Caught in the dark: What Sandy can teach you about preparedness
Tim Pedersen of Emergency Essentials, a Utah-based preparedness retailer, recommended the same basic supplies for Utahns, focusing especially on light sources. Pedersen warned that power outages like the ones plaguing the East Coast threaten comfort and security, especially as the days get shorter.
"Psychologically, it's interesting that lighting tends to be a big one," he said. "Come 6 p.m., things just suddenly become uncertain. You can't see things very well … that's disorienting and also troubling."
Pedersen estimated that based on what he hears from customers, only about half of Utahns would be ready if a disaster struck today. While most would be able to survive in their homes for several days based on what they already have, he worries that many wouldn't have supplies ready in the event of an evacuation.
Means for communication and news can play a vital role in emergency situations, with social media taking a prominent role as Sandy unfolded. Mashable reported Tuesday that "We are safe" became the top Facebook status during the storm.
Pedersen recommends portable battery packs and solar charging units, which are smaller than generators and don't emit fumes, to charge mobile devices during an emergency.
Goal Zero, a Utah company, sells chargers and battery packs designed for personal electronics online and at several outdoor retailers with prices starting at about $130 for small kits. They can be used to recharge cell phones or other electronic devices.
While power companies make restoring power a top priority following an emergency in order to facilitate relief efforts, Dougherty said Utahns caught in an earthquake or a large storm could be without electricity for a week or more.
Generators can be used to power larger appliances like a refrigerator if families are able to invest in them and take safety concerns into account, Dougherty said. A variety of generators are available, ranging from portable models to built-in units that can power a house.
"A generator is an engine," he said. "You want to think about where that generator lives and where you store the fuel."
Something as simple as a hand-crank radio with the ability to charge a cellphone could be an option for someone with fewer power needs, Dougherty said.
Preparedness checklists and information are available at bereadyutah.gov.
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