For those in the path of Hurricane Sandy, the wind, rain, floods and potential blackouts are on the way.
If you are sheltered in place with adequate food, water, batteries and other supplies, you are likely to be well-prepared for the approaching weather threat. However, there are some simple mistakes that many people make that can potentially put their family’s health in danger.
As former head of emergency response and preparedness for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser is familiar with many of these preparedness missteps. Below he offers three simple tips to keep you, your family — and even your pets — safe.
Tip #1: In an Outage, Approach Perishable Food With Caution
When the power goes out, that food in the fridge will last only so long. You should throw away any perishable food in there if your power has been off for four hours or more.
Your freezer, if full and left unopened, will keep frozen food safe for 48 hours. You must cut this safe window in half to 24 hours, however, if your freezer is only half full. But keep in mind that this is only if you keep that freezer door shut. Every time you open it, some of the cold air escapes — effectively speeding up the clock for when your food might spoil.
Beyond these guidelines, exercise common sense. Does your food have an unusual texture, odor or color? Throw it away. This is when the old rule, “When in doubt, throw it out,” should be in full effect.
To learn more, check out these tips from the CDC.
Tip #2: Use Generators Carefully
In a blackout, many view generators as a lifesaver. But use them improperly, and they can actually put your life in danger.
The reason for this is that generators, as they run, emit a gas known as carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is both colorless and odorless — in other words, it is impossible for us to detect it on our own. Yet, each year carbon monoxide poisoning sends approximately 15,000 Americans to the emergency department and kills nearly 500, according to CDC statistics.
To keep you and those who live with you safe, never use a generator inside your home or garage. This rule applies even if the windows and doors are open. Nor should your generator be located right outside your residence; make sure that it is located 20 or more feet away from your home’s doors and windows. Additionally, make sure that you have carbon monoxide monitors — battery-powered or with a battery backup — near every sleeping area in your home.
For more, check out this CDC fact sheet.
Tip #3: Protect Those Less Able to Protect Themselves
In times of disaster, communities usually come together to make sure that everyone makes it through safe. This is a helpful ethic to promote in your own community, and it often saves the lives of those most vulnerable.
If you know or live close to someone who is elderly, has special needs or is homebound, check in on them. Make sure that they, too, have what they need in terms of shelter, food, water and warmth. This is also a good time to check in with institutions where elderly family members or others may be staying. Make sure that you are aware of any emergency measures that are being put into place and understand what is needed of you.
Last but not least, make sure that your pets are safe and secure. Many shelters will not take pets in the event of an emergency, so it is up to you to protect them by checking with your local authorities to find what pet shelters are available.