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Recently Pacific Gas and Electric announced to its customers in California they will be shutting off power for up to five days whenever weather conditions such as high winds could cause damage to lines and ignite a fire. This year PG&E was forced into bankruptcy after being found responsible for not only the Camp Fire last fall, which destroyed 14,000 homes, but also several other fires. You may not live in California but how soon will this be the norm for power companies everywhere seeking to protect themselves?
At the time of this writing most of the people in the countries of Argentina and Uruguay are without power, yes, the whole country.
You know or should know if you have been reading here or following us on Facebook, that the government is encouraging every family to have a minimum of a months’ worth of food in their homes.
The Department of Homeland Security is warning, in a report titled: Surviving a Catastrophic Power Outage, that the electric grid is now the “prime target” of terrorists, and Americans need to be prepared for power outage of up to six months. The report says that, “People no longer keep enough essentials within their homes, reducing their ability to sustain themselves during an extended, prolonged outage. We need to improve individual preparedness.”
For now let us concentrate on preparing for a summer outage but soon, together, we will plan for longer.
Following are a few steps you can take to help make a summer power outage a little more bearable:
- Stock your freezer now! We have talked about this in the past but have you done it? Place bags of ice or better yet blocks of ice or plastic containers or freezer bags filled with water in your freezer to fill all the empty space. When the power fails you have now extended the time your foods will remain safe to eat and you now have safe drinking water when the ice defrosts.
- Make signs reading: DO NOT OPEN and place on the refrigerator and freezer. Make a list of items needed before opening the door so you can grab and close quickly.
- Keep your laundry caught up. Nothing quite like a hot day with no power and no clean clothes to change into.
- Find a cooling center by calling the police department or fire department now. They will know the plan.
- It’s O.K. to raid your Emergency kit… That’s right, 120 hour kits are not just for earthquakes and hurricanes but for any emergency. Your kit should include Instant Cold Packs. Place them on the neck or forehead for the best results.
- Mylar Blankets from your kits placed to cover the sunniest windows will cut down on the heat entering your home. These blankets are large enough to cover a sliding door without piecing. You will be amazed how quickly the temperature in a room will drop when you cover your windows with these blankets. Last week we had three days with temperatures over 100 degrees. Naturally, this is when our air conditioner failed. We placed mylar blankets in all our east and west facing windows and the temperature inside our home remained around 80 degrees at the hottest part of the day. If you don’t have mylar blankets, get them now and if the power fails, you will be able to keep your home cool longer.
- Create shade. Remember not only do the sun’s rays create heat in your home, but so do all those hard surface areas such as patios, walkways and driveways. As these heat up, the heat they emit raises the temperature in your home. Shade those areas to keep your hard surfaces cool.
- Get wet. Take a shower and don’t dry your hair, take a dip in the pool and don’t dry off (if the pool is in the sun don’t stay in too long), run through a sprinkler, keep a spray bottle nearby and mist your face (also great for your complexion), use wet compresses on your neck or head, keep a wet washcloth by your bed to cool yourself through the night, wrap your head in a wet bandanna, or soak your feet.
- Drink lots of water, lemonade or juices, but never anything with caffeine or alcohol as these will raise your body temperature. Sodas will only increase your thirst. Popsicles are also a great way to stay hydrated, eat them first before they defrost. If you are thirsty, you have waited too long to drink.
- Eat cold foods. This is the time to eat sandwiches, salads and other foods that are not heated. Avoid large portions of protein foods as they will increase body temperature. Eat smaller, more frequent meals.
- Cook outdoors if you feel you must have a hot meal.
- Keep blinds and curtains closed.
- Move activities, including eating and sleeping, to the coolest room in the house. This will normally be on the lowest level of your home and in a room with an exposure that does not receive direct sunlight.
- Play board games or read, but don’t be too active.
- If you don’t have mylar blankets place your outdoor umbrellas outside the windows receiving direct sun. Outdoor canopies, tarps, and dining flies also work well.
- Wear loose, light-colored clothing.
- Sit next to a battery-powered fan. Remember fans do not cool the air, they only move it so don’t leave fan running when you leave the room. You become cooler as the moisture on your skin evaporates. This is the reason you want to stay wet! Now is the time to purchase if you don’t have one.
- Skip the exercise routine and working outside.
- Go Shopping! No kidding. Go to the grocery store or mall and window shop. Taking in a movie or going bowling are also “cool” pastimes, if they have power.
- The elderly, young children, pregnant women and those taking diuretics are most vulnerable to heat-related emergencies. If a member of your family is taking any medications, check with your doctor or pharmacist to determine if they are more susceptible to the effects of the heat.
- Check on housebound and elderly neighbors and friends – and get them to a cooling center. Be sure there is a plan for their care when the cooling center closes. Many centers close for the night. Nighttime can be the most dangerous time of the day. We assume the temperature will be lower at night, but this is not always the case – especially in the city. All those roads and sidewalks retain heat during the day and as they release it at night, the temperature remains high. Same thing for suburban congestion – several homes on an acre of land with homes just a few feet from each other is a bad idea, but a reality.
- Visit a friend or relative out of town. The temperature in the city is usually several degrees higher than the temperature in a country setting.
- Watch for signs of heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.
- When it cools down at night, if it cools down, open all the windows. Close them again mid-morning as it starts to heat up.
- Remember your pets. Bring them inside or place them in a shaded area that catches breezes. Be sure they have plenty of water available.
- If you need to go outside, wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen.
Heat-related emergencies are very serious. Add a power outage and the results are deadly. Protect yourself now by accumulating items that will help you get through the emergency and learn how to use them. Teach your family members the dangers and warning signs for medical emergencies now.
Watch for more tips on the Totally Ready Facebook page.