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Prepare so an earthquake doesn't leave you powerless

By Joe Dougherty

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Feb. 12 2012 5:01 p.m. MST

Editor's note: This article is part of a series on earthquake preparation. Read the rest of the articles here.

Remember giving your children that 10-minute warning to get the lights out? Yeah. Mother Nature doesn’t do that.

A major earthquake could strike at any time, causing widespread power outages that last days, a week or longer. Have you stopped to consider what that means? No electricity for a week or longer?

Think of all of the things you plug in at home: your cellphone, refrigerator, computer, freezer, oven, coffee maker, washing machine and the Internet. Now think of the things you don’t plug in but still use electricity: lights, furnace and some water heaters. Around town, virtually everything depends on electricity: ATMs, cash registers, light rail and gas pumps to name a few.

On April 17 at 10:15 a.m., the entire state of Utah is participating in an earthquake drill called the Great Utah ShakeOut. This drill is designed to help Utahns from all walks of life prepare for a major earthquake, which is overdue here along the Wasatch Fault. Each week, Be Ready Utah, Emergency Essentials and the Deseret News are bringing you emergency preparedness tips to help you get ready for the ShakeOut and a major earthquake or other disaster.

Remember, winter storms, severe winds and extreme summer heat can all cause extended power outages, as well.

Here are some things you can prepare now so you won’t be left in the dark.

  • Make sure each family member has a flashlight. Keep extra batteries on hand.
  • Create the habit of filling your gas tank when it gets to half. Statistics show you can drive farther on a full tank of gas.
  • Consider a gasoline-powered backup generator for your home. Know how to use it safely.
  • Pick a day to practice living without electricity.
  • It’s time to think about your alternative heat sources. Remember not to bring anything combustible inside your home. Your heat source should not be something that will kill you.
  • Hand or toe warmers provide instant heat for hours and can be placed on gloves or socks.
  • Make sure to have extra blankets, sleeping bags and warm clothing.
  • Also consider alternate cooking methods, such as a Dutch oven, camping stove or outdoor grill. Only use these items outside your home.
  • A battery-operated radio will help you stay informed. Don’t have one? Remember, your car radio is also battery-operated.

Joe Dougherty is a preparedness expert and spokesman for the Utah Division of Emergency Management and Be Ready Utah. Email your tips to him at jdougherty@utah.gov. Daily preparedness tips at Twitter.com/bereadyutah.

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