Saturday, August 27, 2011

State Senator Karen Spilka: Staying Safe During Hurricane Irene

August 26, 2011

Dear Steve,

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency recommends steps residents should take as Hurricane Irene approaches the Commonwealth. It is important that we all plan early for this storm, which forecasters report may bring damaging winds and torrential rain to the area.

The Governor has issued a State of Emergency because of the predicted severity of this storm. It is crucial to stay informed and MEMA has frequent updates and additional recommendations. For more information, visit The National Weather Service also has a full list of counties impacted and more details of the hurricane and its expected path. 

Here some tips outlined by MEMA:

Have a Kit
Every home and business should have a stocked basic emergency supply kit that could be used for any emergency, in the event you are isolated for three to five days without power. Each kit will be unique to each family, but should include a portable radio, flashlight, extra batteries, a supply of non-perishable foods, along with bottled water, a first aid kit, extra prescription medication, and extra food and supplies for infants and pets.

Make a Plan
Develop a Family Emergency Communications Plan in case family members are separated from one another during the storm. This plan should also address reunification after the immediate crisis passes. Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the Family Emergency Communications Plan contact person. During and immediately after a disaster occurs, it is often easier to access a long distance telephone number than a local one. Also, calling outside a disaster area is usually easier than calling into the same area.

Be Informed
You should contact your local Emergency Management Director to familiarize yourself with you Community's Emergency Plans, particularly potential evacuation routes and shelter locations before an emergency situation occurs.

Because turbulent weather is expected, MEMA also highlights steps for staying safe during power outages:

•   Check flashlights and portable radios to ensure that they are working, and you have extra batteries on hand.  A radio is an important source of critical weather and emergency information during a storm. 

•   If your water supply could be affected by a power outage (a well-water pump system), fill your bathtub and spare containers with water.  Water in the bathtub should be used for sanitation purposes only, not as drinking water.  Pouring a pail of water from the tub directly into the bowl can flush a toilet.

•   Set your refrigerator and freezer to their coldest settings (remember to reset them back to normal once power is restored).  During an outage, do not open the refrigerator or freezer door unnecessarily.  Food can stay cold in a full refrigerator for up to 24 hours, and in a well-packed freezer for 48 hours (24 hours if it is half-packed).

• If you have medication that requires refrigeration, check with your pharmacist for guidance on proper storage during an extended outage.

•   Follow the manufacturer's instructions and guidelines when using a generator.  Always use outdoors, away from windows and doors. Carbon Monoxide fumes are odorless and can quickly accumulate indoors. Never try to power your house by plugging the generator directly into household wiring, a practice known as "backfeeding." This is extremely dangerous and presents an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbors served by the same utility transformer. It also bypasses some of the built-in household circuit protection devices.

•   In order to protect against possible voltage irregularities that can occur when power is restored, you should unplug all sensitive electronic equipment, including TVs, computers, stereo, DVR, VCR, microwave oven, cordless telephone, answering machine and garage door opener. (Review the process for manually operating your electric garage door.)

•   Be extra cautious when you go outside to inspect for damage after a storm.  Downed or hanging electrical wires can be hidden by trees or debris, and could be live.  Never attempt to touch or move downed lines, and keep children and pets away from them.  Do not touch anything power lines are touching, such as tree branches or fences.  Always assume a downed line is a live line.  Call your utility company to report any outage-related problem.

I hope you and all your friends and loved ones are able to stay safe during this storm.

Warm Regards,

Karen E. Spilka
2nd Middlesex and Norfolk

Office of State Senator Karen E. Spilka
Room 511-C, State House
Boston, Massachusetts  02133

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