How to prepare for a winter storm

acarlson@ledger-enquirer.comFebruary 12, 2014 

With the second states-wide winter storm covering the South in less than two months, it's worth remembering some basic winter storm preparedness tips:

From the Georgia Emergency Management Agency:

• Before a power outage, charge your mobile devices; add warm clothes and blankets to your emergency kit; keep gas tank full; take cash out in case ATMs don't work; check flashlights and radio batteries.

• Follow directions from local officials.

• During a power outage: conserve energy; go to community warming shelters; if able, check on neighbors, family, seniors and the homeless.

• Only use generators in open spaces to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

• Go here for their complete emergency preparedness tips.

From the Georgia Department of Insurance:

• Keep your insurance policy numbers and your agent's phone number in a safe place.

• Make a list of all valuables — furniture, electronics, etc. — and photograph or videotape your possessions. Keep copies of the information in a safe place outside your home. If your home is damaged or destroyed in a natural disaster, it may be difficult for you to tell your insurance agent what you lost without proof.

• If disaster strikes, contact your agent or insurance company immediately.

• Protect your home from further damage. For example, if your roof is damaged, cover it with a tarp to prevent water damage from subsequent rain. Most policies will not cover such damage.

• Make sure you understand the difference between actual cash value and replacement cost coverage for your contents and obtain the coverage that best suits your needs. An ACV policy replaces contents at cost minus depreciation. If you have replacement cost coverage, your contents will be replaced at today's prices. If you should lose power to your house, the Georgia Power Co. recommends taking certain precautions:

• Use non-electric unvented space heaters only in a well ventilated area.

• Using a camp stove, fireplace or cooking fuel such as Sterno is safe, but never cook indoors with charcoal.

• If you use an electric generator, plug appliances directly into it. Do not plug a generator into your home’s electrical system.

• Disconnect or turn off appliances you were using when you lost power, but leave at least one light on to alert you when power is restored.

• Don’t open your refrigerator or freezer if you can avoid it. Food will last longer that way.. If the door is closed, food will stay frozen in a fully loaded freezer 36-48 hours and 24 hours in a half-full freezer.

Georgia Power also recommends making preparations for bad weather:

• Stock up on non-perishable foods, heating fuel and medications.

• Fill your bathtub and spare containers with water in case your electric water pump or the local water system goes out.

• Have at least one flashlight, a battery-powered radio and fresh batteries handy. Help prepare older family members, friends or neighbors who live alone for the weather.

From AT&T:

• Keep your wireless phone batteries charged at all times. Have an alternative plan to recharge your battery in case of a power outage, such as using your car charger to charge your device or having extra mobile phone batteries on hand.

• Have a family communication plan in place. Designate someone out of the area as a central contact, and make certain that all family members know who to contact if they get separated. Most importantly, practice your emergency plan in advance.

• Program all of your emergency contact numbers and e-mail addresses into your mobile phone. Numbers should include the police department, fire station and hospital, as well as your family members.

• Track the storm and access weather information on your wireless device. Many homes lose power during severe weather. If you have a wireless device that provides access to the Internet, you can watch weather reports on your phone.

• Camera phones provide assistance. If you have a camera phone, take, store and send photos — even video clips — of damaged property to your insurance company from your device.

• Try text messaging. During an emergency situation, text messages may go through more quickly than voice calls because they require fewer network resources. Depending on your text or data plan, additional charges may apply.

• Be prepared for high call volume. During an emergency, many people are trying to use their phones at the same time. The increased calling volume may create network congestion, leading to “fast busy” signals on your wireless phone or a slow dial tone on your landline phone. If this happens, hang up, wait several seconds and then try the call again. This allows your original call data to clear the network before you try again.

• Keep non-emergency calls to a minimum, and limit your calls to the most important ones. If there is severe weather, chances are many people will be attempting to place calls to loved ones, friends and business associates. Exposing your devices to extreme cold temperatures for extended periods of time may cause your battery to drain faster, crack your screen, cause condensation to form inside your screen if you turn it on while it is still cold, and increase potential for permanent damage if you leave your device in “sleep mode” for an extended period of time.

Larry Gierer contributed to this story

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