Energy adviser: Resolve to prepare for emergencies

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A winter wind storm or ice storm can sometimes knock out power around Southwest Washington, leaving homes cold and dark. While Clark Public Utilities has line workers available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to restore power as fast as possible, it’s still a good plan to have a home emergency-disaster kit ready to go.

We’re lucky in Clark County that weather-related outages are rare and usually short-lived, but a power outage could also be the result of something more serious such as a major earthquake, a forest fire or heavy rain with resulting flooding. Repairs to power lines during these kinds of disasters could take longer than a couple days and it’s best to be prepared.

Packing a kit

Utility experts recommend that your home’s emergency preparedness kit include food, water and other supplies to keep your family going for at least three days, if not longer. A basic kit should include a hand-crank flashlight or one with fresh batteries, a battery-operated radio, a three-day supply of drinking water and non-perishable food such as peanut butter, canned tuna, energy bars and crackers, and a manual can opener. It’s also a good idea to add in a first-aid kit and extra batteries in a variety of sizes. While you may want to pack some matches, for safety reasons don’t plan to use candles for light or heat.

If you use a land line telephone, make sure to have at least one phone with a cord. Cordless phones will not work during a power outage.

Pack emergency items in easy-to-carry, clearly labeled containers and store them in an easily accessible place. Be sure to let everyone in your family know where to find the kit.

Protecting your home

In an outage, immediately turn off all electrical appliances, especially heating or cooking units. Turn down your thermostat and turn off the circuit breaker for your water heater. This will help reduce initial demand for electricity when power is restored. Turn off and unplug other electrical equipment including computers, TVs and DVD players. Leave one light switch on in the room you’re in so you’ll know when power has been restored and do not turn equipment on again until lights have returned to their normal brightness.

Keep laptop computers fully charged and protect your electronic equipment with quality surge suppressors. If you have an automatic garage door opener, know how to open the door manually.

Open the refrigerator door as seldom as possible when power is out so cold air stays inside. Food will stay frozen for about two days in a full freezer, or about one day in a freezer less than half full.

Going another step

The American Red Cross recommends that you have a two-week supply of drinking water on hand, about one gallon per person per day. It also advises you have a two-week food supply and a seven-day supply of medications. Keep copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates and insurance policies) in a fireproof box. Make sure to have extra cash and family contact information. Consider everyone who would use the kit (infants, seniors, pets, etc.) as you assemble supplies. For details, visit http://emergency.cdc.gov/preparedness/kit/disasters/

Reporting outages

Clark Public Utilities will do everything it can to avoid outages by keeping the system well maintained. However, the weather is not predictable and sometimes the power goes out unexpectedly.

Be sure the utility has your correct phone number in its computer system before an outage occurs and if you do lose power, call the PowerLine at 360-992-8000 to make a report as soon as possible. If the outage affects only a few customers, the utility may not know your power is out until you call.

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to energyadviser@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.