Keep your family safe during bad weather

Have you found yourself without electricity in a storm? Learn what you should have on hand in your home or vehicle, in case of an emergency. This is especially important for families with young children, the elderly or individuals living alone.

The gales of winter have begun. Record snow falls have come to Michigan early. How do you prepare for these natural changes in the weather? If you are an elderly person living alone or you are a family with young children in the home, you may want to consider doing some planning for bad weather to keep yourself or your family safe and healthy.

A good place to start is thinking about your home's source of heat. Has it been cleaned and checked by a professional in the last two to three years? A proper working furnace, of any type of heat emission is important to the safety and health of your family members. House fires are not uncommon in the winter, particularly when multiple heat sources are being used in a home. Follow the safety guidelines and maintenance recommendations for your furnace or space heaters. It is also important to teach all family members how to use a fire extinguisher in case they have to get themselves out of a house that is on fire.

If the weather is so bad that you need to stay inside for a few days to an entire week, do you have a disaster kit put together? When you put together a disaster kit, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends having a three day supply of non-perishable foods. Remember that your power may be out and you might need a hand operated can opener. When stocking food, keep in mind any special dietary needs and stock food that does not require special preparation. Also, have a three day supply of water. Store one gallon of water per person, per day just for drinking. You may need additional water for other uses.

The best way to store water is to purchase bottled water and keep it in its original containers. This will keep it sterile until it is used. Be sure to watch the "use by dates" on the bottles and periodically rotate out your water. For all food and water that is stored, Michigan State University Extension advises to use the FIFO rule – first in, first out. If you plan to store water in your own containers, use food grade water storage containers often found in camping supply stores. It is not recommended to use plastic milk jugs or cardboard juice containers, as it is very difficult to rid these containers of bacteria. Before using your own water container, it is recommended you wash them with dishwashing soap and water, and rinse thoroughly. Then sanitize them with one teaspoon of non-scented liquid chlorine bleach to every one quart of water. Make sure all surfaces are touching the solution. Thoroughly rinse the bottle to remove the chlorine solution. Fill the sanitized containers with water. If the water has been pretreated with chlorine, you do not need to add anything else to the container. If you fill the container with well water, add two drops of non-scented chlorine bleach and close carefully. Store the water in a cool, dry place. Mark the date on the container and replace the water every six months.

Also include the following items in the disaster kit:

  • A flashlight and batteries
  • Battery operated radio
  • Candle and matches or lighter
  • Toilet paper and moist towels
  • First-aid kit
  • Cash and coins
  • Special need items like contact solution, eyeglasses, hearing aid batteries or prescription medications.

In cold climates, the heat may go out so keep warm clothing and bedding handy, particularly if you are living alone, if you are elderly or have small children in the home. A disaster kit may become a life saver.

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