You know the drill: non-perishables, batteries, bottled water, a tank of gas and a little cash.
At the very least, the National Weather Service is predicting a storm system to move across the Washington, DC region Thursday that produces gusty wind, heavy rain and maybe hail.
At worst? A damaging storm that's just a level below last summer's destructive "derecho" that left many in Montgomery County powerless (not to mention without electricity) for days.
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett says to be prepared either way.
"A few minutes of preparation can make all the difference in how well an individual fares during a severe storm," Leggett said in a statement Wednesday. "Many of our residents have already signed up for the free Alert Montgomery service that will keep them updated on storm activity and warnings. These alerts are the fastest, most accurate way to keep up with emergency situations in the county."
Beyond that system, here are some tips from county government on how to prepare for storms and deal with potential power outages.
Before a Storm
- Put copies of important documents in a safe place, preferably a waterproof container. Important documents can include passports, birth certificates, insurance policies or anything else that might be needed immediately or cannot be easily replaced.
- Have enough cash for a few days – ATM’s may not work during power outages and stores might not be able to take debit and credit cards.
- Make sure vehicle gas tanks are full.
- Secure or bring inside exterior items that might become windborne, such as lawn furniture, toys and garden tools.
- Fill prescriptions that might be needed and stock up on any necessary medical supplies.
- Keep flashlights and battery-powered radios with extra batteries on hand, along with a basic first aid kit, emergency food and water, and a non-electric can opener. Have enough non-perishable food and water for at least 72 hours.
- Listen to the radio or television for storm reports.
- Clean out gutters.
- Turn the refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting in anticipation of a power outage. Open the doors only when necessary and close quickly.
- Refrain from putting out trash cans the night before the regular pickup.
During a Storm
- Avoid using candles for lighting. Use a battery-powered flashlight.
- Never use a candle when fueling equipment such as a kerosene heater or lantern, since the candle flame can ignite fumes from the fuel.
- Try to stay in an interior room or away from windows.
- Stay calm and do not call 911 unless it is an emergency.
- If flooding occurs, turn off electricity at the main breaker.
- During a power outage, turn off major appliances. This will minimize losing power again through a power surge and protect the equipment when power returns.
- Do not go outside. Flying debris from high winds is a danger.
After a Storm
- Do not touch fallen or low-hanging wires of any kind under any circumstances. Stay away from puddles with wires in or near them. Do not touch trees or other objects in contact with power lines.
- Call police or your utility companies immediately to report hazards such as downed power lines, broken gas or water mains or overturned gas tanks.
- Avoid areas subject to flooding, including low spots, canals and streams. Do not attempt to drive on a flooded road –you can be stranded or trapped. The depth of the water and the condition of the road is not always obvious.
- Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers, downed wires and other hazards.
- For downed trees on public property, call 311 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays (or 240-777-0311 from outside the County or from a cell phone) or go to www.MC311.com at any time to report the problem. If live wires are involved, the tree is blocking a roadway, the tree is on a structure, or if persons are trapped under the fallen tree, call 911.
- Trees that have fallen on private property are the responsibility of the property owner. The County’s Office of Consumer Protection advises homeowners to deal with established businesses only, and to call Consumer Protection first to check a business’ complaint record. Consumer Protection can be reached at 240-777-3636.
- For non-emergency police assistance, call the police non-emergency number, 301-279-8000.
- In case of a power outage, residents are urged to take steps to ensure that food left in the refrigerator and freezer is safe. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service, meat, poultry, fish and eggs should be refrigerated at 40° F and frozen food at or below 0° F, which may be difficult with a prolonged power outage. Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. A refrigerator will only keep food safely cold for about four hours if it is unopened. Food such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, soft cheeses, butter and leftover cooked meats, casseroles and pizza should be thrown out if they have been held above 40° F for over two hours. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed. To be sure a particular food is cold enough; take its temperature with a food thermometer. Never taste food to determine its safety.
- Do not operate charcoal grills, propane camping stoves or generators indoors.