Donya Currie is the editor of The Free Lance-Star's Healthy Living section and Healthy Life Virginia newsletter.
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Prepare family for summer storms, power outages
If your power has been out for days, and you’re sweltering and cranky and your food has spoiled, the only words likely to ease your suffering are: “The power’s back on!” It may feel a little late for advice on enduring power outages or being ready for a storm. But with the summer young, it’s worth reading up on ways to prepare for whatever Mother Nature brings next.
- A 3- to 5-day supply of clean water for each person in your household. This amounts to about 5 gallons per person.
- A battery-powered radio and extra batteries.
- Disposable cleaning wipes — especially if you have a baby in the house, but even if you don’t, as the wipes can be used to keep you clean if there’s no water available.
- A 3-5 day supply of non-perishable food, plus baby food and/or formula.
- Any prescription or over-the-counter medicines you may need or take regularly.
Mary Becelia, who lives in south Stafford County with her husband and two children, was still without power Monday afternoon. She said coping involves escaping as much as possible to air-conditioned places with her kids.
“Being out of the heat really helps as I get super cranky when I am hot, and they seem to as well,” she said. “It all just feeds on itself, so finding cool places to go is a huge help.”
“I also purchased some battery operated fans at Walmart and those really helped with sleeping last night,” Becelia said.
Parents face an extra set of challenges when faced with extreme heat and power outages. In addition to being hot and inconvenienced, they also have to contend with kids who are likely way outside their comfort zones in homes suddenly lacking power. As if the heat isn’t bad enough, boredom may enter the mix, as kids go without electronic distractions. Hot, bored kids aren’t pleasant for long.
What can you do? To confront boredom:
- Play games like “20 questions” and “What if?” You can do this anywhere, anytime, without having to scramble around looking for game pieces. All you need is your mind and a willingness to play along. “What if you were stranded on a deserted island and could only bring three CDs…”
- Reach out to friends. Distract your kids from the reality of the situation by hooking them up with friends to play with. Misery loves company. Better yet, misery loves finding people who aren’t miserable because they have power and air conditioning.
- Get out of the house and cool down. Head to a swimming pool, movie theater, mall or other air-conditioned place. Becelia said she’s gone to the library and had lunch at Goolrick’s to escape the heat.
- At night, play flashlight tag, tell ghost stories, reminisce or make hand shadows on the wall.
- Create a sense of adventure. Talk to the kids about how they’ll always remember this storm. Thinking about something as an adventure rather than a hardship helps people cope, though it may be easier said than done.
If you know a storm is coming ahead of time:
- Get your kids’ favorite items — stuffed animals, sketch pads, etc — to comfort and distract them.
- Charge electronics such as iPods so the kids can get some use out of them after the power goes out.
- Fill up your bathtub(s). Not only does this give you a source of water for drinking and/or flushing toilets, it also provides the ability to do some water play, which is a fun way to keep a young child occupied.
- Stock up on glow sticks in addition to flashlights; kids tend to think glow sticks are fun.
- Stock up on good stories; entertaining tales can distract kids during scary storms and on long, dark nights afterward.
Also, keep your cell phones charged and your friends’ and relatives’ phone numbers handy, if not programmed into your phone. That way, if your power goes out, you can call around and see which friends and relatives have power — and ride out your outage with them.
And pump your car full of gas. You don’t want to experience what many people here experienced over the weekend — some gas stations not working, and others jammed with long lines. If your house lacks air conditioning, it’s nice to have a cool car to drive to a pool or air-conditioned spot.
Finally, if you know a storm is coming, don’t forget to have a plan for getting your morning coffee. If there’s anything worse than being hot, cranky and unplugged, it’s doing it all with a caffeine headache.
To read more advice from the CDC, click here.