County Executive George Latimer urges residents to review their emergency plans and obtain critical supplies in case severe weather strikes Westchester during hurricane season.
Latimer said: “Now is a good time to gather the essentials you would need if and when a major storm hits, with the potential for flooding or power outages. These items can quickly disappear from store shelves when a hurricane is looming, or in its aftermath.”
County emergency responders recommend residents set aside several days’ worth of non-perishable food, water and medicine, and keep on hand other critical supplies like flashlights and batteries in case they are stuck in their homes without power. Residents should also have a “go-bag” ready in case they are asked to evacuate on short notice during an emergency.
Latimer continued: “Our recent experiences with storms have shown us that we must take hurricane season seriously, with many of our homeowners suffering significant property damage and power outages for an extended period of time. Mother Nature is hard to predict, but it can give us peace of mind to be prepared.”
Commissioner Richard G. Wishnie of the Department of Emergency Services said hurricane season runs June 1 through December 1. He recommends that residents create an emergency preparedness kit that includes:
- Gallon of water per person per day
- Three-day supply of canned, packaged or other shelf-stable, ready-to-eat food
- Foods that can be stored include ready-to-eat canned meats and fish, protein or fruit bars, dry cereal and granola, peanut butter, nuts, crackers and canned fruit or juice
- Manual can opener and eating utensils
- Flashlights and batteries
- First aid kit
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
Sherlita Amler, MD, Commissioner of the Department of Health, said ahead of any major storm, residents should make a list of their mediations, charge their cellphones and laptops and fill their vehicle gas tanks, too. It is also a good idea to have some masks, wipes and hand sanitizer in your go-bag. Residents with oil tanks at home should top off their tanks and tighten the cap to prevent spills. Above-ground tanks should also be strapped to a secure fixture to prevent tipping in case of flooding.
Amler said food and generator safety are essential during and after any power outage or emergency.
- Before the hurricane hits, set your refrigerator to the coldest setting to keep food fresh longer if you lose power.
- Keep your refrigerator closed as much as possible. Do not assume refrigerated foods are safe.
- Foods that are fully frozen are safe to use.
- Foods that have warmed to room temperature for more than two hours or have come into contact with flood waters should be discarded. When in doubt, throw it out.
- During a prolonged outage, discard these foods if they were not kept below 45 degrees Fahrenheit: meat, poultry, seafood, cold cuts, hot dogs, eggs, cream, sour cream, yogurt, milk, custards, puddings, soft and shredded cheeses, cut fruit, cooked vegetables, pasta, casseroles, unbaked cookie and bread dough, gravy, creamy salad dressings, fish sauces, hoisin sauce, opened spaghetti sauce and garlic in oil.
- After disposing of spoiled food, disinfect the refrigerator to avoid further contamination.
- Discard any cans of food that are rusted, dented or open.
- If appliances are wet, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. Then, unplug appliances and let them dry out. Have appliances checked by a professional before using them again.
- Storm clean-up can produce a great deal of garbage, which invites insects and rodents. Store your garbage in watertight, rodent/insect-proof containers with tight-fitting covers.
Commissioner Thomas Gleason of the Westchester County Department of Public Safety encouraged motorists to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary during inclement weather.
Gleason said: “Residents should avoid unnecessary travel during such storms and when they are on the road, they should take care to avoid ponding water which may be deeper than it appears or be quickly rising. Over the years, County Police has responded to assist numerous motorists who have been stranded when their cars have stalled on flooding roadways. In addition to likely damaging your vehicle, you may also be putting your life at risk.”
Residents and business owners with generators are reminded of the following safety tips:
- Never run a generator in a basement, garage, porch or carport. Generators produce carbon monoxide that can quickly be lethal indoors. Only operate a generator outdoors and away from open windows.
- Do not exceed the rated capacity of your generator. Overloading your generator can damage it and any appliances connected to it. Fire may result.
- If your generator has a detachable fuel tank, remove it before refilling. If this is not possible, shut off the generator and let it cool before refilling.
If you lose power, call Con Edison or NYS Electric and Gas directly. The phone numbers are: Con Ed power outage or gas and electrical service problems: (800) 75-CONED; NYSEG electricity power outage: (800) 572-1131; NYSEG gas power outage: (800) 572-1121.
Wishnie said families should also consider what additional preparations to make for people with special needs or who care for the elderly, infants or pets. Family members also should plan for how they will communicate if local phone service is not available or is overwhelmed by high demand.