Time used preparing for storms well spent

Posted Sept. 05, 2010, at 11:33 p.m.

Two names made news last week. One was Earl; the other was Peter Geiger.

The fifth named Atlantic storm of the season, Earl visited with as close to hurricane force as most of us cared to endure. As with most big storms, the effects will be felt for some time.

Peter Geiger’s newsmaking moment may not have been so dramatic. His annual release of the Farmer’s Almanac gave us this forecast for the coming winter: much colder than normal with average snowfall.

In the interest of full disclosure, the Almanac’s long-term forecast for this past Wednesday through Friday was “thunderstorms, then pleasant.”

All of which reminds us that we have varying ways of predicting storms (with varying degrees of accuracy) and that the need for good preparation increases with the severity and duration of a storm. There’s still one great starting point for information.

The Maine Emergency Management Agency’s website, www.maine.gov/mema/prepare, included the latest watches and warnings about the storm named Earl. It featured news accounts of preparations Mainers made, predictions of the storm’s track and severity, and safety reminders for local people and visitors.

Since Earl may not be the last hurricane or tropical storm we see this year, we might take a look at a section titled “Preparing to weather the storm.” There’s a countdown-style checklist of steps to take each of the three days before a storm strikes and during the storm itself.

It urges updating our “go kits,” the bags of essentials you can grab if you need to leave home in a hurry. Other advice: Shop early for food, gasoline and other essentials; secure loose items outdoors so they don’t become flying missiles; and board or tape up exposed windows.

Monitor storm reports closely (with your battery-powered radio, of course) and don’t leave home until it’s safe. After the storm, don’t drive through standing water, and —as the TV spot reminds us —never, ever touch a downed power line.

The “Maine Prepares” website isn’t just about hurricane safety. It includes tips on preparing for and surviving all kinds of natural disasters. There’s also a wealth of advice on safe ways to do household projects and repairs, such as thawing frozen pipes.

The site also includes helpful links, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, www.ready.gov, and Home Safety Council, www.homesafetycouncil.org. There’s also a link to the Internal Revenue Service page dealing with special tax law provisions for disaster relief.

Time spent getting ready for emergencies is time well spent.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s membership-funded, nonprofit consumer organization. Individual and business memberships are available at modest rates. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for more information, write: Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, or go to http://necontact.wordpress.com.

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