunspot activity to weather forecasts and severe storm warnings. They have an app available that will give you up to the minute weather tracking. The National Weather Service also has an app called NWS NOW which is partnered with the NOAA which will give you accurate information and radar imagery. There is another app called ICE: Personal Safety App which stores your emergency contacts, locates your nearest police stations and hospitals and allows you to instantly send your location out to ask for help.

Flood Waters Claim Cars in Swampscott

So now that you have instant warnings in the palm of your hand, how should you prepare? Well, first take a look in the cabinet and see what you have. Consider the possibility of being without power for an undetermined amount of time, or being unable to safely leave your home if there is heavy snowfall or downed trees and powerlines. You would want to have enough bottled water and non-perishable food to last about a week. You should have a gallon of water per person per day. As far as food, you may not have to go out and stock a storm cellar filled with canned goods. Take a look around at what you already have, and replenish as needed. If you have pets, it’s always a good idea to have an extra bag of food and clean drinking water stashed as well. You should also keep a store of some baby wipes and water used only for washing in the event clean water isn’t available. You should also have a month’s supply of needed medications for yourself and pets and a first aid kit with the typical essentials. You may wish to purchase a couple of charger banks for electronics to keep phones charged when the power is out. Last but not least, always keep a good supply of flashlights, fresh batteries, battery-operated radio and candles.  

Sunspots 2017 Partial Eclipse

You should also keep photocopies of IDs, medical information, emergency contacts as well as a bit of cash in a waterproof container. If power is out or computers are down for an extended time, you should have cash on-hand in case you are unable to access your accounts. This is especially important now since the recent increase of coronal mass ejections or CMEs and sunspot activity. CMEs have been known, to interfere with cell reception, satellites and radio. In certain patterns, CMEs can also knock out power grids. 

If you have animals, pets or the farm variety, it very important to have a number of options readily available to keep them safe in an emergency. Research pet-friendly hotels and shelters in case of evacuation and create a plan to secure the animals' environment in case of shelter in place. Be sure to have all animals’ identification and immunization records available as well as any medications, supplies and food. The Humane Society has a wonderful site dedicated on how to plan for our furry friends in case of emergency which you can find here.

Long Gas Lines Before Storm

It is recommended to change batteries in smoke and CO2 alarms twice a year, when we set the clocks ahead and back. While you’re changing them, be sure to also test them to make sure they are in working order. While you’re going room to room checking alarms, it is a good time to locate emergency shut-off valves for gas, electricity and water and map them out for easy reference later. Once you find you’ve made your way to the garage or basement, be sure to check that your generator is in good working condition and that you have back-up supplies for it such as cords, gas, oil, etc. Never, ever run a generator inside of your home or garage, run it outside in a well-ventilated area. Many accidental CO2 deaths occur each year due to the improper use of generators.

Then you should take a look in the garage or basement and see if you have anything to protect your windows from extreme cold in case of loss of power and heat for an extended period of time. Plastic-shrink-wrap sheeting and tape is always good to have on hand.  While you’re in there, go ahead and grab the brush trimmers and limb cutters and head out to the yard to clear any dead or rotting trees. You will significantly lower the chance of damage to your home or property if you clear these away before they clear themselves…through your roof or onto your car, for instance.

Unshoveled Exit

Next, check the exits of your home and make sure they’re clear. If there’s snow on the ground, be certain to shovel out the exits so you can get far away from the house in case of a fire, also so emergency crews will not have any issues getting into your home should a rescue be needed. Also clear away any snow or items that have the potential to block exhaust vents from the house. Blocked vents can cause CO2 to back up into the house, causing accidental death.

Lastly, it is a good time to draft up escape routes and rally points with the family. Choose a rally point that can be easily reached from any of the exits in the home in case one exit is unavailable. Don’t forget to practice your escape plan with the entire family. Sure, maybe it’s not the most fun way to spend a half hour on a Sunday, and your older kids will probably roll their eyes and be embarrassed as they’re jogging out to the rally point, but remind them how important it is for everyone’s safety in case the unthinkable happens.

Nobody likes to imagine worst-case scenarios, and we all like to think that ‘it will never happen to us,’ but if you stay informed, and prepare before disaster strikes, you and your family can rest easy knowing you’re ready to weather any storm.

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