December 2, 2012

Be prepared for power outages

When Hurricane Sandy made landfall near Atlantic City, N.J., on Oct. 30, east coast electric utility companies from South Carolina to New York reported power outages effecting well over 8 million homes and businesses, including 2.1 million customers in New York. More than a week later, nearly two million customers were still waiting for their power to be restored.

I went to bed that night expecting the worst. Fortunately, it never came.

Nonetheless, North Country residents are no strangers to harsh, dangerous, unpredictable weather. Snowstorms, blizzards, hammering rain, hail, sleet, flooding, prolonged periods of sub-zero temperatures, heat waves, drought — we’ve seen it all. Yet, many of us still remain unprepared.

The simple truth is that our electricity can fail at any time. And, for much of the year, short interruptions in electric service can be tolerated. But, as storms like Sandy (or the Ice Storm of 1998, which was the weather event of my lifetime) so frighteningly illustrate, power failures can leave homes without heat, lighting, water or a way to cook food for prolonged periods of time. And winter weather conditions, like ice, can make getting out (or in) difficult or even impossible.

What’s more, during an emergency community-service organizations such as police and fire departments may be unable to respond in a timely manner.

Preparing now for power outages can make it a lot easier to keep your family safe and warm during an extended winter power failure. You should have an emergency survival kit with provisions stored where you can readily get to it. It should contain emergency lighting; i.e. flashlights and/or lanterns with spare batteries and bulbs, candles and/or kerosene or oil lamps (which are generally brighter than candles and easier to read by), and matches or lighters.

If you have outdoor solar lighting, you may be able to bring those lights inside during the evening. Even if they don’t provide very much illumination, they can help you find your way around in the dark.

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