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A series of storms hit Michigan ’s Lower Peninsula packing winds up to 70 mph that knocked down trees and tore roofs off homes and buildings. Downed power lines sparked fires and several roads were closed due to flooding. Some areas reported hail up to three inches in diameter. The National Weather Service said the storm damaged 80% of the units in one mobile home park. By the time the storm had ended, over 200,000 homes and businesses were left without power.

Power outages can be just as deadly in the summer as in winter. It is not only important to plan ahead, but know how to proceed even if you are caught totally unprepared. Here are a few tips to help families prepare for potentially dangerous and unexpected weather conditions.

Before an Outage

  • In case your family is not together when disaster strikes, know how you will contact one another and what you will do in case of an emergency
  • Keep local emergency contact numbers on-hand.
  • Create an emergency kit including flashlights, a radio, candles and matches, non-perishable food items, a can opener, a first-aid kit, batteries, blankets (winter), and a battery operated fan (summer).
  • Regularly check the batteries in your smoke detectors.
  • Keep a supply of bottled water on hand and safely stored.
  • Freeze containers of water to be used for ice or freeze gel packs.
  • Keep coolers on hand to help keep food cold.
  • Protect sensitive electrical equipment (computers, DVD players, televisions, etc.) by installing surge protectors.
  • Invest in an appliance thermometer. In case of a power outage, the thermometer will help determine if food is safe.

During an Outage

  • Never use a camp stove, barbecue grill, propane tank, or kerosene heater indoors.
  • Do not use a gas oven or range to heat your home, even for a few hours. Deadly carbon monoxide gases can build up without notice.
  • Use flashlights as much as possible. If you must use candles, do so with caution.
  • Turn off all lights except one. This prevents a power surge when the power is restored. Avoid opening and closing the refrigerator and freezer to keep food from spoiling. A closed refrigerator will stay cold for 12 hours; a well-filled freezer will preserve food for two days.
  • Dry ice or block ice will keep the refrigerator as cold as possible if the power will be out for some time. If you are on the roadways, be extra cautious especially at intersections.
  • Never drive over a downed power line.
  • If a power line falls on your vehicle, remain inside until help arrives.
  • If the weather is extremely hot, take measures to remain cool. Move to the lowest level of your home, wear lightweight, light-colored clothing, and drink plenty of water. If the power remains off for an extended time, consider someplace cool, like a movie theater, shopping mall, or a shelter.
  • During cold temperatures, dress in layers of warm clothing. If the power is out for a prolonged period, consider a hotel, shelter, or staying with family or friends.

After an outage

  • Expect a brief power fluctuation after you regain electricity.
  • Check to make sure the refrigerator and freezer have come back on. Sometimes a dedicated circuit breaker will trip off during a power outage.
  • Don’t forget to restock your emergency kit.
  • Check the safety of your food.   Keep in mind that perishable food such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk, and eggs that are not kept adequately refrigerated or frozen may cause illness if consumed, even when they are thoroughly cooked.
  • Do not consume food to determine if it is good or not. When in doubt, throw it out. Even the smallest amounts of contaminated foods can be deadly
  • Do not touch downed power lines; call 911.
  • Do not attempt to swim or go tubing in flooded streets. You never know what could being laying in the water, such as sharp objects. Flood water can harbor dangerous bacteria and other pollutants and can even be contaminated with raw sewage.
  • Do not attempt to drive on a flooded road. Just six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars; this depth can cause loss of control or possible stalling. Many cars will start to float in as little as one foot of water. If you must negotiate a flooded section of road, drive in the middle where the water will be at its shallowest.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.

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