Last week's storms that devastated parts of the Mid-Atlantic region underscore the need for individual consumers to be prepared when disaster strikes.
And if the recent storms aren't enough to convince you, keep in mind that we are still early into hurricane season. Don't live along coastal areas? Well, just about everyone is vulnerable to some kind of natural disaster than can upset daily life, from tornadoes to earthquakes.
Being prepared is the best defense for such energy emergencies. The first step in being prepared is developing a weather emergency plan. The plan should include a list of important phone numbers that you can grab and take with you in case you need to quickly evacuate your home (i.e. doctors, family members, etc.). Of course, you probably have all these numbers stored in your cell phone but remember it may not work for days after the disaster.
The plan should also include an evacuation route, as well as an established meeting place in case you lose communication with loved ones. After the recent Washington storms, D.C. area residents found themselves driving well into Pennsylvania to find motels that had both vacancies and power.
Plan for three days of roughing it
Grab a backpack or purchase a large plastic bucket with a lid from a local hardware store or home center. Stuff the backpack or bucket with three days' worth of food and water. Other items should include a flashlight, battery powered/hand-cranked radio, first aid kit, money, medications and a CD or USB drive containing important documents. Store the kit in a place that is easily accessible in an emergency situation.
If disaster strikes and you find yourself without electricity and other utilities, turn off major appliances such as water heaters, stoves and air conditioning units. Unplug other appliances such as TVs, stereos, microwaves and computers. This will prevent damage to appliances and possible overloads to the system when power is restored. Leave one light on so you will be able to see when power is restored to your home.