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Prepare for Severe Storms to Stay Safe

Nor’easters and hurricanes are becoming more common in the Northeast during the late summer and early fall. The downed trees, power outages and flooding that follows can put you at risk.

“We can’t prevent the storms. What we can do is best prepare ourselves to deal with it,” said Andrew Ulrich, MD, Vice Chair of Clinical Operations, Department of Emergency Medicine at Yale New Haven Hospital.

Dr. Ulrich, along with Christopher Davison, MD, Chief of Emergency Medicine at Greenwich Hospital, offered tips on how to stay safe.

Emergency planning

Dr. Ulrich and Dr. Davison said everyone should have a basic emergency plan in place. Before any big storm:

  • Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home to ensure batteries are new and functioning
  • Make sure you have updated information for emergency contacts
  • Have at least one week’s supply of medications
  • Have at least 1-3 days’ worth of non-perishable food and bottled water
  • Have flashlights, extra batteries and a transistor radio on hand

You should also have a safety plan in place for after the storm clears. Stay away from downed trees or wires, avoid flooded streets and check in on vulnerable neighbors.

Carbon monoxide poisoning

If using a generator during a power outage, be aware of the risks of carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas that can be deadly. Only use generators outdoors with the appropriate distance from your home. Never use generators in an enclosed space like a basement or garage and always have working carbon monoxide detectors.

“Poisoning symptoms can range,” Dr. Davison said, starting mild with nausea or headaches but eventually becoming severe leading to coma and even death.

Food and water safety

Stocking up on food and water is key if conditions prevent you from leaving home. If you rely on well water, you will not be able to access your water supply without power.

The CDC recommends having at least one gallon of water per person per day. Be sure to prepare for storms with non-perishable food items that do not require power for cooking.

When stocking up on food and water, don’t forget about pets! Lastly, if you lose power, do not eat anything that may have gone bad. Not sure if your food is still fresh? When in doubt, throw it out.

Getting emergency care

In the event of a medical emergency, get help right away. Even during a severe storm or natural disaster, the emergency department will always remain open. Common emergency symptoms can include:

  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Speech difficulty
  • Rapid change in vision
  • Sudden onset of a serious headache
  • Weakness or numbness in arms, legs or face
  • Deep cuts or lacerations

Unsure if you should go to the hospital? If you think you need emergency care, Dr. Ulrich said don’t delay seeking help.