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Winter Weather Update: Stay Connected!

We’ve had our share of power outages in Virginia during the past 18 months.  Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee at the end of summer 2011, a crazy derecho windstorm in late June 2012, and last October’s Superstorm Sandy left extensive property damage, injuries and tragic deaths behind.

Now it’s winter, and ice storms and heavy snowfall can cut power again.  Power outages are more than inconveniences during very cold weather.  The safety of your family is at risk if you’re not ready.  Perhaps you’ve prepared by setting aside some emergency supplies.  But have you considered how you will communicate?

Prepare your home and mobile device

Keep a list of emergency phone numbers in your cell phone.

Have charged batteries and car phone chargers for back-up power for your cell phone.

Keep your car gas tank full.

If you have a traditional landline phone, keep a non-cordless phone in your home because it will work even if you lose power.

Prepare a family contact sheet with at least one out-of-town friend or relative on the list.  Often during emergencies local calls won’t go through, but you can call long distance.

Program “In Case of Emergency” (ICE) contacts into your cell phone so emergency personnel can call those people for you if you can’t use your phone.

If you have to leave your home and have call forwarding on your home phone, forward your home phone number to your cell phone.

Subscribe to text alert services from your local government and schools to receive emergency alerts.

If you do not have a cell phone, keep a prepaid phone card to use.

Reaching friends, loved ones and emergency services

Only call 9-1-1- if you have a life-threatening emergency.

For non-emergencies, use text messaging, email or social media instead of making calls on your cell phone.  Often texts and emails can get through even if calls can’t.  Use social media to let family and friends know you are okay.

Keep all phone calls brief to avoid tying up voice networks.

Conserve your cell phone battery by reducing screen brightness, placing your phone in airplane mode and closing apps you are not using.

If you lose power, you can charge your cell phone in your car. Just be sure your car is in a well-ventilated place – not in a garage.  Also, you can listen to local radio stations in your car for important news alerts.

During power outages, resist using your mobile device to watch streaming videos, download music or videos, or play video games.  Limiting use of these can help life-saving emergency calls get through to 9-1-1.

For any disaster, make sure you have a family emergency plan.  This may be the single most important action you can take, and it won’t cost a penny.  Discuss with your family what you will do in an emergency and how you will get in touch with each other.  Write down your plan, and share it with family and friends.  Get a free emergency plan worksheet at www.ReadyVirginia.gov.

Learn more:

On your computer: www.ReadyVirginia.gov and www.vaemergency.gov

On your phone or tablet: m.vaemergency.gov and the new ReadyVA app

Laura Southard
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