What to do if the lights go out

I just spent my weekend in the quiet and candlelight... because the storms we had here in Northern California knocked my power out! Here at the office, everyone knows to ask me if they have a question about the weather. Not only is my heavily-treed neighborhood very susceptible to power outages, I also try to keep an eye on winter storms across the country because they can directly affect our customers’ mattress deliveries. Thankfully our town was spared major destruction, and the flooded areas drained once the rain stopped.  But, we are heading into another week of heavy rains, and even though I am ready for it, a friend called who’d been a bit more unprepared. He was without charged flashlight batteries or emergency candles, and was using his cell phone to light his way. It got me thinking: What are the most useful things to have on hand when modern life is interrupted by Mother Nature’s plans? 10 important ways to be prepared if you lose power during a storm: 1. Before the storm arrives, bring outside items inside if they could be picked up by the wind.  If they’re too big to be brought in the house, make sure they’re secured so they don’t blow around and cause more damage. 2. Clear gutters of debris so your roof can drain properly, diminishing the chances of your house flooding. 3.  Fill the gas tank in at least one car so you’re sure to have transportation even if you can’t get to a gas station or the lines are long. 4. Store important documents -- passports, Social Security cards, birth certificates, and deeds -- in a watertight container, and make sure you know where it is. Keep the following items on hand: 5. A three-day supply of water and food, allowing one gallon of water per person per day. Make sure foods are non-perishable and high in energy, such as canned meats, canned or dried fruits, canned vegetables, peanut butter and jelly, salt-free crackers, energy or protein bars, trail mix or nuts, dry cereal, and cookies or other comfort foods. (Don’t forget the can opener!) 6. Flashlights with extra batteries. 7. A battery-powered radio or weather radio, also with extra batteries. 8. A first aid kit that includes latex gloves; sterile dressings; soap/cleaning agent; antibiotic ointment; burn ointment; adhesive bandages in small, medium and large sizes; eye wash; a thermometer; aspirin/pain reliever; anti-diarrhea tablets; antacids; laxatives; small scissors; tweezers; and petroleum jelly. (In my case, I would also add Rescue Remedy flower-essence blend!) 9. Cell phones and chargers. 10.  Warm clothes and blankets stored in watertight containers. For more tips and complete emergency preparedness lists, visit the American Red Cross, and Federal Emergency Management Agency online.