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  • The Power’s Out…Now What? 5 Steps to a Better Blackout

    Your town is landlocked, so there’s no threat of hurricanes. Tornadoes tend to avoid your state, and earthquakes just don’t happen. So what’s to worry about?

    Blackout ManhattanChances are you use electricity in your home. No matter where you live, there is always a threat that your power will go out. In fact, the United States experiences “more blackouts than any other developed nation,” according to International Business Times. They went on to say that the number of power losses along the U.S. grid have escalated 285% since 1984. And, with the demand for power still growing, those numbers will just get higher.

    So hopefully you’re preparing for the inevitable blackout. But once it does come, what then?

     

    1. Light It Up

    Power Outage with Candles BlackoutFirst of all, know where your backup lights are (flashlights, emergency candles, etc.), and keep them in an easy-to-reach place. This way, you’ll be able to find everything else you need quickly – without having to stumble through the dark. When using candles, it is important to exercise caution, as they have the potential to start fires. While a larger fire will provide more light, it will also cost you a lot more in damages. Pros and cons, I guess.

     

    1. Power to the People

    Now that you have light, the next step is to give yourself power. You can’t always have a super-generator on hand to keep your entire home up and running for the duration of the blackout (although that would be nice), but you can prepare with power packs, batteries, and chargers that will keep your electronic devices working despite the lack of electricity. This way, your phone will always have a charge, just in case you need to make an emergency call – or play an emergency game of Angry Birds. That being said, try and keep the games and movies to a minimum so as to not run down your power sources before you need them for actual emergency purposes (not that Angry Birds isn’t an emergency, but…you know what I mean).

    20121026-_MG_2503_ccs blackout Generators like this Goal Zero Yeti are safe to use indoors because they don't run off gas. It can also be hooked up to solar panels!

    A note about generators: Most generators should never be used inside, no matter how safe you think it is. You may be able to find some indoor-safe generators, but unless stated as such (and certified), don’t risk it. Carbon monoxide is deadly and you may not even realize you’re being poisoned by it. The same goes for grills, camp stoves, and other gas-powered cookers and heaters. Basically, if it’s portable, chances are it’s not safe to use indoors (this includes the garage and carports. There is danger even if there is ventilation). There are, however, generators you can have charged well in advance that will last you many hours. Because these run off stored electricity, they are safe to use inside.

     

    1. Stay Safe

    If it’s cold outside, keep to a higher level if possible, as warm air rises. Wrap yourself up in blankets and layer up your clothing to keep in that body heat. Alternately, if it’s really hot outside and your power goes out, make your way to the basement or other cool area. Wear light, loose clothing as well. Regulating your body temperature is vital during a blackout.

    If it is dark, don’t try and venture around your home without a light. Falling down stairs or knocking your head on an open cupboard can make things a lot worse. Likewise, if the power's out, the streets will most likely be dark as well, so it might be best to just avoid going out into the blackness of night.

     

    1. Keep Your Food Safe

    According to Ready.gov, food in your refrigerator should stay cold for about 4 hours, so long as you keep the door shut. A freezer full of frozen food will maintain its temperature for up to 48 hours.

     

    1. Know When to Call it Quits

    Sometimes, the best thing to do is admit defeat. If the blackout is going to last longer than you’re prepared for, you might need to check in to a hotel or stay with a family member nearby. Doing so is not showing weakness – it’s showing wisdom. If you’re having troubles preparing food, staying warm or keeping cool, finding another location to spend the night or next few days would be a wise move indeed.

     

     What are some other important steps to take during a power outage? Let us know in the comments below!

     

    February - Power Banner Blackout

  • El Niño vs The Arctic Oscillation: Opposing Weather Systems Bring Extreme Weather

    In the U.S., this year’s winter weather has been like a boxing match, with the southern El Niño sparring with the northern Arctic Oscillation and North Atlantic Oscillation for temperature and precipitation supremacy.

    May the best oscillation win?

    El Niño is a once-every-several-years warming of the eastern Pacific. A major El Niño event, like the one we’re experiencing now, commonly brings buckets of precipitation to the southwest, buckets of precipitation and colder weather to the southeast, and slightly warmer, drier weather to the northern Rockies and Midwest.

    In December and into early January, El Niño had commanded the match. Temperatures in the northeast reached the 60s and even 70s, smashing record highs. At the same time, tornadoes in the southeastern U.S. – a common El Niño phenomenon – killed two dozen people in four days. The severe storms continued into January in the southeast, as a tornado touched down in Florida on January 9.

    Shirtless - USA Today - Arctic Oscillation And then there was this guy... "What Arctic Oscillation?" - via USA Today

    Here’s where the match got interesting, though. The same storm system that brought the Florida tornado also brought extreme cold temperatures and blasting wind to the Midwest. A January 10 football playoff game in Minnesota was the third-coldest NFL game ever played, with a kickoff temperature of -6 degrees F. The storm left more than 120,000 people without power across several states.

