CHICOPEE, Mass. (Mass Appeal) - No matter what part of the country you live in, you should have an emergency plan for severe storms and natural disasters. Consumer Reports Senior Associate Editor Jamie Kopf shared some tips for staying safe no matter what type of weather you are facing.
Stay Safe in Stormy Weather
Keep food safe.
If a power outage is likely, freeze containers of water or ice packs ahead of time and stick them in the refrigerator when the power goes out to help keep perishables cold. Put any food that you don't need right away in the freezer, which will keep it at a safe temperature longer. And keep refrigerator and freezer doors shut. Use an appliance thermometer to occasionally monitor the freezer temperature; items should stay at 40º F or below in order to safely refreeze once power comes back. Throw out perishables in the refrigerator
after four hours without power.
Use generators carefully.
A portable generator can supply needed lighting during an outage, but using it improperly can be deadly because the exhaust contains carbon monoxide. If you need to use a generator, place it at
least 15 feet from your house and away from vents and windows. Don't use one in a basement or garage, cautions Peter Sawchuk, an outdoor power equipment expert at C R. "People think it's OK to lift the garage door and run it with the exhaust facing outdoors," he says, "but the fumes can still settle into the garage."
Stay on top of your medication.
One-quarter of people affected by Superstorm Sandy in 2012 said they had problems getting their medication due to closed pharmacies and halted mail order delivery, according to a survey of 8,389 residents of Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. When bad weather looms, think of your medication the same way you would food: Make sure you have enough, and take steps to provide appropriate storage, advises Joseph Guglielmo, Pharm.D., dean of the University of California-San Francisco School of Pharmacy and a member of our medical advisory board. That includes keeping a list of all the medication you take, getting an insulated bag for drugs that require refrigeration, and making sure you have at least a two-week supply on hand. Medication can get contaminated by floodwater or lose its effectiveness when exposed to fire. But if lifesaving pills look unaffected in a container, you should use them until you get a replacement, the Food and Drug Administration says. To find a pharmacy that's open during a disaster, go to the website Rxopen.org.
Take care of yourself.
Floods and other disasters can have an extensive effect on your health, relationships, and welfare, a 2012 review in the journal PLOS Currents Disasters found. In the aftermath, make sure that you take care of your basic needs-food, rest, exercise-and even a little fun, says Donna M. Hastings, Psy.D., a psychologist and chairwoman of the New Hampshire branch of the American Psychological Association Disaster Response Network. Helping others might also make you feel better, she adds, something she saw firsthand while volunteering after Hurricane Andrew in Florida alongside a man who had lost his home. He said that the experience made him feel productive.