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Don’t Let Summer Storms Cause You to Lose Your Cool

Preparation for unexpected power emergencies starts when the lights are on

Post Date:07/17/2012 4:45 PM

DURHAM, N.C. – Most people living in the south don’t need a meteorologist to remind them that during the summer months, sizzling temperatures by day often lead to heavy rains and severe storms by night.

Recent evening weather events locally and throughout the country have not only left behind death and destruction, but in some cases, a miserable reality of days on end without power, on top of extreme heat.

“The best way to deal with a power outage, or any emergency, is to prepare before it even happens,” said Matt Leicester, Public Health Preparedness Coordinator with the Durham County Health Department. “When the lights go out and the air conditioning stops, it’s a little too late.”

Every family should have an emergency plan, with important phone numbers, and contact information for doctors, family members, and other important information. For about $100, an emergency kit can be created to cover the basic needs for an individual or family. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind, yet can be priceless when the time comes.

In events such as severe storms, tornadoes, or hurricanes, emergency personnel will be overwhelmed by requests for help. Therefore, it is impossible for EMS, fire, police, and power crews to help everyone at the same time. Preparing in advance, making a plan, and building a kit is the single most important step you can take to protect you and your loved ones from the unexpected effects of summer storms.

The Durham County Health Department’s Public Health Preparedness Section has the following tips to keep you safe, in the event the power goes out:

• Always have an emergency supply kit prepared at home that should keep you safe for at least the first 72 hours after you lose power. The emergency kits should include non-perishable snacks and food items, extra batteries, flashlights, a battery-powered or hand crank radio, and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alerts.

• If the power is going to be out for a long period of time, consider going to places such as the mall, a movie theater, the library, or a friend or family member’s home that may have power, in order to get cool.

• You should have at least one gallon of water per person, per day in your emergency kit. If you have pets, make sure you add extra water for them as well.

• Make sure you have at least one corded phone in your home. Cordless phones do not work without power. A corded phone does not require electricity.

• Avoid opening your refrigerator or freezer if possible to help keep foods cold. 
        o A full freezer can keep most foods frozen for as much as 36 hours. 
        o You should throw away any perishable items (such as leftovers, milk, eggs) that are in
        our refrigerator if the power is off for more than 2 to 4 hours. This helps limit your risk of
        food-borne illness. 
        o If you have a food thermometer, check the temperature of your foods and throw out any foods 
        that have been exposed to temperatures higher than 40ºF for more than 2 hours, have a funny
         smell, color, or feel warm to the touch. 
        o If you’re unsure if a food is safe to eat, always assume it is not, and throw it away. This limits 
        your risk of food-borne illness.

• Never use a generator indoors, as generators produce carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that can be fatal at high levels. Also, never burn charcoal inside. It also produces carbon monoxide.

• Use flashlights instead of candles or lanterns. Candles and lanterns put off heat and can be a fire hazard.

• Unplug your electronics appliances to avoid a power surge when the power turns back on. This includes items such as computers, TVs, air conditioners, refrigerators, and washing machines.

• Always leave one light on so you know when the power is back on.

For more tips or information on how to make a plan or build a kit, visit, or contact the Durham County Health Department at (919) 560-7600.

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