    This extreme cold is more characteristic of a polar vortex, caused by the North Atlantic Oscillation and Arctic Oscillation. And it’ll probably continue through January.

    Arctic Oscillation El Niño is causing massive flooding in California, but won't do much in drought relief - via CBS News

    However, in California, El Niño is still the big hitter. The state is in a brief pause in a series of storms that could last for a few weeks. The storms are bringing lots of rain – which, alas, creates problems for awards ceremonies’ red carpet preliminaries – and causing floods in spots.

    Meteorologists expect even this El Niño won’t make much of a dent on the multi-year California drought. For starters, rainwater doesn’t stay put. Once the ground is saturated, water flows away, often in storm drains to the Pacific. In Orange County, in southern California, about half that water gets captured for later use. The rest ends up in the ocean.

    Rain Barrel - Arctic OscillationMany agencies in southern California are trying to collect more of that rainwater. On January 6, the State Water Resources Control Board approved a plan to spend $200 million for projects to capture more rain.

    In California and many other states, homeowners can capture rain for their own use. A 1,000-square-foot roof can collect 600 gallons from one inch of rain, according to the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension.

    It’s not that hard to make a small rain capture system; WikiHow has directions. Basically, it requires making a platform for a rain barrel (or barrels), taking a barrel and adding a spigot and overflow valve, attaching it to a rain gutter’s downspout and putting a filter in the downspout to catch larger stuff that would clog it. To use the rainwater for landscaping or gardening, set up a drip irrigation system and run a hose out to it from the barrel.

    Professional installers can also make a larger rain capture system.

    A few caveats. First, this system is gravity-powered, so if you want to water higher than your collection location, you’ll need a pump. Second, this water’s not suitable for drinking. It needs boiling and filtering to become potable. Third, not all states and municipalities allow rainwater collection, and some allow it only on a limited basis. This is especially true in the west, where water rights are paramount.

    --Melissa

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner Arctic Oscillation

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  • Fashionable Face Masks: Stay Healthy in Any Condition

    If you were trapped in a desert for months with only dirty, polluted water to drink, you would undoubtedly jump at the chance to buy for good, clean mountain water. A bottle of that stuff would probably come at a premium, considering your location and circumstance. But if you were thirsty for clean water, you’d pay practically anything.

    Bottled Air via Daily Mail - health Take a breath of fresh, healthy air - via The Daily Mail

    Beijing is suffering from a similar problem right now. Although they aren’t trapped in an arid desert, their city has been put on a red alert over its high levels of pollution. These levels are so high, in fact, that a certain company is selling bottles of fresh mountain air to people at an exorbitant price. But, just like the desert scenario, people are shelling out up to $28 a bottle for premium oxygen. A local restaurant has also purchased air filtration machines, and are now charging extra for customers to partake of the clean air whilst enjoying their meal.

    Aside from charging for oxygen (which thing seems mind boggling), a new fashion trend has cropped up in China that helps keep people’s lungs clear of the pervasive pollution: surgical masks.

    Face Mask - Independent.co.uk - health Face masks are a necessary accessory - via Independent.co.uk

    Apparently, surgical masks are all the rage in many Asian countries. Because there are such high levels of pollution in many cities and widespread illness, surgical masks need to be worn outside to avoid becoming sick. And, since they are such a constant part of life now, these new wardrobe additions have been fashioned into something a little more stylish.

    We can learn an important lesson from these fashionable face masks.

    When it comes to being prepared, don’t forget about your health. There is a lot of information out there about how to prepare for disasters and other unsavory circumstances, but we often overlook the need of maintaining proper health. In Beijing and other areas of the world, pollution is very prevalent. We are fortunate here to not be surrounded by so much airborne filth. But just because we aren’t at a state of emergency due to pollution doesn’t mean we aren’t at risk.

    For example, here in Utah we experience what is known as a temperature inversion. This happens when a high pressure system hovers over the mountains, forcing the cold air down. Exhaust from cars, smoke from fire places, and other such things that dirty the air get trapped underneath the high pressure system, thus creating a thick, smoggy fog that in many cases exceeds the EPA’s health standard.

    This is just one example of how our health can be compromised even during times of peace. Face masks might be advisable during such situations. It’s not just pollution that can make us sick, however. Airborne illness can also be a threat. Face masks will also help against those sicknesses, too.

    Being prepared for the future involves being prepared for more than just earthquakes and tornadoes. It involves taking precautions to protect your health. After all, being healthy in an emergency is just as important (if not more so) as being healthy during regular, uneventful days.

    If you live in an area where inversions are common, you know they can – and will – happen, so be prepared for them. If you don’t, then take a look around and come up with a list of possible health threats. Whether you live in the big city or country, there will always be health issues you can prepare for. Whether it’s pollution, airborne illness or some other villain, take the steps necessary to prepare for those events.

     

    How do you prepare for health threats in your area?

     

    Health Banner

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