What if your electricity were to go out now? Would you be prepared?
By REBECCA SLOAN
You know the drill.
First the weather forecaster predicts high winds and severe thunderstorms.
Next thing you know, that 200-year-old maple tree in the neighbor's front yard takes a dive for the electric lines.
Two seconds later, the house is dark, the telephone is dead, and where on God's green earth did you put the flashlight?
Get ready: This spring, be prepared for power outages before they leave you fumbling around in the dark.
"To be ready for power outages, we recommend the 72-hour rule of preparedness. No matter where you live, always have enough food and supplies on hand to last for 72 hours," said Linda Beil, director of Trumbull County's Emergency Management Agency.
Some essential supplies include:
Flashlights with batteries (one flashlight per family member).
Battery-operated AM/FM radio and clock.
Canned, freeze-dried or dehydrated food such as powdered milk, cereal, peanut butter and soup.
Water for cooking, drinking and flushing toilets.
Baby supplies for an infant.
Nonelectric can opener.
List of important telephone numbers
A full tank of gas in the car.
Gather them up: Beil recommends making sure you know exactly where the supplies are before the power goes out so you won't have to stumble around in the dark in search of them.
"It's a good idea to gather supplies together at the first threat of severe weather," she said.
When the power does go out, call the electric company, the local fire department or 911 to notify them of the outage.
"If the telephone is dead, use a cellular phone or see if a neighbor's telephone is working," Beil advised, adding, & quot;Also call 911, the local fire department or police if you see any downed power lines. & quot;
It might be a while before the electricity comes back on, so once you have located your power outage supplies, it's time to take a walk around the house and take care of some other business.
IN THE KITCHEN
Keeping food from spoiling is top priority in the kitchen, so throw a few blankets over the refrigerator and freezer for extra insulation and avoid opening the refrigerator door.
If the door isn't opened, food will keep in a full refrigerator for up to 24 hours and for as long as 48 hours in a full freezer.
If the refrigerator or freezer is only half full or close to empty, food will not keep as long.
To reduce the number of times you'll need to get into the fridge, fill a cooler with ice and pack it with the food you'll want to get at immediately or frequently.
Although food in an unopened refrigerator or freezer can stay fresh for a while, when the power comes back on, there are certain foods that should be discarded if they have been sitting in questionable temperatures for too long.
Eggs, fresh meats, cold cuts, poultry, hot dogs and mayonnaise should be discarded if they've been kept above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 2 hours.
Milk, fish and yogurt can spoil in less than 2 hours at the same temperature.
Hard cheeses, butter, margarine and condiments such as mustard, ketchup, jam and pickles should keep until the power returns.
Hot meal: Having a hot meal is another top priority when the power is out.
A charcoal grill or a propane camp stove will cook your vittles, but make sure never to use outdoor stoves inside.
Fondue pots can be used inside as long as their fuel is approved for indoor use.
If your home has a fireplace, you can wrap some types of food in foil and cook them in the fire.
Another tip: Since water will be in short supply, it's a good idea to use paper plates and plastic utensils to avoid a stack of dirty dishes.
IN THE BASEMENT
If you rely on a sump pump to keep your basement dry, beware of flooding during power outages.
As everyone knows, electricity and water don't mix, so before flooding has a chance to occur, turn off the water heater, furnace and sump pump if it is nonsubmersible, and unplug the washer and dryer if they are in the basement.
"If the basement is already flooded, don't go down there. The power could come back on and you could be in danger. Call the electric company," Beil said.
If the flooding in your basement is severe, have all electrical equipment including washing machines, dryers and spare refrigerators checked by an electrician before trying to operate them again.
Hot water tank: Also remember that if the power has been out for a long time, it is a good idea to turn off the hot water heater breaker until the tank has a chance to fill up again. Doing so will protect the unit's heating elements, which can burn up if they operate for too long while the tank is empty.
If your basement has flooded and you don't have a sump pump, volunteer fire departments will sometimes pump out flooded basements. Check with your local department to see what your options are.
IN THE BATHROOM
If your home has its own well and water pump, you probably won't be able to flush the toilet during a power outage.
If you must flush, do so manually by pouring a bucket of water directly into the toilet bowl and flushing at the same time. It's a good idea to keep some water on hand for this purpose.
If you have municipal water, you might have limited amounts of water available for flushing the toilet even when the power is out.
IN THE GARAGE
If you have a garage with automatic electric doors, make sure that you know how to operate the doors in case of a power outage. Check the owner's manual for instructions on how to disengage the drive mechanism so that you can open the door manually.
If you do not have a manufacturer's instruction book, call the company that installed the doors.
XAdditional source: Northeast Utility Systems at www.nu.com/media/stormkit/outage.asp