The time to prepare your home and your expensive electronics is before thunderstorms arrive. Unplug your vulnerable electronics, such as your computer (and its phone line) and your home entertainment center, before you leave your home for hours or days.
Some manufacturers of surge protectors offer optional insurance plans that will pay for replacing any damaged electronics. However, the surest method to keeping your electronic equipment from being zapped is to unplug them.
Prepare an emergency kit now for those rare occasions when power is interrupted. Your emergency kit should contain at a minimum the following items:
Severe storm or natural disaster damage sometimes results in an extended interruption to day-to-day life. It's important to be prepared for those rare instances, especially if you live in a rural area.
Keep enough supplies in your home to meet your needs for at least three days. Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit with items you may need in an evacuation. Store these supplies in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers such as backpacks, duffel bags or covered trash containers.
Keep important family documents in a waterproof container. Keep a smaller kit in the trunk of your car.
Locate the main electric fuse box, water service main and natural gas main. Learn how and when to turn on these utilities off. Teach all responsible family members. Keep necessary tools near gas and water shut-off valves.
Remember, turn off the utilities only if you suspect the lines are damaged or if you are instructed to do so. If you turn the gas off, you will need a professional to turn it back on.
Flashlight - Keep a flashlight and extra batteries handy. Do not use candles in a power outage or other emergency. Camp lights and lanterns may also be useful, however, do not use kerosene lanterns indoors unless you have proper ventilation.
Appliances / Electronics - Turn off or disconnect any appliances or electronics you were using when the power went out. Unplug your computer to avoid the possibility of surge damage when the power returns.
Leave light on - Leave one light turned on so you'll know when your power returns.
Staying warm - If you're cold, put on layers of warm clothing instead. Never burn charcoal for heating or cooking indoors.
Refrigerators and freezers - Leave the doors of your refrigerator and freezer closed to keep your food as fresh as possible. If you must eat food that was refrigerated or frozen, check it carefully for signs of spoilage.
Frozen food - If your freezer is full, food will stay frozen for about two days. If it is less than half full, food will stay frozen for about one day. Cover the freezer with blankets, quilts or sleeping bags to further insulate the freezer and help food stay frozen longer. After power is of any food that is discolored or smells spoiled. If in doubt, throw it out.
Refrigerated food - To avoid losing the cold air in your refrigerator, don't open doors unnecessarily. Meat and fish spoil quickly at temperatures above 40 degrees F. Other quick-spoiling foods include milk, custards, creamed foods and any foods containing mayonnaise or eggs. Cooked and cured meat will keep for several days in a closed refrigerator. Hard cheeses keep well, even at room temperature. Again, if in doubt, throw it out. You might also try placing bags of ice in the refrigerator, or place food in a cooler or ice chest.
Cooking during an outage - Never use charcoal briquettes to cook or heat food indoors. Charcoal briquettes produce carbon monoxide. Odorless and colorless, a buildup of carbon monoxide can be deadly.
If you have a home computer, it's good idea to protect your work before any outage. Rule one is to remember to save your files regularly. Auto-save back-up programs will do the work for you and are available at any computer store.