We’re in the heat of tornado season, and summer is notorious for bringing a host of other unexpected emergencies — from blackouts to floods and electrical storms. The problem: nine out of 10 people either panic or freeze during an emergency instead of taking effective action. To boot, the best plan of action is often counter-intuitive.
To help you be part of that survival-ready 10%, The Family Handyman has unveiled its Home Emergency Preparedness Guide. Whether facing a hurricane or a kitchen fire, be ready for any scenario with expert tips such as:
Flooded basement basics
• Do: Keep dry until you turn off electrical power. Even the tiniest puddle could be electrified by a cord on the floor. If you can’t reach the circuit breaker box, call an electrician or your utility to cut the power to your home.
• Don’t: Just wade into the water to rescue your stuff. If your flooding is due to flash floods or your belongings are leaching toxins, the floodwaters may contain dangerous chemicals and breed dangerous bacteria. Protect cuts and open sores from floodwaters and wear plastic gloves when handling your possessions.
Power outage play-by-play
• Do: Turn off and unplug all electrical equipment and turn your heating thermostat down (or cooling thermostat up) to prevent damage from surges when the power returns.
• Don’t: Turn everything back on at once when the power is restored. This can create internal power surges. First restore the thermostat setting on the heating or cooling system and turn on your larger appliances. Give the electrical system a few minutes to stabilize before plugging in your remaining appliances.
• Do: Move to a protected interior room on the lowest floor of the house, as far as possible from exterior walls and windows. Use pillows, cushions, blankets or mattresses to protect yourself from flying debris.
• Don’t: Open windows to “equalize the pressure” no matter what your grandparents told you. These myths can actually cause greater damage than good. Also, the southwest corner of the basement may not be the safest spot to hunker down, especially if it’s near an outside wall or window.
Electrical storm safety
• Do: Call the fire department immediately if your home gets hit. Lightning strikes can cause small fires inside walls that smolder for hours before you notice anything.
• Don’t: Sit on the toilet, bathe or shower, if possible, during an electrical storm. As wacky as it sounds, lightning strikes can travel through metal plumbing pipes. Better safe than sorry in this case.
Grease fire go-to’s
• Do: React fast. If it’s a toaster fire, unplug the cord and use an ABC (dry chemical) fire extinguisher or pour baking soda into the toaster. If it’s a stove-top fire, turn off the burner and smother the flames by dousing them with baking soda or putting the lid on the plan.
• Don’t: Use water to put out a grease fire. It can splash the burning grease and cause burns. And never carry a burning pan outside. It can cause a full-scale house fire if flaming grease spills and ignites something else.
For more information, visit www.familyhandyman.com.