The howling winds of winter storms may bring more than just cold and snow. They may bring down power lines, shutting off heat and light for anyone in the path of the storm.
According to the Edison Electric Institute, weather-related events cause 70 percent of all power outages. The ferocity of last year's hurricanes led to millions of households without power; and winter storms, with their potential power outages, are just around the corner.
Where a power outage will occur is as unpredictable as the weather, but you can take steps to be prepared. Here are 10 essentials to have on hand:
1. Water: Store one gallon per person per day. Keep a three-day supply of water per person (two quarts for drinking and two quarts for food preparation and sanitation). Store water in plastic containers like soft drink bottles.
2. Food: Store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food like ready-to-eat canned meats, soups, fruits and vegetables. Keep a selection of juices, high-energy foods, vitamins and any special foods, like food for infants.
3. Indoor-Safe Portable Heater: For heat, use a portable heater that is designed to run without electricity, using disposable one-pound propane cylinders. An indoor-safe portable heater uses an oxygen depletion system (ODS) that automatically shuts off the heater if the oxygen level is reduced below acceptable standards within an enclosed area. Do not use overnight, or while sleeping.
4. First Aid Kit: Keep one in the house and one in the car. For a complete list of supplies, visit the American Red Cross Web site at www.redcross.org. Make sure to include non-prescription drugs like aspirin, antacid and anti-bacterial ointment.
5. Portable Radio and Batteries: Stay tuned to your local news and weather to check for storm and rescue updates and, in worst-case situations, mandatory evacuation warnings. A NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) weather radio gives the most complete weather information available.
6. Cell Phone: Using a cell phone is the best way to keep in contact with family members and emergency rescue teams. If you don't have a cell phone, investigate the pay-as-you-go cell phone and activate it in advance of the coming storm.
7. Tools and Supplies: Have the following on hand: battery-powered flashlights and lanterns; extra batteries; mess kits or paper towels, cups, plates, plastic utensils; toilet paper and towelettes; personal hygiene items; plastic bags and ties; plastic bucket with lid.
8. Clothing and Bedding: Have at least one complete change of clothing and footwear per person. Dress in layers of clothing and wear a hat, even in bed, to stay warm. Wear thermal underwear and socks. Use several blankets or sleeping bags for extra warmth.
9. Camp Stove: A propane-fueled camp stove is an easy way to heat meals and water for bathing. Always use in a well-ventilated area or outside.
10. Positive Attitude: No matter how bad things get, every storm will pass.
It's best to plan ahead and purchase the emergency items you will need before severe storm warnings. A last-minute rush to a store with empty shelves only adds more stress to an already-stressful situation. Start with these 10 essentials to stay way ahead of the storm.
For more information, visit www.redcross.org, www.fema.gov, and www.noaa.gov.