Watching out for Earl? Here's how to be prepared

    Consumer Reports News: September 01, 2010 02:37 PM

    Thousands of tourists were ordered to evacuate islands off the coast of North Carolina as Hurricane Earl continued its inexorable approach towards the mid-Atlantic. The National Hurricane Center issued various warnings and watches that extended up to the New England states. A warning indicates hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours; a watch indicates 48 hours.

    "Our two biggest concerns," Bill Read, director of the National Hurricane Center Director, told NBC's Today are "the coast of North Carolina and extreme southeast Virginia on early Friday morning, late Thursday night, and then on Friday into Saturday for southeastern New England. Just a small change in the direction of the storm could raise an impact, and the large waves, beach erosion and rip currents will be a problem along the East Coast."

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency advised residents in the projected storm path to "get a kit" together in the event that they lose power. The agency recommends:
    • One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
    • At least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
    • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and extra batteries
    • Flashlight and extra batteries
    • First aid kit
    • Whistle to signal for help
    • Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
    • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
    • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
    • Can opener for food 
    • Local maps
    • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
    The  U.S. Department of Agriculture offered tips to help keep food safe, even if you don't have a backup generator (read our report).
    • Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer to indicate the temperature in case of a power outage.
    • Make sure the freezer is at 0 degrees F or below and the refrigerator is at 40 F or below.
    • Freeze containers of water for ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator or coolers after the power is out.
    • Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately — this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
    • Plan ahead and know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased.
    • Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power is out for more than four hours. Purchase or make ice and store in the freezer for use in the refrigerator or in a cooler. Freeze gel packs ahead of time for use in coolers.
    • Group food together in the freezer — this helps it stay cold longer.
    • Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water in case of flooding.

    If you do lose power for a prolonged period, read the USDA tips on How to keep food safe during an emergency, which includes a chart of which foods to save and which to toss. Here are the two most important bits of advice: Never taste a food to determine its safety, and when in doubt throw it out.

    Read our Storm and Emergency Guide for for more helpful information.

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