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The Dirt | Emergency Preparedness Tips #12

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Whether it’s an ice storm, a wildfire, or another natural disaster, volunteers from Benton County Community Emergency Response Team (BCCERT) have been trained to help their neighbors respond. Pam Wilson is a retired teacher and a trained BCCERT member who has created this blog post series to help Benton County residents prepare for emergencies. This is the twelfth installment.

Today’s column is a random list of information to help you prepare for wildfires, bomb cyclones, and household preparations. I hope this newsletter entry will find you ready to keep up the work it takes to be prepared!

Wildfire Wednesday Webinars

First, OSU Fire Extension ( is putting on Wildfire Wednesday Webinars. Upcoming sessions (11/10, 11/17 12/1, and 12/8/21) cover stories of preventative actions that made a difference, Home Hardening, defensible space, and the Home Ignition Zone. The spring 2021 seminars were chock full of information, and these four fall webinars expand on what was started, with details about fire and emergency response specific to our county and area. Click here to register for one or all of the Wildfire Wednesday Webinars or to view past webinars in the series.

Preparing to Shelter in Place

The bomb cyclone is past but were you ready? I’ll confess, I got caught! Next time I’m warned of “iffy” weather, I plan to use the checklist from FEMA-Region 10’s webinar titled “Halloween House of Hazards.” That checklist isn’t available online yet, so here is one from the American Red Cross.

The FEMA webinar suggested we go pre-prepare each room for staying home (sheltering in place). What can you do to prepare the living room, the kitchen, bedrooms or the bathroom before the onset of the event? A tip that made me shake my head was close the windows. I often have a window open for fresh air; it is easy to forget it is open. How do we plan to make the inside of our house smaller so we can maintain heat – a tent in the living room for sleeping? Some other considerations: Is my communication plan current? Is my “go-bag” current? Do I have supplies and plans in place if there is a power outage? Do I know where those supplies are? What do I need in terms of medical supplies and equipment?

Preparing for an Impending Power Outage

If we’d lost electricity only part of what I learned from February was enacted. And turn off lights and other equipment that was on when the power went out, to diminish the surge when electricity is restored. I had a back-up for my CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure), new batteries, and had just purchased tuna fish which I’d run out of. But only today did I recharge flashlights and the back-up battery for my cell phone and purchase gasoline for the lawnmower/generator. Why I didn’t do this before the storm shows I still have work to do on my preparedness attitude☹.

Preparing Your Refrigerator for a Power Outage

Today, I purchased a refrigerator thermometer. The webinar said to set the refrigerator and freezer to the coldest settings if we know a storm is coming so food remains colder longer. A frig will last about 4 hours. Once it reaches 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 2 hours, we are throwing away food. It should go without saying, don’t taste the food to find out if it is still OK to eat! A full freezer will last about 48 hours. If the freezer isn’t full, add jugs of water which is also a water source since us rural folks are usually on wells! Learn more about food safety during a power outage here.

A hint I hadn’t thought of had to do with eating those non-perishable canned and ready-to-eat food that some of us don’t really eat a lot of anymore but may form the base of our food supply. Supplement the nuts, seeds, canned soups and protein bars with foods that don’t need refrigeration – apples, avocados, citrus fruit, grapes, tomatoes, bananas, peppers, onions, garlic and potatoes. Maybe we need to consider establishing a “cold cellar.”

Storing Medications During a Power Outage

If you haven’t tackled that situation of medical equipment, supplies or keeping meds cold or warm yet, now is the time to do that. I have seen several recommendations for a Bouge RV 23 QT 12V Portable refrigerator/freezer that runs on your car battery (or generator). Another person commented on social media that a Hydroflask full of the medicine that sits in the fridge anyway will keep meds cold for a few days. And, if the meds need to be warm, that same Hydroflask taken to bed works!

Dive Deeper into Emergency Preparedness

I recommend taking a look at Region 10-FEMA’s (Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska) webpage. There’s a lot of information you may find interesting and useful. Another great resource is the website. The Ready Campaign is “a National public service campaign designed to educate and empower the American people to prepare for, respond to and mitigate emergencies, including natural and man-made disasters. The goal of the campaign is to promote preparedness through public involvement.”