Irene's advancing—get out of her way and stay safe

Consumer Reports News: August 26, 2011 11:49 AM

Hurricane Irene is barreling toward North Carolina, where a hurricane warning is in effect, and hurricane watches have been posted for Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and New England. Unlike their neighbors to the south, Northeasterners may not be as familiar with hurricane preparedness. Whether you're weathering in or have to evacuate, there's a few supplies you should have on hand.

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For a complete guide to staying safe during Hurricane Irene and other disasters, check out: recommends that you plan for the possibility that you'll be without power for at least three days and offers a checklist of supplies you'll need to get you through. In the past we've also written about to-go bags for pets and the additional things you'll need for babies and small children. Here's what to have at home:

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation.
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food.
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both.
  • 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 (if kit contains canned food).
  • Local maps.
  • A charged cell phone and chargers.

In the event of a power outage, you should take precautions to keep your food safe. Of course, if you have a generator, that will be a big help. Remember that you'll need plenty of fuel and gas stations often shut down during blackouts. Most home-sized generators use 12 to 18 gallons of gasoline per day.

Using a portable generator comes with its own safety risks, the biggest being carbon-monoxide poisoning, fire, and electrocution. Never operate a generator indoors or in an enclosed space. And keep them away from windows, doors, air conditioners, and vents where gases can enter the house. Be sure the generator is properly grounded, and use extreme caution around wet electrical cords.

If you live in an area under an evacuation notice, you should be preparing for that now. Otherwise, there is no good reason to be on the roads when a hurricane is bearing down. Risks such as hydroplaning and striking unexpected submerged objects in deep puddles are too real, says the Consumer Reports car team. If you're sticking it out at home, make sure you have a full tank of gas and that your car is parked in a place that won't flood.

Government hurricane resources:
Evacuation plans from
Food and drug safety from the Food and Drug Administration.
Health advice from the Centers for Disease Control.
Common hurricane hazards from the National Hurricane Center.
Utility shutoff and safety from
Hurricane cleanup from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Mary H.J. Farrell

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