Planning for an emergency - week 19

Over the last month we have experienced a wide array of weather: heat, wind, rain and cold. With the official start of winter only a few weeks away, the question is, are we ready for the expected changes?We know we won't likely experience the severe cold or rain/snow of other parts of our country. However, we do know we will get some cold spells, a few days of wind and approximately 12-14 inches of rain. The best way to prepare for the upcoming changes in the weather is to take some action. I believe it was President Kennedy who once said something like 'the time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining'. The most likely problem we will face this winter is the rain. If we had problems with the rain last year (or within the last month) we will likely have those same problems again if we don't take action to remedy the problem. Relying on the city for sandbags or emergency roof repairs is not a responsible action. The city yard isn't always open, limits sandbags to city residents and only hands out a set number to each person. The Fire Department responds to emergencies and must prioritize their work during storms. Helping with an uncovered roof does not rate as high as a fire response or a medical-aid incident. If you have a roof or surface level problem, take care of it now or call someone who can help you with it. One frequent cause of roof problems is clogged rain gutters. Throughout the year leaves and sediment fill the gutters and when it finally rains, the roof run-off water backs up and spills over the gutters. Some homes and businesses have problems with roof and window leaks when their gutters back up. Again, best to check the gutters before the rains start. Clean them if they need it. Yard drains get filled up as well. It is expensive and a real inconvenience when home floor repairs are necessary. Please don't let faulty yard drainage cause problems inside your home. Power outages are always a possibility. Frequently, the outages are very localized. They are often caused by a downed tree or limb. Sometimes it's something that is arching across the 'service' wires to a home. In most cases, a walk-thru of the yard or grounds could have spotted the potential problem before the 'emergency' occurred. Please take the time to walk your property and determine if you have a need for some tree-trimming or other work. Check your fireplace as well. Does it have a spark arrestor on the chimney? Does the flu damper work as it should? Each year we have roof fires and smoke filled homes because of faulty fireplace equipment. The time to be sure your fireplace works well is before you need it for warmth when the power is out. In previous columns it has been mentioned that neighbors can help other neighbors. If you are able to check your own property, perhaps you have the ability to check your neighbor's property as well. Remember, their tree falling over the power lines could very well impact your property and family. Occasionally, downed power lines cause fires. Power failures can also lead to some cold evenings. Remember to check your home for weather stripping and windows and doors that close completely. Most homes, if closed up completely, can stay comfortable inside, even in winter, through the night. However 'leaky' doors and windows can cool a house down considerably, especially if it is windy. If you are power dependent (for example, you use a respirator or power supplied oxygen unit) check with Edison to be sure they are aware of this. You should also have a battery (or fixed supply) back-up system. You should also have a plan to move yourself to somewhere with a power supply (maybe a neighbor could help with this). Good working smoke detectors ( the photo-electric type are becoming the most recommended type) should be in every home. When you change your clock in the Fall, experts recommend you change your smoke detector batteries. Smoke detector units should be replaced every ten years. This weekend let's consider how we can improve the winter emergency preparedness for our home and our neighborhood. Be a volunteer, talk to your neighbors, follow-up on the previous emergency preparedness lists from this series of articles, and seek out some training for yourself and / or your family. You may find your efforts to be very rewarding. Your families and neighborhood will benefit as well. If you have comments or questions about this column, please send them to

********** Published: November 4, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 29