I read this article a couple of days ago and thought it would be a smart thing to know.
By Julie Bandy
Recent storms have left thousands of homes without power for many days. Would a massive power outage throw your family into chaos? Or, do you have a plan?
Whether at home, work or at play, when an emergency strikes, families need to be prepared.
"We strongly encourage people to take a little bit of time before an emergency to do some basic preparedness activities," says Terry Sicilia, executive vice president of programs and services for the Red Cross.
"Under our Together We Prepare initiative, we encourage people to make a disaster plan, build a disaster kit, get trained in CPR and lifesaving skills, volunteer with a local chapter to help others and give lifesaving blood," says Sicilia.
The American Red Cross offers safety tips to help families prepare before and after a disaster.
Be proactive The time to prepare is before a disaster or emergency occurs. Everyone in the household should know where to go and what to do in the event of different situations. Once a plan is in place, make sure everyone in your family is informed and practices the plan together. The Red Cross recommends that each family identify one out-of-town person known by all family members to contact in case of an emergency. That person can act as a liaison should family become separated.
Build a disaster kitWhether you need to evacuate or can stay in your home, a well-packed disaster kit can save lives. Put your supplies in an easy-to-carry container such as a backpack, duffel bag or plastic bin. Be sure to include a flashlight, batteries, battery-operated radio, bottled water and a small supply of high nutrition nonperishable food. The Red Cross recommends one gallon of water per person (and pet) per day. Include medical supplies such as family medications and a first-aid kit. If you have infants, pack diapers and infant formula.
It's also wise to have a couple of plastic coolers available for food storage. Pack a digital thermometer. This will come in handy if you need to check the freshness of perishable foods once power is restored.
Your disaster kit should include some cash for emergencies. If possible, put away enough cash to provide for your family for a couple of days. If the power is out, many restaurants and stores cannot process your credit cards because their machines are electric-powered.
Blackout safety tipsIf power is lost, the American Red Cross suggests families use flashlights, not candles. A burning candle is a fire hazard.
Turn off all electrical equipment in use when the power went out. This includes air conditioning, computers, televisions, etc.
outside. Plug electrical appliances directly into the generator. Do not attempt to connect the generator to the family's electrical system.
Use your battery-operated radio to follow broadcasts for updated information.
Avoid using the telephone (cellular and land) if a large number of homes in your area have been affected. The emergency services agencies need to have access to the phone lines. Only use the phone in case of an emergency.
Children and pets need to be reassured that all is OK. If a parent remains calm and controlled, other family members are likely to follow the lead.
During and after a power outage, care must be taken with food to prolong freshness and prevent food poisoning. Avoid opening the refrigerator or freezer. Food stored there will stay colder longer. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold enough for at least a couple of hours. A half-full freezer will hold up for 24 hours, a full freezer for 40 hours.
If the power outage will be longer than two to four hours, pack perishables such as milk, dairy products, butter, eggs, meat, fish and leftovers in an iced cooler. If the power will be off for an extended period, pack your freezer foods in an iced cooler as well.
As soon as the power returns, check the food. If the frozen food has ice crystals and is above 40 degrees Farenheit, you can refreeze. Perishable food from the refrigerator should not be above 40 degrees for more than two hours. It's best to dispose the items rather than chance food poisoning. For information on food freshness, read this chart
Check your disaster supplies kit every six months to exchange items that will expire.For more tips on how to keep yourself and your family safe during all types of disasters (both man-made and natural) contact your local Red Cross chapter or log on to http://www.redcross.org/