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    Storm season is approaching, and now is a good time to prepare your home for lengthy power outages and other associated problems. While no one can quite prepare for the devastation that Sandy and other major storms have caused recently, here are ten ways that you can lessen frustration and make the experience more positive.

    1. Have your utility's phone number accessible. The number may be in your cell phone, but we recommend writing it down and putting it on your refrigerator in case you're not able to charge your cell phone. If you have a land-line, purchase a phone with a direct cord to the phone jack so you are able to make phone calls. Always call your utility to report outages and other problems such as sparking transformers and downed power lines. Don't call your retail electricity provider since these issues are the utility's responsibility.
    2. Be cautious when inspecting damages caused by a storm. Downed power lines can be live and fatal. Never touch a downed power line, keep children and pets inside, and report the downed line to your utility. Be extra careful moving fallen tree branches and limbs, as power lines could be hidden in debris.
    3. Purchase LED flashlights, not candles. While candles are nice, they are not as bright as flashlights and battery-powered lamps. It takes several candles to emit bright light; the more candles you have lit, the greater the risk of fire. Be sure to stock up on batteries.
    4. Turn off sensitive electronic equipment to protect against surges and other irregularities. This includes: TVs, computers, game systems, DVD players, stereos, cordless phones, microwaves, answering machines, and even garage door openers. Power surge protector strips are great investments in case you are not at home to turn off electronics.
    5. Stock your freezer and fridge with bags of ice. If you have room in a deep freezer, keep these bags on hand at all times. Of course, it's more economical to make your own ice if you have time. If a power outage occurs, move the bags to your fridge and freeze. Make sure that the doors stay closed unless absolutely necessary in order to keep the cold air from escaping.
    6. Invest in a generator. If you can afford it, purchase a generator. They can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, depending on the wattage. Even a smaller generator can keep a deep freezer running and those with deep freezers know that hundreds of dollars' worth of food can be ruined by a single power outage. Due to fire hazards, don't stockpile fuel unless a storm is approaching.
    7. Have board games and other entertainment on hand. Power outages are the perfect time to introduce traditional board games to tech-savvy children. Playing cards, coloring books, and crayons are good to have on hand as well. Don't have children? Adults need entertainment too!
    8. Buy propane or charcoal for your grill. Most people don't have charcoal or propane on hand in the middle of winter, but you'll be able to cook a hot meal as long as the temperatures outside are above freezing. Never use a grill indoors.
    9. If you have children that stay at home alone, write a list. While your teenagers may be perfectly capable of taking care of themselves at home alone, they might not know (or forget) what to do during a storm. Write down a list of steps to take in case they are unable to get a hold of you for assistance.
    10. Create a "Storm Cabinet". Keep your flashlights, batteries, entertainment, list of steps (if you have children), and other necessities in one cabinet, closet, or drawer. Make sure everyone in your home knows about the Storm Cabinet.

    To sum up, here's a grocery list for your convenience:

    • LED Flashlights or battery-powered lamps
    • Batteries (various sizes)
    • Bag of ice
    • Bottled water
    • Games, playing cards
    • Power surge strips
    • Propane/Charcoal
    • Fuel for generator