The 2017 hurricane season begins June 1, and while forecasting agencies have predicted a slightly below-average level of hurricane activity this year, it only takes one storm to cause massive destruction and loss of life.
August and September are typically the busiest months for hurricane formation. However, it makes sense to plan and prepare now, before a hurricane is on our doorstep.
“The time to prepare for a hurricane is when it’s calm and there’s no storm headed our way,” said Clay Electric’s Wayne Mattox, manager of communications, “It’s important to avoid complacency. Our area was hit by two hurricanes last year for the first time in more than 10 years, and some of our members who had never experienced one did not take the need for storm preparation seriously and were caught off guard.”
Mattox said members should ask themselves several questions about their pre-storm plans to determine if they’re ready for a storm.
“What will you do if your power is off for a week or more? If you plan to use a portable generator, do you know how to operate it safely? If you plan to relocate to an area away from the storm’s path, perhaps with friends or family, have they been notified? If you depend on electricity for health reasons, do you have an alternate source of power available? And do you have canned goods, water, medicines and cash on hand to go a week or longer?”
Here are some practical suggestions for home emergency preparations:
- If someone in your home depends on medical equipment that operates on electricity, make arrangements in advance for an emergency alternative power source. Emergency and storm restoration personnel might not be able to reach you for a few days.
- Cordless telephones will not work if the power is off. If you still use a landline, make sure you have a non-electric phone and/or cell phone as a backup for emergencies.
- Invest in a battery-operated cell phone charger and keep it charged for emergencies.
- Buy a battery-powered radio and stock a supply of fresh batteries.
- Keep a flashlight and extra batteries handy.
- Have a first aid kit on hand, including prescription medication in adequate supply.
- Stock at least a three-day supply of bottled water. Fill bathtubs with water to flush toilets.
- Purchase food that won’t spoil – canned, packaged or sealed up in plastic bags or containers.
- Electric can openers will be useless if the power goes out. Buy a hand-operated opener.
- Check with your insurance agent on the provisions of your homeowners and flood insurance.
- Look into Clay Electric’s surge protection device called SurgeBlaster to help protect your sensitive electronic devices from damage caused by lightning-related power surges.
If you plan to operate a portable generator, keep it outside in a well-ventilated area, as carbon monoxide emissions from a generator are an invisible killer that you can’t see, smell or taste. It’s also important that you do not connect the generator directly to your main electrical panel in the home. If installed incorrectly, power from the generator could flow into Clay Electric’s distribution system. This could cause injury or death to neighbors or repair crews who may be under the impression those power lines are not energized.
In the event power is lost, turn off or unplug your appliances to protect them when power is restored, to prevent electrical fires, and to lessen the chances of a circuit overload when the service comes back on.
Leave one light on -- preferably a porch light -- so repair crews can confirm your power is back on. If it appears your neighbors have power but you don’t, check your electrical panel to see if your circuit breakers have tripped. Check the breaker box before reporting your outage. If the problem isn’t the breakers, report your outage to the cooperative.
Clay Electric’s eight-page storm guide details outage readiness, safety tips, a glossary of important weather terms, wind speed and pressure effects, critical explanations on all types of severe weather phenomena, and much more. A hard copy of the free publication can be picked up at district offices in Orange Park, Gainesville, Keystone Heights, Lake City, Palatka and Salt Springs.
Clay Electric will do everything it can to ensure power is restored as quickly and safely as possible. The cooperative has an emergency restoration plan which sets the priority for restoration of each affected feeder on the CEC system. Essential services such as hospitals, shelters, etc., are a priority. Repairs that will bring on large groups of members are next, and then individual electric services are addressed.
Read over the Storm Center section of the Clay Electric website and bookmark it on your smartphone and home computer. It is a great resource, particularly during storm events. The status of Clay’s electric system can be tracked here and outages can be reported online here. To report outages by telephone, please call 1-888-434-9844, but keep in mind that the limited number of phone lines might all be engaged if a major outage occurs; if that is the case, it will be faster and easier to report the outage online if possible.
The cooperative’s Facebook page will also provide outage updates during a major storm. Be sure to like Clay Electric on Facebook well ahead of the first big storm. And remember, Clay Electric employees are local. Many of them are members, too. They are your neighbors, friends, co-workers and, in some cases, family members who live and work in the communities Clay Electric serves. They stand ready to help Clay members when they are in need.
Clay Electric is partnering with talk radio stations WOKV in Jacksonville (104.5 FM) and WSKY in Ocala (97.3 FM) to disseminate restoration information to co-op members in the event the region is hit by a hurricane.