WASHINGTON -- If we learned anything from the sudden Derecho storm that swept through the DC area during the summer of 2012, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of homes for a week or more, it's that having a plan is essential.
"The most important thing we can do right now is to have a plan. Where am I going to go? What am I going to do if we do have some severe weather?," says Laura Southard, with the Virginia Department of Emergency Preparedness.
Southard says you'll want to choose a"safe place" - an interior room on the lowest level of your home to escape to when the worst of the storm is passing by. The room should be away from exterior windows and doors. You'll want to stock that room with emergency supplies.
"Right now, put together a small box of supplies to take with you to your safe area. Some bottles of water, a flashlight with batteries, a battery-powered or hand-cranked radio so you can hear information if the power goes out. You may consider bringing some heavy blankets or a mattress if a tornado warning is issued, too," says Southard
Once the storm passes, you could be without power for several days. You'll need flashlights with plenty of extra batteries, and also a plan for keeping your cell phone charged.
"How am I going to stay connected with the rest of the world? That seems to be really high on peoples' lists," says Southard, "so be thinking about how I am going to be powering my devices, whether that means keeping a full tank of gas in your car so you can charge your phone, or that you have a portable power device that you can use."
Sooner or later, your stomach will be growling, so make sure you have 3 or 4 days of non-perishable food on hand, and DON'T count on having refrigeration available.
"The best thing we can say is, 'If in doubt, throw it out,'" says Southard. "If power has been out for four hours or more, you'll probably want to get rid of what is in your refrigerator. You can go a little bit longer for your freezer, but don't take any chances with food that might be spoiled because of power outages," she says.
There are several other things you can do to prepare for a severe storm (see the links below), but Southard says your best way to prepare still comes down to having a plan.
"If you know what you're going to do, then you can snap into action. There isn't any flailing around, trying to hook up with everybody, and figuring out what you're going to do on the fly. Having a plan in place in advance in critical," she says.
Summer Storm Tips from the American Red Cross
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