More than a week after a major storm took the Northeast by surprise, over 100,000 residents in Connecticut are still without power and facing freezing temperatures. The October storm felled utility lines across several states with more than two million folks left in the dark for the first few days. Though the nation’s crumbling infrastructure is an issue each year as ice and snow cause these sorts of problems, having such a powerful storm hit in late October caught everyone off-guard.
Whether we chalk it up to climate change or merely forces of nature, natural disasters – including winter storms – are a fact of life. Many municipalities suggest that citizens make survival kits for themselves and their families to get them through 72 hours without outside assistance. But, as we are seeing, it might be well-worth planning for even longer, just to be on the safe side.
There are a number of supplies that should be included in every disaster kit, no matter whether you live near an earthquake fault, in a tsunami zone, or in blizzard country. According to 72Hours.org, the basics include:
- Water – calculated at one gallon a day per person
- Food – canned, ready-to-eat, and not requiring water to prepare
- A can opener, plates or bowls, utensils, and any other food-related needs
- First Aid kit
- Unscented liquid bleach and an eyedropper for water purification
- Clothes – for cold weather and rain, including gloves/mittens, hats, and boots
- Blankets or sleeping bags for each person
- Heavy work gloves, a crowbar, utility and/or pocket knife, hammer, nails, adjustable wrench, dust mask, rope, duct tape, permanent market, paper, and plastic sheeting/tarps
- Flashlight, battery-operated or hand-cranked radio, cell phone and charger, a whistle, and fully charged batteries
- Toilet paper, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, and other personal sanitary supplies
- Heavy-duty plastic trash bags and a plastic bucket for waste and sanitation
- Medications, pet supplies, and any other special-needs items (prescription glasses, hearing aids, syringes, etc)
- Copies of important documents (passports, drivers licenses, health insurance cards, etc), emergency contact information, photos of family members and pets, emergency cash in small denominations, emergency health information, and spare keys
For winter storms, additional items include:
- Rock salt, sand, and snow shovels
- An emergency heating source and a sufficient supply of heating fuel or dry firewood
- A back-up generator, fuel, and related supplies
If a power outage is expected, there are a few extra steps you can take:
- Turn your refrigerator and freezer up to their coldest settings. (Be sure to turn them back down when power is restored.)
- Plastic your windows, insulate your pipes, and let your faucets drip to avoid freezing.
- If you water supply is in jeopardy, fill your tub and extra containers with water to use for sanitary needs.
- Make sure you know how to manually open an electric garage door opener.
- Unplug electronic equipment that may be damaged if the power surges.
Know the people and resources in your immediate area, be familiar with possible “escape” routes, and always keep your car at least half full of gas. Having good relationships with your neighbors will always make life a more pleasant and easeful experience. During a disaster, it could also save your life… or theirs.