Preparing for Power Outages

Posted: November 30, 2010 in Emergency Plans

Power outages can affect anyone, whether you’re living in a college dorm, in an off-campus apartment, or at home. I found this article that talked about a recent power outage on the campus of Texas Christian University (TCU). Luckily, the power was restored a short time later, but what if it wasn’t? For example, what if Provo’s (or whatever city you’re in) power went out for a few days to weeks? Now that it’s cold outside what would you do? I would definitely make sure I had a working flashlight with extra batteries.

Power outages can be caused by a variety of events, major causes of power outages in the U.S. include weather-related events, animals contacting wires, auto accidents, utility maintenance, human error, and events that are unknown. Power outages can be hazardous, especially during the cold winter months and hot summer months when temperatures can become dangerously low or high. A lot of college students don’t really think about preparing for power outages so here are some safety tips you can follow:

Prepare for an approaching storm

  • Keep the following items on hand:
    • Fresh batteries
    • A portable radio
    • Flashlights
    • A manual can opener
    • Matches
    • A battery-operated or wind-up clock
    • Non-perishable food (canned and dried food)
  • Make a list of emergency phone numbers and keep a personal telephone book and one corded phone or cell phone on hand.
  • Keep a first-aid kit in your home and one in your car.
  • Keep one gallon of bottled water available for each person in the household for each anticipated day without electric service.
  • Keep cash on hand.

Protect Your Appliances and Electronic Equipment
Many home electronics are very sensitive and can be damaged during a power outage. Here are some precautions you can take to protect sensitive equipment:

  • Purchase equipment with built-in surge protection or a battery-powered back-up system.
  • Use electrical surge suppressors or arresters on your electronic equipment on properly grounded circuits. Most are designed to be plugged into a wall outlet.
  • Plug your computers and other sensitive equipment into a separate, grounded circuit to isolate them from fluctuations caused by major appliance restarts.
  • Consider having a lightning arrester installed at your main circuit panel.
  • If you own a business, or have a home office, you might consider installing an uninterruptible power supply for temporary backup power for your electronic equipment.
  • During a power outage, turn off all appliances, including your furnace, air conditioner, and water heater to avoid overloading circuits when power is restored to all appliances at once. Leave one lamp on so you will know when your service is restored

Check out this site for more safety tips, including how to protect your food in a power outage and how to prepare for both winter and summer power outages. Have any of you had problems with power outages while in college?

In one of my classes this semester we learned about firearm-related injuries and then we watched a video about what to do in an active shooter scenario on campus. This made me think about what I would actually do if there was a shooter on my college campus. I hope nothing like this will ever happen here, but it’s good to know what to do just in case something does happen. Over the past few years there seems to have been more incidences of shootings on college campuses across the U.S. I’m sure most people remember the shooting at Virginia Tech back in 2007 and then there was a shooting a few months ago at the University of Texas. While these incidences are rare, they do happen.

So what should you do if a shooter comes to your campus? Kenyon College provides the following steps if you are in an active shooter situation:

1. If an active shooter is outside your building:

  • Stay in or go to a room that can be locked and turn off all lights, lock windows, and stay out of sight.
  • One person in the room should call the campus or local police.
  • Stay put until given instructions by Campus Safety or a police officer.

2. If an active shooter is in your building:

  • If your room can be locked, stay put. Turn off all lights and stay out of sight.
  • If your room cannot be locked, determine if you can safely reach another lockable room or if you can safely exit the building.

3. If an active shooter enters your classroom, residence hall room, or office:

  • Call the campus or local police if possible and give your location. If you cannot speak, leave the line open so safety officers can hear what is happening.
  • If you cannot escape, attempt to negotiate.

4. Only if absolutely necessary should you make any attempt to deal with the shooter.

These are great steps to follow. Have any of you ever been in an active shooter situation? If so, what did you do? Did you follow similar steps?

Preparing for Winter Storms

Posted: November 26, 2010 in Emergency Plans

If you were in Utah this past week you most likely heard about the “Blizzard of 2010” that was supposed to hit on Tuesday night. I was at home in my apartment anxiously awaiting the so-called “blizzard.” The local news channels were all saying how bad the storm would be and how it would hit Provo around 7 p.m. Well, all Provo got that night was some wind and barely ten minutes of snowfall. I’m usually not one to complain about the weather forecast because I know weather is hard to predict and can change without notice, but I couldn’t help but be disappointed. I was so prepared for the “blizzard,” I had picked up extra batteries for my flashlight and I had my 72-hour kit in my apartment and ready to go just in case the power went out or if I couldn’t leave my apartment for a while. Even though Provo was spared this time around, other communities north of us weren’t as lucky. While some people may think the blizzard warning was a little extreme, I think it helped a lot of people stay off of the roads and it kept them safe.

