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Preparing for Winter Emergencies

The most likely emergency to arise during a harsh winter storm is for the electricity to go out. Tree branches laden with ice and snow can easily break from a tree, fall and sever a power line.

Preparing for this emergency, the most important thing is to have an alternative means of heating your home. Most central heating systems rely on electricity to run the fan or pumps. So even though you may have a gas furnace or boiler, your heating system will not heat the house.

An alternative heat source is important not just for the people living in the house, but also because bursting frozen water pipes can create a major disaster. If possible have a back up generator available to run the heating system for short bursts during the day to keep interior temps above freezing. If you have a wood stove or a fireplace, keep a quantity of wood standing by, just in case. If you have a gas log fireplace, it should operate even without electricity as usually the gas will continue to flow.

Although they can be dangerous, kerosene heaters can be kept on hand as a back-up. Have carbon-monoxide detectors in operation and keep fire-extinguishers handy. Keep battery operated or wind-up flashlights ready. An ideal solution is a windup radio and flashlight made by FreePlay. It is a great way to stay informed of weather conditions and also to keep a ready source of light to hand. A first-aide kit should also be on your list of items necessary to prepare for an emergency.

Having a store of food and drink that does not need electricity to stay preserved is also a good idea. Enough preserved foods (dried fruits, canned goods, crackers, cookies, etc.) to last several days should do the trick. Keep a 5 gallon container of water in your basement or pantry, or at least a case of bottled water. An important note - if you use a charcoal or gas grill to cook food, do NOT bring them inside as the fumes can kill.

Should you suffer a prolonged outage and run out of water. You can use snow, but it should be brought to a rolling boil for at least one minute to kill any germs. Try to control fuel usage, by closing off unnecessary rooms, dress warmly.

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