Many schools across Lancaster County are closed for the day for a snow storm that has yet to come. The wind however is strong at times as Mother Nature reminds everyone that this is National Severe Weather Preparedness Week.
National Severe Weather Preparedness Week (3-9 March) is an opportunity for all individuals, families and communities to focus on disaster preparedness. A disaster supply kit is essential - make sure that your family has the provisions needed for each individual. Community and school tornado drills will be conducted across the country. The season is known for its thunderstorms, lightning, high winds, tornadoes, hail, and flooding.
"Making plans now just might save lives when floodwaters are rising or a tornado is bearing down on your home," Molly Hall, executive director of the Safe Electricity program.
With the anticipated strong winds brings the possibility of downed power lines. Power outages should be part of your emergency plan. Assemble necessary supplies for a potential outage.
Charge cell phones now while there is power. You can save your cell phone’s battery by minimizing the backlight and turning it off while not in use. If the electric does go off, use your cell phone as an alarm clock.
Residents should always have enough provisions in their homes to last at least 72 hours because help from emergency responders may not be immediately available when severe weather strikes.
Supplies to have at the ready include:
• Flashlights and extra batteries;
• Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries;
• First aid kit and manual;
• Emergency food and water;
• Non-electric can opener;
• Essential medicines/prescriptions;
• Cash, credit cards and important legal documents; and
• Sturdy shoes.
The National Weather Service (NWS) also recommends that you:
• Know the difference between a severe thunderstorm watch and warning. A watch means there is the possibility of storms in your area. A warning means a storm has been reported or is imminent and you should take cover.
• Check the forecast and the hazardous weather outlook.
• Turn on a weather radio or an AM/FM radio for information if a storm is approaching.
• Stay inside if you know a storm is headed your way.
The best policy is to plan ahead so you do not get caught outside in a storm. Lightning can strike up to 10 miles from the area in which it is raining, even if you do not see clouds. This means that if you can hear thunder, you are within striking distance. This is the reason public pools close for a set time when thunder is heard.
After a storm passes, there could be a variety of hazards left behind. Downed power lines may still be live. Never attempt to move a power line. Touching a downed line or something that it has fallen over, like a fence or a tree limb, could get you injured or killed. Stay away, and instruct others to do the same. Call 911 immediately.
Other things to consider after the storm:
• Use a flashlight rather than a candle when inspecting your property. This avoids the risk of fire or explosion due to a gas leak. It also is safer in case you should trip over something that has fallen.
• Never enter a flooded basement if electrical outlets are under water. Power could still be active and electrocution is still possible.
• Shut off the electrical system at the main circuit breaker if you know how and can do so safely if you see frayed wiring or sparks or if there is an odor of something burning,
• If you smell gas, or suspect a leak, get out of the house. Call 911 from your cell phone and notify your gas utility immediately. Do not use the land line.
• When the power is restored it will act as a surge on most electronics. Unplug sensitive home electronics – like computers and printers - that can suffer damage when power is restored.
FEMA – the Federal Emergency Management Agency – also suggest reviewing your homeowners or renters insurance. Flood damage is not normally covered in a general policy. Only a policy from the National Flood Insurance Program provides flood insurance, but it takes 30 days to go into effect, warns FEMA.
Now is the time to prepare. Find more information on electrical and severe weather safety at www.SafeElectricity.org.
This article was taken in part from press releases by Safe Electricity and FEMA.
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