In case Southwest Washington residents needed to be reminded, last week’s storm made clear that everyone should have a plan and an emergency kit at the ready to stay safe and relatively comfortable during an extreme weather event.
“Every household should have at least three days’ worth of emergency supplies on hand at all times,” said Clark Public Utilities Safety Manager Justin Zucconi. “During a large storm or other emergency event, every trip away from home is a risk. By being ready ahead of time, you minimize your chances to become stranded or caught up in a hazardous situation.”
If you didn’t have a kit during this latest storm, let it be your inspiration to build one. If you dipped into yours over the last weekend, make a note of everything you used, check to see what’s at or near expiration and restock it accordingly.
Start with your communications plan. Everyone in the household should know how to contact one another during an outage or other emergency. It’s also smart to include the contact information of vulnerable or elderly friends and family who may need assistance during a prolonged event.
Next, create an inventory list of all the critical supplies everyone in your household may need over a three-day period. That should include a gallon of water per day, per person. Your kit should also include nonperishable food, a radio, flashlights, batteries, diapers, power blocks to charge smart devices and whatever other necessities are specific to your home. Don’t forget pet supplies and any medications that may be essential. Leave your list inside your kit, that way you’ll have it for reference when it comes time to stock up again.
Once you’ve gathered everything together, store it in a durable tote or a sturdy bag — one that’s easy to stow and easy to carry, should you need to leave home. It’s also smart to label it as emergency supplies and store it in a cool, dry and easily accessible location. Avoid the temptation to leave it in the back of a closet or deep in a storage room where it would be difficult to find in the dark, or might get buried by other goods.
Always keep your vehicles full of fuel or as close to it as possible and fill up just before a storm hits. Fuel stations may not have supply or the electricity to power the pumps during a major event.
It’s also wise to prepare your home for power outages. Plug sensitive electronics and appliances into surge protectors to protect from potentially damaging interruptions to power. If your garage door is equipped with an automatic opener, learn to open it manually. Have a camp stove on hand to cook during a prolonged outage, just remember to use them in a well ventilated area outdoors.
If there’s an outage in your neighborhood, report it to Clark Public Utilities by calling 360-992-8000 or using the mobile-friendly online reporting tool. If a power line goes down, stay at least 30 feet away from it. Don’t try to drive over it or block it with your vehicle. Unless there’s a fire, injury or immediate danger, don’t call 911 to report the outage. Doing so can actually delay the utility’s response. Only call 911 if there’s an emergency requiring police, fire or an ambulance.
Generators can make prolonged outages more comfortable, especially if you live in areas of frequent outages.
“Portable generators can be used to power life-sustaining medical equipment, pet enclosure lighting, a space heater or refrigerator,” Zucconi said. “Whatever you want to power should be plugged into the generator directly with a properly rated extension cord. They should also be operated outdoors and far from the home to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.”
Find a list of recommended emergency supplies and additional planning tips at clarkpublicutilities.com or on the Red Cross website, redcross.org.
Energy Adviser is produced by Clark Public Utilities and relies on the expertise of utility energy counselors and staff, who provide conservation and energy use information. To contact us call 360-992-3355, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.clarkpublicutilities.com.