As fall and winter weather approach, the Borough of New Providence urges residents to prepare themselves to protect their health and safety during severe storms. Prior to a storm, be sure you are signed up for Code Red, the emergency notification system used by the borough. Log onto www.newprov.org to subscribe or update your contact information. Continually monitor the media – be aware of storms that could impact our area. Find out what types of events and kinds of damages are covered by your insurance policy – keep insurance policies, important documents and other valuables in a safe and secure location. Ensure your home is ready – elevate items in the basement which could be flooded; bring in outdoor items, such as children’s toys, patio furniture, garbage cans, etc. that could be blown around and damaged; remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage. It is also helpful to know how to shut off utilities, including power, water and gas, to your home. Have proper tools (i.e., wrench) ready and nearby. Keep fire extinguishers on hand and make sure everyone knows how to use them.
The following precautions should be taken in preparation for severe storm weather:
Prepare an Emergency Kit Including:
- A flashlight, battery powered radio, extra batteries (fresh), first aid kit, manual can opener, antibacterial hand wipes or gel, rubber gloves, candles and matches, and insect repellent with DEET.
- Five gallons of bottled water per person (to last 3-5 days) and water purifying supplies, such as chlorine or iodine tablets or household chlorine bleach.
- Non-perishable food, such as canned goods, granola bars, dried foods, instant soups, and cereals.
- Prepared baby formula and several days supply of baby food in jars. Powdered baby formula should only be prepared with bottled water.
- Essential prescription medications for two to three days, as well as over-the-counter medicines such as aspirin. Check medications that require refrigeration — be sure you know if they will be affected by a prolonged interruption of power. You might want to talk with your pharmacist. You also might want to keep a small cooler handy.
- A family emergency plan that includes pre-determined meeting places in case of separation and also evacuation routes.
Floodwaters can lead to contaminated water supplies and loss of electricity. Drinking or cooking with contaminated water or spoiled food can cause illness.
Put refrigerators and freezers at their coldest settings — Do this a half day or so before the storm is forecast to hit. Keep a blanket handy to throw over these appliances for added insulation, if need be. And be sure to return the settings to their normal position as soon as the crisis has passed.
Get extra ice — Ice helps maintain cold temperatures in your freezer and refrigerator. Use plastic bags filled with ice (or water, if you have enough time to freeze it) in the freezer. Use block ice, if possible, in the refrigerator. And should the ice melt, you can drink the water.
- Minimize the number of times you open the freezer and refrigerator doors.
- If you are without electricity for a prolonged period, use dry ice to keep refrigerated foods cold. Your refrigerator will keep foods cold for about four hours without power if not opened.
- Food kept in a closed refrigerator will keep for approximately 18 hours from the time the power went off. After that, throw it out.
- Food kept in a closed freezer will last for approximately 48 hours. After 48 hours, food should be cooked thoroughly or thrown out. Do not re-freeze thawed foods.
- Discard any food that has been at room temperature for more than two hours. If you are in doubt about the safety of any food item, throw it out.
Set aside water — This is vital if you depend on a water pump that might be disabled during a storm. Sanitize and fill spare containers with water for drinking. Fill your bathtub with water for use in the toilet. A bucket of water poured in the toilet bowl is all that’s needed for flushing. If you don’t have an adequate supply of water to save and are unable to get enough from friends or neighbors, call local officials to ask about nearby water sources.
- Do not use contaminated water to make ice, wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash, or to prepare food.
- When boiling water, bring it to a rolling boil for one minute to kill organisms.
- Go to authoritative web sites listed at the end of this article for information about water treatment safety.
General Health Issues
- Wash hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected.
- Keep any open cuts or sores that have been exposed to floodwaters as clean as possible by washing with soap and applying an antibiotic ointment to prevent infection.
- Have a physician evaluate any open wounds that come in contact with contaminated water.
- Wear clothes with long sleeves and long pants and use insect repellent with DEET – excessive rain and floods are breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
- Remove all standing water as soon as possible.
Have an evacuation plan — Ice storms can lead to outages of two weeks or longer, and you might need to leave your home. Be sure to fill your car’s gas tank before the storm hits. What’s more, your automobile can be a place to get warm – as long as you don’t operate it inside your garage, keep it well-ventilated, and don’t sleep while the engine is running.
Plan to live without everyday tools that need electricity — your garage door opener, for example. Be sure you know how to get the door open and shut manually. And if you keep your cellar free from flooding by using an electric sump pump, consider installing a battery powered back-up pump.
Stay away from downed power lines — Don’t drive over downed lines, and if a downed line is in or near water, keep your distance from the water, even a little puddle. And whether a power line is down or not, don’t touch anything that might be in contact with it – like a tree limb for example.
Take steps to prevent water damage — As outside temperatures dip below zero, residents without power should turn the water off, drain pipes and turn the water heater off. If water is not drained, pipes can freeze and possibly burst. Or, homeowners can also allow the water to trickle from faucets for a constant water flow during the outage. To drain pipes, turn off the water heater power and main water supply and keep all faucets open in the house. Also, drain all toilets by holding the lever down until the tank empties. Open cabinet doors that encase pipes to allow any heat in the home to get to the pipes.
Prepare alternative sources of heat — Even a gas or oil furnace needs electricity to operate, so if you have a fireplace or wood stove as an alternative heat source, be sure you have enough wood. A portable electric generator can be a valuable backup source of power to operate your furnace and appliances – have it installed by a professional with a double-throw safety switch. And NEVER run a portable generator inside your home or garage! If you have no alternative heat, find out where an emergency shelter will be, if it is needed. Call your local fire or police department or local Red Cross chapter.
Unplug sensitive equipment — Voltage irregularities can occur for any number of reasons during or after a storm, especially if there has been damage on or near your home. The safest thing to do is to unplug any sensitive electrical devices, such as the TV, VCR, stereo, microwave, computer, answering machine and garage door opener. Planning ahead, you might wish to consider surge suppressors.
Residents should monitor local radio and television stations for weather conditions and emergency updates. Visit the websites below for more detailed information:
NJ Dept. of Health and Senior Services — www.state.nj.us/health
NJ Office of Emergency Management — www.state.nj.us/njoem
Federal Emergency Management Admin. (FEMA)– www.fema.gov
American Red Cross – http://redcross.org
National Hurricane Center http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/