Be prepared before bad weather strikes

Beth Ramsey, Staff Writer

While the weather was a traveler’s dream for the Christmas holiday and people could actually get outside and enjoy some sunshine, it is the time of year when winter storms can hit and become winter emergencies quickly.

According to Barry Lauber, director of office services at Southeastern Indiana REMC, approximately 15,000 customers were not prepared to be without power for five to seven days during the February 2007 ice storm. These customers were for the seven county service area for REMC, and not all were without power for the entire time. It is important for families to be prepared, with supplies and a plan, before the bad weather strikes.

“Every family should have an all casualty plan,” says Wayne Peace, emergency management director for Ripley County. This plan should include where to go in case of an emergency evacuation. The EMA website, has a list of emergency shelters for every area. The plan should also include where children are to go when schools close early for bad weather.

A home emergency kit should be readily available whenever bad weather strikes. One will need a first aid kit, prescription medications, food and water supply. “At least a week’s worth, but 30 days supply is best,” said Peace. Canned goods, such as fruits and vegetables, powdered or evaporated milk, canned pastas, tuna, canned chicken or fish, protein bars, dry cereal, and juices are great choices for the emergency kit. Don’t forget a can opener! Your plan should include a gallon of water per person per day. This will be for drinking and cooking as well as sanitation purposes. Water should be stored in clean, plastic containers.

Include paper cups, plates, eating and cooking utensils in your kit. Don’t forget a wrench to turn off water or gas supplies. Flashlights (with extra batteries) are better than candles, in case of a gas leak.
Extra blankets and sleeping bags should be available for extra warmth. One may decide upon an alternative heating source, such as a wood stove or a kerosene heater, or a generator. Follow the manufacturer instructions closely to keep you and your family safe. Make sure the instructions for the use of the generator is followed closely. According to Lauber, improper use of the generator could cause damage to electrical lines and become a hazard.

Lauber also suggests a battery powered radio, with many replacement batteries. He noted that REMC broadcasted updates on the local radio stations three times a day during the February 2007 ice storm. “These broadcasts informed customers of the progress REMC was making in returning power. We tried to keep people up to date and informed,” he told the Osgood Journal.

What will the children do during a power outage? With no television or video games to provide entertainment, Peace suggests having board games, card games, and coloring books on hand. “The kids will need something to do,” he said.

Before traveling, let someone know your destination, and the time you expect to arrive. It is important to have an emergency kit inside of the car in case bad weather forces one off the road. According to Peace, the kit should include bottled water, energy bars, flashlight with extra batteries, and blankets. Those who have a cell phone should keep a charger in their car. An important item to keep with the emergency kit is something to attract attention. “This could be a bright colored flag or piece of cloth,” said Peace.

Remain with the vehicle if you slide off the road. Don’t run your car all the time, just a few minutes every hour. Keep your window cracked to prevent a build up of carbon monoxide.

Finally, don’t forget to check on elderly or homebound neighbors and family members. If necessary, take them where they can receive help. If possible, help them with a home emergency kit, before the storm hits.

With some preparation and plenty of supplies, one can weather the storm when inclement weather strikes. For more information on assembling a home or car emergency kit, visit the Indiana Department of Homeland Security website at

The Ripley County Highway Department stands ready for the winter weather that could hit the county in the next few weeks. Pictured in front of the 500 ton salt pile are: Lawrence Nickell, county commissioner, Don Zapfe, county highway driver, Robert Reiners, county commissioner, and Rodney Hyatt, county highway driver. Junior Heaton, highway superintendent noted that they have plenty of salt and cinders to treat Ripley County roads when and if the snow and ice falls and their trucks are all road ready.