Monday, December 17, 2007

It's Not Winter Yet? Brace Yourself

by Broderick Perkins
© 2007 DeadlineNews.Com

Deadline Newsroom - If this fall's killer storms are any indication of the long, frigid winter ahead, preparation is the name of the game.

An impatient Mother Nature didn't wait around for the winter solstice and instead has already sent blustery waves of storms howling across the nation, leaving some 1 million people in the dark in a matter of days.

With an aging power grid in much of the nation no match for winter storms, blackouts, unfortunately for now, are a way of life.

Unlike summer blackouts that often come with warnings as a heatwave progresses, winter storm blackouts hit with much less warning.

Prepare for them.

Here's the short list of winter blackout preparation tips to get you started. Contact your utility company and local emergency planning office for more detailed steps you should take based on your household's needs.

• If someone in your household is on life-support systems, you should notify your power company when the support system is installed. You should also have a backup power system.

• If a liquid or natural gas fired generator is your back up for life support or other electrical needs, follow the manufacturers instructions to the letter.

• Likewise, take care with using a wood burning fireplace, stove or similar appliance for warmth. Provide adequate ventilation. Never use your gas stove, oven or unvented appliances to heat your home.

• Also consider purchasing an emergency backup battery for your home computer, cell phone and other communication device that could come in handy in an emergency. Stock spare batteries. Backup batteries, always connected to your computer and being charged by electricity, keep your computer or other small devices running for a half hour or more after the power shuts down.

• If you've been seeing one too many power outages, consider solar power with a battery backup system. Solar systems can generate electricity on all but the darkest of days. As an added bonus, solar power improves the value of your home, when compared to other nearby homes of similar size, age and configuration.

• Have an escape plan. If you know a storm is coming far enough in advance and don't want to weather it at home, leave town before the transportation system shuts down. Severe weather typically comes with public access to local emergency shelters including hospitals, churches, social centers and other structures which may have generators or a better capacity to weather a storm. Know the locations.

• If you plan to be away during cold weather and leave before an emergency hits, first turn the water main line off or have the water system drained by a professional to keep pipes from freezing or bursting.

• Have sufficient food and water on hand if you stay or if you go. You should have an emergency kit (with all the necessary personal items) that includes at least enough food and water to last for three days for each person.

• Stay warm. It's a lot easier to stay warm than to warm up after being chilled. Layers of clothing insulate you from the cold. Too much and you'll over heat. Head gear, gloves and warm socks helps retain a large percentage of body warmth lost through your body's extremities.

• Keep doors and windows closed as much as possible, except to provide ventilation for wood burning appliances. Extra insulation throughout the home, caulking, plugging air leaks and other such tasks are crucial for all households to keep heating and cooling costs down.

• Well before and shortly after a storm, hire a licensed home inspector or other professional to give your home the once over for damage and ways to minimize future problems.

How To Survive A Heatwave
How To Survive A Blackout

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© 2007 DeadlineNews.Com

Broderick Perkins, an award-winning consumer journalist of 30 years, is publisher and executive editor of San Jose, CA-based DeadlineNews.Com, a real estate news and consulting service, and the new Deadline Newsroom, DeadlineNews.Com's new backshop. In both cases, it's where all the news really hits home.

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