06/19/08   |   By

Summer Storms and Power Outages: Emergency Preparedness Tips | DC Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog

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The rain, wind and lightning associated with summer storms poses a number of safety threats to people in the DC metro area each year – many of which stem from power outages.  Fortunately, some simple preventive measures can help to minimize the inconvenience of unexpected losses of power, and can safeguard the health of your entire family.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers the following recommendations for coping with a sudden loss of electricity during inclement weather:

Food Safety:

If you’ve gone without power for fewer than 2 hours, the food in your refrigerator and freezer should still be safe to consume.  While the power is out, however, you should keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed to keep food cold for as long as possible.  If the power is out for more than 2 hours, the following guidelines apply:

  • “For the Freezer section: A freezer that is half full will hold food safely for up to 24 hours. A full freezer will hold food safely for 48 hours. Do not open the freezer door if you can avoid it.
  • For the Refrigerated section: Pack milk, other dairy products, meat, fish, eggs, gravy, and spoilable leftovers into a cooler surrounded by ice. Inexpensive Styrofoam coolers are fine for this purpose.
  • Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of your food right before you cook or eat it. Throw away any food that has a temperature of more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Safe Drinking Water:

When municipal power goes out, water purification systems may not function properly.  The only water completely safe for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene is either bottled, boiled, or treated.  Your local health department can make specific recommendations for boiling or treating water in your area, but here are some general rules concerning water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene:

  • “Do not use contaminated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, wash your hands, make ice, or make baby formula. If possible, use baby formula that does not need to have water added. You can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to wash your hands.
  • If you use bottled water, be sure it came from a safe source. If you do not know that the water came from a safe source, you should boil or treat it before you use it. Use only bottled, boiled, or treated water until your supply is tested and found safe.
  • Boiling water, when practical, is the preferred way to kill harmful bacteria and parasites. Bringing water to a rolling boil for 1 minute will kill most organisms.
  • When boiling water is not practical, you can treat water with chlorine tablets, iodine tablets, or unscented household chlorine bleach (5.25% sodium hypochlorite).”

Heat Safety:

When air conditioning units and fans can’t be operated, you should be especially aware of the risk for heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and fainting. To avoid heat-related injury, you can:

  • “Drink a glass of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes and at least one gallon each day.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine. They both dehydrate the body.
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • When indoors without air conditioning, open windows if outdoor air quality permits and use fans.
  • Take frequent cool showers or baths.
  • If you feel dizzy, weak, or overheated, go to a cool place. Sit or lie down, drink water, and wash your face with cool water. If you don’t feel better soon, get medical help quickly.
  • Work during cooler hours of the day when possible, or distribute the workload evenly throughout the day.”

Previously on the DC Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog, we have posted articles related to:

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