Summer Storm PrepbyJagFarlane©
Having grown up on the Atlantic coastline summer has always meant the start of hurricane season. Sure, plenty of other things, but I have a lot of summer memories that include seeing news reports of stores sold out of all water and various other supplies. Yet, it always seems that no matter how many times that the storms strike there are many people who are unprepared to meet the aftermath. After hurricanes Isabel and Sandy have shown, the areas of people who should be ready to deal with at least short term power outages has expanded. Last year my area dealt with both the derecho and the edge of Sandy when it ran into the oncoming cold front which brought me to realize how many people aren't ready for these events that do occur, often at random. The best place to start is with the FEMA emergency supplies list and from there you can build using these ideas.
One of the big things that can help in a recovery from loss of power is to reduce the loading on an electrical system when the power returns. All too often when power companies restore power to an area they have to deal with people having left all of their electronic devices connected to the grid. This causes a large power surge, especially because many devices like refrigerators, make their largest draws upon start up. To help the power company, the easiest way is to trip open the majority of the breakers to disconnect them from the grid. Leave one breaker shut with a light switched to on so that you will know when power is returned. When the power returns, slowly bring the power back on in your home. Give time between shutting each breaker to allow capacitors to fully recharge (usually within seconds) and time for start-up current to fade down to normal operating current.
FEMA recommends at least one gallon of water be available for each member of the household and at least a three day supply. I would recommend keeping closer to two gallons per member of household, one gallon of water suddenly seems a lot less than it appears when you're without constantly running water. Also, if possible before a large storm hits, it would be best to try and fill a bathtub with water prior to the storm hitting. This water wouldn't necessarily be for consumption, but more for uses like flushing toilets. Store the water in a dark area to keep the risk of algae forming down. Bottled water has an indefinite shelf life, though it may taste a bit off after a year or two post bottling. If you choose to store tap water, it's best to use glass containers since plastic may leech chemicals, and to rotate the water at least every six months due to algae formation. If the water has an off odor, it's best to replace it. To go along with the water, get a decent water filtration unit, something designed for backpackers in mind. During storms the water supply can be flooded by storm water and contaminate it.
Top up the tank of your vehicle(s). Most stations these days run on electric powered pumps, they won't be able to swipe your credit card much less be able to fill the tank of your vehicle. If you need to evacuate the last thing you need is to realize that there is a quarter of a tank of gas and no one manning a nearby gas station.
Speaking of not being able to swipe a credit card, one often overlooked thing to do is to withdrawal some cash just in case electricity is out for days. How much is up to you, consider how much money you think you would need for supplies for a couple of days and of course how much money you are comfortable to have on hand in cash. There are many different ways suggested to hide they money aside, from fake safes to hiding it in the freezer. It's also suggested that you bear in mind denominations that most retailers would be willing to accept. A hundred dollar bill may be easier to hide, but retailers may be less likely to accept that denomination. I would suggest keeping it in fives, tens, and twenties which most ATM's spit out anyways.
Extra blankets on hand. Yes, it's summer but there are still plenty of areas in the country where cold air can hit. I'm in the southern part of the US and have seen temps dip into the 40's on early August nights.
A way to heat your food. Probably one of the most overlooked things to have on hand until it's too late. For many homeowners, at least in summer they probably have a grill handy and if so can use that. But for the growing number of apartment bound folks, they may not be allowed to have a propane or charcoal grill on premises. Do not use a camping stove indoors, the fumes can easily build up in rooms and carbon monoxide is odorless and tasteless. I find Sterno to be handy for this purpose, it's easy to use and most importantly, it's safe to be used indoors.
Boredom is often the biggest complaint during a power outage. In our society we rely on a lot of electronic toys to keep us entertained and it can be startling to find out just how reliant we are on them. A few favorite board games, a couple decks of cards, and some books can often be the best relief of this boredom. Try to avoid traveling anywhere unless absolutely necessary, and relieving boredom is not absolutely necessary, so that power and line crews can do their jobs without the extra danger of people on the road.
Condoms. Seriously, hospitals plan for a baby boom about nine months after a major storm goes through an area. Why? Because when the lights go out what's better to do than to practice what we read and write on this site. If you're not quite ready for a bundle of joy next year you should keep an extra pack of condoms on hand for when the mood is just right.
Finally, don't panic. Yes the news will hype up any storm they get a chance to and they will scour photos to show the most damage that they can. Many storms end up passing by with minimal damage, but it's best to be ready for the one that lives up to the hype the news will put out just in case.