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Spring Cleaning? Let's talk about Spring Emergency Preparedness!

March 19, 2024 Robyn Smith, EWEB Communications

pink flowers in sunny sky

Spring is officially here and that means the plants are blooming, the sun is (sometimes) shining, and the grass is green! We've had our fair share of severe weather already, but spring weather is notoriously unpredictable. Thunderstorms can appear out of nowhere and lead to severe events such as lightning and flooding. Such emergencies can threaten our immediate safety, as well as food and power supplies.

It also means dry, hot summer days are right around the corner, which brings an increased risk of wildfires. Even in historically wet, mild Oregon, summers are getting hotter and drier, with longer wildfire seasons. The overall risk of wildfires is growing. By working together, we can protect our community and natural resources from destructive fires.

While you're in the midst of spring cleaning and garden care, consider completing a few emergency preparedness tasks to help keep your home and family safe during extreme weather events.

family sitting around table planning for emergency

Spring is a great time to review your safety checklist

Smoke Alarms

Almost three out of five home fire deaths are the result of fires in properties with no smoke alarms or smoke alarms that failed to operate. Test your smoke alarms every month and replace the battery at least once a year. If the alarm makes a "chirping" sound, replace the battery immediately. Smoke alarms should be in every bedroom and in the common areas on each floor of a home.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odorless gas that can kill. CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each bedroom and on every level of the home. Just like smoke alarms, CO alarms require that you change the batteries, test them and interconnect them, if possible. Also, make sure vents for your gas appliances (fireplace, dryer, stove and furnace) are free and clear of snow or debris.

Fire Extinguishers

Purchase a multi-purpose fire extinguisher for your home that is large enough to effectively put out a small fire, but not so heavy that is difficult to handle. Your fire extinguishers should be located near exits so that you can easily escape if the fire gets out of control or the room fills with smoke. Learn more about choosing and using fire extinguishers.

Family Emergency Plan

Every family should have an emergency plan in place in the event of a natural disaster or other catastrophic event. Spring is a great time to review that plan with family members. 

  • To create a plan you can share with others, click here.

Be Careful When Cleaning

Most of us live with dangerous poisons lurking in kitchen cabinets, bathrooms, basements or garages. When warning labels are ignored or chemicals fall into the wrong hands, disaster can occur. Keep the Oregon Poison Control Center number, (800) 222-1222, in your cell phone contacts. The line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

animated EWEB lineworker

When the power goes out...

First, if you suspect your home or business is the only outage, check your circuit panel for tripped breakers.

Next, check our online outage map to see if a power outage is reported in your area. If you have a Smart Meter with the communication feature enabled, EWEB will automatically be notified when your power is out. Our outage map has the most recent information on power outages, including updates that show progress during an outage repair.

Finally, if you do not see your outage on the map, call our toll-free outage reporting line at 1-844-484-2300. You must complete all prompts to record your outage. Please do not report your power outage on social media. We do not regularly monitor our social media channels outside of business hours.

Prepare ahead of time

Take an inventory of the items you need that rely on electricity. Plan for batteries and other alternative power sources, such as a portable charger or power bank, to meet your needs when the power goes out. Have flashlights for every household member. Determine whether your home phone will work in a power outage and how long battery backup will last. Use surge protectors to safeguard valuable electronic equipment such as computers and home entertainment systems. Fully charge mobile phones and backup batteries. You should also know how to manually open your garage door or park your car outside before a storm.

Know Your Medical Needs

Customers dependent on power for life-support equipment should have a backup plan for power outages. Talk to your medical provider about a power outage plan for medical devices powered by electricity and refrigerated medicines. Find out how long medication can be stored at higher temperatures and get specific guidance for any medications that are critical for life.

Food Storage

Have enough nonperishable food and water. Keep freezers and refrigerators closed. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours, and a full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours. Use coolers with ice if necessary. Monitor temperatures with a thermometer. Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40 degrees or higher for two hours or more or that has an unusual odor, color, or texture.

Learn more about power outages...

circles of defensible space around a home

Creating defensible space around your home & property

Your house and outbuildings are potential fuel in a fire-prone environment. To help your home survive a wildfire, create defensible space between your home and its surroundings by 100 feet or more. Defensible space gives firefighters an opportunity to safely defend your home and other structures from a wildfire while breaking up pathways for fire that can lead to home ignition. Firefighters can’t always protect every individual home, so it’s your responsibility to take action. 

Step One: Create Defensible Space

Landscape:

  • Landscape with fire-resistant plants
  • Reduce flammable vegetation and other fire fuels around the home.
  • Remove brush and grass from around buildings.
  • Keep grass and weeds mowed to less than 4 inches in height.
  • Stack wood piles on bare or gravel areas or in an enclosed shed at least 30 feet from the home.
  • Avoid using wood mulches within 5 feet of your home. Use gravel, rock mulches or hard surfaces instead.

Structures:

  • Screen the attic, foundation vents, and under decks to prevent entry of burning embers.
  • Use fire-resistant roofing, decking and siding.
  • Regularly remove leaves and pine needles from gutters.
  • During summer, do not store flammable materials near your home.
  • Make sure any overhanging limbs are trimmed back at least 10 feet or more from the roof.

man cleaning leaves out of gutter

Step Two: Maintain it

Defensible space and wildland fuel treatments must be regularly maintained to remain effective. Vegetation grows back! Fresh-cut hardwood trees resprout rapidly after cutting, and shrubs like manzanita, bitterbrush, and poison oak often regrow in cleared areas, along with invasive weeds such as cheatgrass, blackberries, and Scotch broom. All this brush and grass quickly becomes new fuel for a wildfire.

Techniques for fuels maintenance:

  • Preventative Management
  • Pruning/limbing
  • Cutting
  • Removal
  • Disposal

Tip: Reduce fuels by thinning and spacing vegetation vertically and limbing up trees horizontally to interrupt fire’s path and keep flames small and on the ground.

See a list of power line friendly trees

Watch: Why is defensible space important?

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Join the Pledge to Prepare

Pledge to Prepare is a 12-month blueprint to guide your emergency preparedness efforts. By following our monthly newsletter, you'll be two weeks prepared by the end of this year!

Each month, you'll have a chance to enter to win cool and useful emergency preparedness supplies! Click here to sign up for monthly emails.

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