Red Cross offers winter storm safety tips

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A Heavy Snow Warning was recently issued for Rockford and the surrounding communities. It is important to prepare your home for the possibility of a power outage. When weather and driving conditions are severe, the best place to be is in your own home. The American Red Cross offers the following tips about how to be prepared in a winter storm in your home or on the road:

Stay at home, if possible.

Keep the refrigerator and the freezer closed; an unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for at least a few hours. If you lose power and believe the power will be out for a prolonged period, prepare a cooler filled with ice for your perishable foods. If the power goes off while you are using appliances, turn them off immediately; by doing this, you reduce the risk of overlooking their circuitry when the power comes back on.

Keep batteries and flashlights in a central, easily accessible location known to everyone in the household.

Only use a flashlight for emergency lighting. Never use candles!M

Do not run a generator inside a home or garage.

If you use a generator, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect a generator to a home’s electrical system.

Use the phone for emergencies only. Listening to a portable radio can provide the latest information. Do not call 911 for information—only call to report a life-threatening emergency.

Have emergency cash on hand. Remember that automated teller machines (ATMs) may not work during a power outage.

Put on layers of warm clothing. Never burn charcoal for heating or cooking indoors. Never use your oven as a source of heat. If the power may be out for a prolonged period, plan to go to another location (relative, friend or public facility) that has heat to keep warm.

If leaving your home is absolutely necessary, the Red Cross offers the following to help keep you safe:

When driving, remember that all stoplights become four-way stops in a power outage. Also, reduce speed and adjust for weather conditions as needed.

If you commute long distances, keep a flashlight, an extra pair of shoes, water, blanket and emergency food rations in the car.

Keep your car fuel tank at least half full as gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps.

Listen to local radio and television for updated information.

Assemble essential supplies, including: Flashlight, batteries, portable radio, at least 1 gallon of water per person, small supply of food. Because of the extreme risk of fire, do not use candles during a power outage.

Food safety in a power outage: Although the Red Cross is unable to replace food lost as a result of power outage, informational brochures are available to answer food storage and disposal questions. Call 963-8471 for more information.

Although many feel they must throw all their food away after a power outage, there are several steps people can take to preserve and salvage their food, including perishables. If a power outage is 2 hours or less, you need not be concerned. If it looks like the power outage will be for more than 2-4 hours, pack perishable foods into a cooler surrounded by ice.

If you have space in your refrigerator or freezer, consider filling plastic containers with water, leaving about an inch of space inside each one. (Remember, water expands as it freezes, so it is important to leave room in the container for the expanded water.) Place the containers in the refrigerator and freezer. This chilled or frozen water will help keep food cold if the power goes out, by displacing air that can warm up quickly with water or ice that keeps cold for several hours without additional refrigeration.

If the power is out when you go to bed, leave your bedroom light on so that when the power comes on, it will wake you. This way, you can check on your food and return it to the refrigerator as soon as it is cool enough.

If you use medication that requires refrigeration, most can be kept in a closed refrigerator for several hours without a problem. If unsure, check with your physician or pharmacist.

From the Jan. 17-23, 2007, issue

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