Hurricane Sandy is bearing down on the east coast today and I'm receiving tons of preparation tips from various sources. So I thought I'd share a compilation. And remember — power outage tips work for regular scenarios, too, when winter weather takes a toll on your electrical lines or you're stuck without additional supplies for a few days. It's always smart to be prepared.
The folks at Kohler Generators share these 10 safety tips:
Develop a weather emergency plan. The plan should include a list of important phone numbers in case you need to quickly evacuate your home (i.e. doctors, family members, etc.). The plan should also include an evacuation route, as well as an established meeting place in case you lose communication with loved ones.
Create a storm bucket. Get a backpack or purchase a large plastic bucket with a lid from a local hardware store or home center. Stuff the backpack or bucket with three days' worth of food and water. Other items should include a flashlight, battery powered/hand-cranked radio, first aid kit, money, medications and a CD or USB drive containing important documents. Store the kit in a place that is easily accessible in an emergency situation.
Turn off major appliances. Shut off your water heater, stove and air conditioning unit. Unplug other appliances such as TVs, stereos, microwaves and computers. This will prevent damage to appliances and possible overloads to the system when power is restored.
Leave a light on. It sounds simple, but leave at least one light on in your home so you can see when power is restored.
Stay away from fallen wires, flooded areas and debris. Treat all down wires and anything touching them as though they have electricity running through it.
Do not connect portable generators directly to the electrical system of your home. Electricity could flow backward into the power lines and endanger lives. Plug appliances directly into the portable generator, or hire a qualified electrician to connect the portable generator to your electrical system.
If you're running a portable generator, be sure to use properly rated extension cords (electrical load and length). Also, make sure the portable generator is properly vented to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Do not place a portable generator in your home or an enclosed space with limited ventilation like a garage or a screened porch.
Familiarize yourself with your main electrical panel. You may have to turn off the main breaker or have to reset circuit breakers after a power outage.
Inspect the area around your electricity meter. If you detect or suspect any damage, call your local utility provider.
Consider installing a commercial-grade, standby generator. A standby generator is permanently installed outside the home similar to a central air conditioning unit. It runs on natural gas or propane and hooks up to existing gas lines. Standby generators turn on automatically when the power shuts off. A transfer switch constantly monitors utility power and transfers the electrical load to the generator if power is lost, protecting the home even if the home owner is away. A standby generator can power critical and sophisticated appliances and systems in a home, including lights, heating/cooling systems, refrigerators, sump pumps, home security systems and more.
And the Insurance Information Institute shares these tips:
Protect your property. Hurricane-proof your home by keeping wind and water out; secure roof shingles and seal any openings, cracks or holes. Take inside all outdoor furniture so that these items do not become dangerous projectiles.
Create a home inventory. A home inventory is simply a list of your personal possessions together with information about their value.
And of course, keep your pets in mind and plan ahead for their safety. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) urges pet owners to develop an emergency evacuation plan to keep their families and pets safe.
"The best thing you can do for you and your pet is to plan ahead before Hurricane Sandy makes landfall," said Dr. Dick Green, director of Disaster Response for the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response team. "Don't wait until the last minute to see if Hurricane Sandy will affect your community. Act now and tune in to your local news to monitor the hurricane's path. And remember, please take your pets with you if you need to evacuate."
According to the ASPCA's national study on disaster preparedness, more than one-third (35 percent) of dog and cat owners don't have a disaster preparedness plan in place. Further, only about a quarter of dog owners (28 percent) and cat owners (24 percent) say their animals are micro-chipped. The ASPCA urges pet owners to develop an emergency plan that accounts for the safety of their animals and to stay informed about the potential for evacuation in their area.
The following tips will help pet owners prepare for natural disasters:
Obtain a rescue alert sticker, which will let rescuers know that pets are inside your home. Make sure it is visible and that it includes: 1) the types and number of pets in your household; 2) the name of your veterinarian; and 3) your veterinarian's phone number.
Always bring pets indoors at the first sign or warning of a storm or disaster. Pets can become disoriented and wander away from home during a crisis.
Make sure all pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification. The ASPCA recommends micro-chipping your pet as a more permanent form of identification.
Arrange a safe haven for your pets in the event of evacuation. Do not leave your pets behind.
Keep a pet emergency kit and supplies handy with items such as medical records, water, pet food and medications, and pet first aid supplies.
Most importantly, stay safe while Sandy is blowing winds of 85mph!
Teena Hammond has published more than 2,000 articles in People and W magazines, Women's Wear Daily, and in dozens of newspapers and books. She also wrote a home improvement, remodeling and decor column that ran in Gannett newspapers nationwide. She's interested in all things green and would love to hear from you with your story ideas.