Mind and Body: Preparing and surviving disasters

If the lights to out, are you prepared? That is a simple but necessary question that we must ask ourselves.

In the event of a power outage, something as simple as having a flashlight, radio and extra batteries available can make you and your family more comfortable during these times.

Kentuckians face many natural disasters, mostly weather related, and man-made challenges throughout the year. Every household and every business should be prepared to face these challenges at any given time.

Although state and local governments are here to assist the public during these times, preparedness starts at home. It starts with being aware of conditions and situations that threaten you and your family’s safety.

September has been designated as National Preparedness Month. Kentucky Emergency Management and the Department of Homeland Security have information available to help you and your family prepare for potential power outages during disasters.

Extended power outages may impact the whole community and the economy. A power outage is when the electrical power goes out unexpectedly. A power outage may:

— disrupt communications, water, and transportation.

— close retail businesses, grocery stores, gas stations, ATMs, banks, and other services.

— cause food spoilage and water contamination.

— prevent use of medical devices.

Protection during a power outage

— Keep freezers and refrigerators closed.

— Only use generators outdoors and away from windows.

— Do not use a gas stove to heat your home.

— Disconnect appliances and electronics to avoid damage from electrical surges.

— Have alternate plans for refrigerating medicines or using power-dependent medical devices.

If safe, go to an alternate location for heat or cooling.

— Check on neighbors.

Preparation

— Take an inventory of the items you need that rely on electricity.

— Talk to your medical provider about a power outage plan for medical devices powered by electricity and refrigerated medicines. Find out how long medication can be stored at higher temperatures and get specific guidance for any medications that are critical for life.

— Plan for batteries and other alternatives to meet your needs when the power goes out.

— Sign up for local alerts and warning systems. Monitor weather reports.

— Install carbon monoxide detectors with battery backup in central locations on every level of your home.

— Determine whether your home phone will work in a power outage and how long battery backup will last.

— Review the supplies that are available in case of a power outage. Have flashlights with extra batteries for every household member. Have enough nonperishable food and water.

— Use a thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer so that you can know the temperature when the power is restored. Throw out food if the temperature is 41 degrees or higher.

— Keep mobile phones and other electric equipment charged and gas tanks full.

Surviving the outage

— Keep freezers and refrigerators closed. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours. Use coolers with ice if necessary. Monitor temperatures with a thermometer.

— Maintain food supplies that do not require refrigeration.

— Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Generators, camp stoves, or charcoal grills should always be used outdoors and at least 20 feet away from windows. Never use a gas stovetop of oven to heat your home.

— Check on you neighbors. Older adults and young children are especially vulnerable to extreme temperatures.

— Go to a community location with power if heat or cold is extreme.

— Turn off or disconnect appliances, equipment, or electronics. Power may return with momentary “surges” or “spikes” that can cause damage.

Safety after the outage

— When in doubt, throw it out! Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 41 degrees or higher for two hours or more, or that has an unusual odor, color or texture.

— If the power is out for more than a day, discard any medication that should be refrigerated, unless the drug’s label says otherwise. If a life depends on the refrigerated drugs, consult a doctor or pharmacist and use medicine only until a new supply is available.

Additional preparedness information may be found at the Department of Homeland Security website https://www.ready.gov.

Clark County Health Department provides programs for the entire family, including WIC, HANDS, family planning, well child care/immunizations and home health care. For more information, call 744-4482 or visit www.clarkhealthdept.org.