By Catherine Blinder
Winter is just around the corner, and the official storm season is in effect through November. Here in Connecticut, we know how devastating early winter storms can be, and the memory of power outages, lost cell service and missed work days are still fresh in our memories. But we have the chance to be more prepared this year, and hopefully, being smarter will make it easier to survive the inevitable New England weather!
Medications and Medical Supplies:
For those dependent on medical devices that need power or medications that need to be refrigerated, being prepared truly can be the difference between life and death.
In order to maintain their full effectiveness, certain medications, such as insulin, must be kept at the proper temperature, and if they are exposed to water, heat, humidity or other factors, they can be considered unsafe.
This applies to both prescription and non-prescription medications, even tablets or capsules that have been exposed to water or heat can lose their efficiency. Talk to your pharmacist about what is safe to take and what you might need to replace.
If you are dependent on electricity for your medical equipment, please plan ahead. Make sure you have plenty of batteries, diabetic supplies, oxygen, etc. If these are delivered to you and you are unable to stay in your home during a storm, make sure to notify suppliers of your temporary location so there is no lapse in service or delivery.
Losing a refrigerator and freezer full of food is a difficult challenge, especially if you have a family to feed. Most refrigerators will keep their contents cold for about four hours, if unopened. If you know a storm is coming, buy bags or blocks of ice and either place in the refrigerator or fill coolers with ice and the most important contents from your refrigerator.
Freezers, if full and unopened, will keep food frozen for about 48 hours.
Remember – when in doubt, throw it out!
Other Important Precautions:
Portable generators should never be used inside your home, basement, garage or shed – they are unsafe in enclosed spaces, even with windows opened. Place generators outside, and carefully read directions for use.
Never use charcoal grills or camp stoves inside; they can produce lethal levels of carbon monoxide.
Install carbon monoxide (CO) alarms outside each bedroom and change the batteries every year.
Stock up on flashlights and batteries. Avoid using candles for light, and if you must, never leave them unattended.
Don’t heat your home with your cooking stove; it is another fire and health hazard.
If your basement is flooded, don’t walk through it; you don’t know if there is a source of electricity that has been compromised. Doing so could result in electrocution.
If you have a sump pump, make sure it’s working before the storm comes; lift the float to see if it activates the pump’s motor.
Natural gas or propane valves that have been underwater should be replaced. Be aware of leaky gas connections and if you smell anything, leave the house and notify your gas company.
Lastly, once the storm passes and you are working to repair the damages, if you feel someone is charging you more than what is fair, contact the Department of Consumer Protection at 1-800-842-2649 to report it.
Check on your family, friends and neighbors during storms, and share these survival tips ahead of time – we’ll all be safer as a result!
This article was written by Catherine Blinder, chief education and outreach officer of the Department of Consumer Protection for the State of Connecticut. To learn more about how the Department of Consumer Protection can help, call (860) 713-6300 or visit us online at www.ct.gov/dcp.