Now that “once-a-century” storms are occurring with frightening frequency, it is critical to prepare for power outages and plan for the worst-case scenario of being without power for up to a week or longer.
At a minimum, keep a stash of candles, matches, flashlights, and batteries in an easy-to-find location, so you can get to them in the dark, if necessary. Store several gallon jugs of water in your pantry or garage along with canned goods (and a manual can-opener), peanut butter, crackers, and other non-perishables to get you through a day or two without an oven, stove, refrigerator, or microwave.
When a severe storm is predicted, you have time for more preparations, in areas including:
Gas: Fill your tank before the storm hits. Without electricity, gas stations can’t pump gas, and you can expect shortages and long lines post-storm. After Hurricane Sandy last year, gas was even rationed in several local communities. If you have a gas-powered generator, fill your gas containers, too.
Water: Fill the bathtub so you’ll have water to flush toilets if you have a well powered by electricity. (Just open the tank lid and pour water in to get the flush mechanism to work.) If you have a gas or propane stove, or even an outdoor grill, fill big pots with water for cooking. Never use a gas stove or oven as a means of heat—the fumes can be fatal. Also, if you have a hot-water heater, it is a good source of emergency water if necessary.
Refrigeration: With outages of 24 to 48 hours, a fully packed refrigerator and freezer will stay cold/frozen as long as you refrain from constantly opening it. If you anticipate longer periods without power, fill large plastic containers with water and freeze them (this can take a day or two, depending on the size of the container), then store them in the freezer. Move some of the frozen containers to the refrigerator once the power goes out.
While they will keep things cold in both compartments, you’ll need to use up items in your freezer within another day or two. Have separate coolers to hold frequently needed items so you’re not opening and closing the refrigerator and freezer more than is necessary.
Hygiene: This is kind of Little House on the Prairie, but you can take sponge baths with water heated on your gas-powered stove or grill. Personal hygiene wipes and dry shampoos go a long way toward keeping you feeling fresh.
Information: It can be spotty, but smartphones can access the Internet; or get weather reports from a battery-operated or crank radio. Pre-charge mobile battery packs to keep cellphones going (for up to a couple of days with limited use).
Entertainment: Download some movies or television shows (or have DVDs handy) to watch on your laptop. You can recharge computers and cellphones at community warming centers and businesses with power. A deck of cards and a few board games can also help pass time on dark, powerless nights.
For more basic tips, visit basicsofeverything.com.