If you have lived in Utah during the winter you know how nasty the weather can get with the snow, ice, and cold temperatures. Whether you’re on the road traveling or at home in your apartment, it’s important to prepare yourself for winter storms. Always check the weather forecast before you head out on the road, be aware of the weather. Keep an emergency kit in your car with items such as water, food, blankets, winter clothing, etc. Make sure your car is working properly and that your tires are in good condition. In your apartment you can winterize your home by insulating pipes and by storing enough food and other essentials in case you are stuck there during a big storm. Check out this site by FEMA to learn more ways you can prepare for the winter. What are some ways you have prepared for winter in your apartment? Has preparation ever saved your life during a winter storm?

Influenza-Are You Prepared?

Posted: November 22, 2010 in Health

You would be surprised how many people do not cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze! Are you one of them? I know that no one is perfect, but during the flu season you especially have to be careful. I have even seen some public health students in my classes not covering their mouths! Seriously, we as public health students should know better. So please, cover your mouth, preferably not with your hands that you use to open the classroom door. You may be wondering: How does this relate to emergency preparedness? Well, if you get sick with the flu during finals week I think that definitely counts as an emergency!

Each year, approximately 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the seasonal flu. The flu virus is primarily spread through contact with respiratory droplets from infected individuals when they cough, sneeze, or even talk. So covering your mouth can prevent the spread of the flu. Another mode of prevention is getting the seasonal flu shot. Have you gotten your flu shot yet? I will make my own appointment within the next week! Getting sick certainly isn’t fun, especially when you are a busy college student with finals drawing near. So let’s keep campus healthier this flu season by getting our flu shot and by covering our mouths!

This video needs no explanation. Get a flu shot and cover your mouth!

Safety Tips for Coeds

Posted: November 21, 2010 in Emergency Plans

Have you ever walked home late from the library, testing center, or other buildings on campus? I certainly have. Most of us women don’t think about the dangers in walking alone late at night or early in the morning. Even though most of us have probably done this, it’s important to think about our personal safety, especially as women. Recent attacks in Provo have made me think a lot more about what I should be doing to keep myself and my roomates safe. It’s not just at night either, things happen even in the middle of the day so preparing ourselves for these emergencies is important.

So how can we as women be more safe? Check out this site, it has some great safety tips that can help you while you’re on or off campus. One thing that stood out to me was that we should trust our instincts. If something seems wrong, it probably is.  There is so much I could say about personal safety, but basically… just be smart! Stay in well-lit areas and avoid going to unfamiliar places alone. Also, don’t be afraid to call the campus Safewalk to walk you home or to your car. While nothing bad may ever happen to you while you are jogging or walking alone at night, it’s better to be safe in order to prevent something bad from happening. What are your own experiences with personal safety? Do you have any advice that you would like to share with others on campus?

carbon monoxide detector

Since a cold front moved into Utah this week, my roomate finally turned on the heater yesterday. However, a horrible smell immediately started to fill the room. The smell was probably a result of dust collecting in there since we haven’t used the heater since April. Consequently, maintenance will hopefully stop by our apartment to check our heater within the next week.

This experience reminded me of a topic we discussed in one of my health classes a few weeks ago: carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas that can cause sudden illness or even death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, carbon monoxide (CO) is the cause of more than 400 deaths in the United States each year. Doctors often misdiagnose CO poisoning because its symptoms are often mistaken for the flu or other common illnesses. Last fall, six BYU students renting a house near campus had a very close call with CO poisoning. Luckily, they all survived and fully recovered. As the weather turns colder, just as it did this week in Utah, more college students will be turning on their heaters for warmth. Since heaters are a common source of CO poisoning, it is important that students (those living both on and off campus) contact their dorm/apartment management and request to have their heaters checked to make sure that they are working properly. Another recommendation is to have a carbon monoxide detector in your apartment, located near your bedroom. Taking preventative measures against CO poisoning will ensure that you and your roomates are safe from CO emergencies this winter.

72-Hour Kits for Students

Posted: October 26, 2010 in Supplies

My 72-hour kit

One of the best ways college students (or anyone) can prepare for disasters is by having a 72-hour kit. A 72-hour kit is essentially a set of basic supplies you will need to survive for about three days. You can either purchase your kit or create your own. If you are a college student you may be on a tight budget, so I suggest creating your own. Start with the basic items and then add in other things that are important to you specifically. Don’t worry about buying everything at once, just budget your purchases every time you go to the store.

I started my own 72-hour kit by purchasing bottled water because you cannot survive very long without it. Then I added other essentials such as food and first-aid supplies. My parents even helped out by bringing me my hiking backpack that contained emergency supplies such as a water purification kit, first-aid kit, hygiene kit, light-sticks, flashlight with batteries, tube tent, emergency sleeping bag, rope, waterproof matches, MREs, and a lot more! I would recommend putting your supplies in a backpack that you can easily grab in case of an emergency, and make sure you pack any medications you may need. It’s also helpful to have an old pair of tennis shoes and some socks in or near your kit to protect your feet.

Remember, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to start your own kit. Start small and build on the essentials. If you need help starting your own 72-hour kit, click here for some tips on what to include. If you already have a kit, make sure that the food hasn’t expired and that any clothing in there still fits.