Snowball, a kitten at Brown Feed and Seed in Evans, sits on a scale by the store's fireplace. Owner Donnie Brown said his store sold out of firewood early last week as residents without electricity scrambled to heat their homes.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Thousands were caught unprepared in the wake of last week's ice storm and widespread power outages. However, with minimal effort and a little foresight, anyone can prepare a kit in case of another emergency situation.
"That's something we tell people all the time is to develop an emergency supply kit," Columbia County Emergency Management Director Pam Tucker said.
Tucker listed five items she called "necessities" for any emergency kit: a two-week stockpile of nonperishable food, a three-day supply of water, a battery-operated radio, flashlights and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration alert radio.
"One thing people were without during the power outage was information," Tucker said. "They were without information about where shelters were and power updates. That's why a radio, or even a portable TV, is so important.
"I think a critical item is a NOAA alert radio, because you can continuously get updates from the weather service about the forecast," she said.
Storing plenty of extra batteries also is a good idea, she said.
Since cans are an easy storage method of nonperishable food, Tucker also said people should include a hand-operated can opener in their kit.
Lincolnton resident Chuck Rupp, having suffered through three serious storms in the past 15 years, said he was already prepared for the worst.
"It seems like every five years we have one of these storms where we lose power for a couple of days," he said. "I've learned to be ready."
Rupp said he has camping gear, wood-burning stove, kerosene lamps, nonperishable food, even a 55-gallon drum of fresh water.
"When you know what to do, not having power isn't that big of a deal," Rupp said. "You know, just be prepared and stay calm."
The ice storm caught Vivian Hindrew off guard, but she plans to be ready next time.
"I'm putting together an inclement weather emergency kit," said Hindrew, who lives in the Forest Creek subdivision in Evans and lost her electricity Monday afternoon.
"I've already gotten some candles, bottled water, a first-aid kit - things that I know I might need if this ever happens again," she said. "I'm also going to make sure we have plenty of extra firewood as a kind of reserve, just in case."
Anyone putting a kit together can use bottled water or tap water stored in milk jugs or empty two-liter soda bottles, Tucker said. She pointed out that tap water should be changed out every six months and bottled water should be replaced annually. The most important thing is to keep plenty of it.
"You should keep a three-day supply," she said. "You base it on one gallon per person per day. If you have a family of three, you're going to want to always store nine gallons of water. If you have pets, you need to store extra for them too."
Tucker agreed with Hindrew that keeping a first-aid kit and preparing an alternative heating source is a good idea. She also said a portable generator, for people who can afford it, is a smart investment.
All items should be kept together in a box with a tight lid in a cool, dry place.
Don't cheat, said Tucker. She said people need to resist the urge to dip into the kit to replace batteries or for a food item. When the time comes, she said people will be glad they have an intact emergency kit.
"Most of us are accustomed to a maximum three-hour outage, even in the worst storms," she said. "This was an extreme situation, but, as we've seen, it does happen. This same damage can also be caused by a hurricane or tornado. There are many disasters that could result in long-term power outages."
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