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Fall 2011

7 Steps to Prepare for a Natural Disaster

Although autumn leaves are pretty and the weather can be quite enjoyable, fall is also a season for natural disasters throughout the United States. It is the height of hurricane season for those on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Heavy rains often occur, as do the first snowstorms of the year. Tornados, although occurring most often in spring, are also possible during the fall.

Below are some steps you can take to help keep you and your family safe:

  1. Have an Emergency Kit - You’ll need to include things like bottled water, canned food, flashlights, batteries and a radio. Checklists are available online to help you create your own kit, such as at the website of the US Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA).
  2. Check Safety Equipment - Make sure your home’s existing safety equipment is fully operational. This includes smoke detectors, water alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Clean them and replace any old batteries with fresh ones.
  3. Create a Plan and Practice with Your Family - This includes going to the basement for tornadoes, how to escape in case of a fire, and so on. Hopefully you will never need to use this plan, but it is important that everyone knows what it is.
  4. First Aid - Get trained in first aid and CPR, in case of medical emergencies during a disaster.
  5. Turning Off Utilities - Learn how to turn off the gas, water and electricity in your home. These utilities can quickly become a hazard during a fire, flood or other natural disaster.
  6. Contact Lists - Make a list of emergency contacts, such as neighbors, family members, the local fire and police departments, the utility companies’ emergency response lines, poison control, etc. Laminate the list for durability and post it in a conspicuous place.
  7. Be Proactive - Inspect your home for hazards and get them fixed before a potential problem occurs. This includes fixing leaky spots in the roof, patching bare wires, replacing cracked windows and sealing any gaps in the caulk or weather stripping.

Although we all hope we never have to deal with a natural disaster, it is vital to be prepared just in case. Develop an emergency response plan with your family and practice it, so that you will all be safe if the worst does happen.


Conserving Energy from Top to Bottom

Energy costs are at record highs, and everyone is looking for ways to save a buck. However, no one wants to compromise on their family’s comfort. After all, what good are savings if you have to suffer? Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to help trim your energy bill without compromising the comfortable surroundings of your home.

Little Steps

Saving energy starts with small habits, little things you can do every day to slightly reduce energy use and pare down those monthly bills. These are steps that do not involve buying any new equipment or drastically changing your lifestyle. For example, start with some of these little tips:

  • Turn off lights and the television when no one is using them.
  • Shut your computer down at night.
  • Unplug “vampire devices” such as cell phone chargers when not in use. Chargers and other devices can draw power even when they are not charging anything.
  • Use power strips. Turn them off when none of the devices or appliances plugged into them are being used.
  • Turn off your cable box. Many people miss this step because the TV is off, but many cable boxes can draw even more power than the TV!

Upgrade to Efficiency

If you have tried all those little tricks and are still looking to cut energy costs, it is time to make your home more efficient. This means making some purchases, but consider them investments in your energy costs. When used properly, these things pay for themselves in savings over time:

  • Switch to compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. These draw less energy and last much longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.
  • Install a programmable thermostat to control heating and cooling when no one is home.
  • Consider upgrading appliances, like your dishwasher, refrigerator and washing machine. New appliances, especially Energy Star approved models, can save a bundle over older machines.

Routine Maintenance

If you don’t think you are due for upgrades yet, or just don’t want to absorb the upfront cost, there are plenty of things you can do to keep the appliances you already own running as efficiently as possible. Remember to change AC and furnace filters, vacuum household vents and clean your water heater routinely.

Aside from these DIY tips, if you would like even more help, consider hiring a professional to do an energy audit. He will inspect your whole home to determine where you may be wasting energy and how to correct those issues.


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