P!Nterview: Preparing at home for severe weather

Susan Hughes, a central North Carolina resident, knows emergency cooking. Her no-bake cheesecake pie won PLAN!T NOW’s first annual “No-Power” baking contest at an educational event in 2010. The challenge asked competitors to bake a pie without the aid of electricity, to mimic conditions during a power outage from a severe storm. The event, held at A Southern Season in Chapel Hill, N.C., was sponsored by Duke Energy, Smither & Associates and SunTrust Bank. For her efforts, Hughes won a gift certificate valued at $150 for outdoor outfitters Townsend Bertram & Company.

Hughes and her family are avid campers, and take precautions regarding potential disasters at home as well. She spoke about how her family prepares for disaster during their daily life.

Can you tell me about the kinds of severe weather or other disasters you’ve experienced, whether in North Carolina or elsewhere (hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, winter storms, fires, etc.)?

Along with many other Triangle area residents, I experienced the ice storm of 2002/2003. My apartment complex was out of power for seven days. Fortunately, I was prepared for cold weather because I worked at a garden center and was used to being outside all year, rain or shine. I have also been through several mild hurricanes.

Do you know of anyone who has been significantly affected by these types of severe weather? What sort of precautions does your family take during weather events?

When my mom was a teenager, her family’s home burned down in a fire. They lost everything, but everyone was safe. Because of this, I have been raised in a home with more photographs than the average family. To be sure her children were never left without photo albums, negatives were always kept in the safety deposit box at the bank. I suppose all families have belongings and important documents that are too precious to lose. Photographic memories are on the top of our priority list.

Do you keep supplies around the home either for outdoor activities or for weather disasters? Is there an overlap in how you use those supplies?

We have a lot of supplies around that are used for camping trips. There is most definitely an overlap in how they could be used in a weather emergency or disaster. The most important ones I recommend are; an outdoor propane cook stove, propane catalytic heater, a cooler and an easy-up tent. Just keep a supply of propane cylinders around and you can cook a meal outside on the stove and keep yourself warm in the home, tent or vehicle. Yes, the heater can be used indoors, but not the stove.

Does your camping gear include items for extreme temperatures?

Yes. The outdoor propane cook stove, propane catalytic heater, a cooler, and easy-up tent can all be used for extreme temperatures. The heater, however must be used in a small space like car, tent, etc., for it to provide enough heat to take the edge off from extreme cold.

How prepared for severe weather do you feel you are compared to the average North Carolinian? Why?

Campers probably are more prepared for an event in gear and in feeling more comfortable losing the comforts and luxuries people have grown attached to; However, no one can be prepared emotionally. My family is in need of more fire extinguishers and a fire ladder upstairs.

What do you think are some simple steps a family can take to be better prepared for potential emergencies?

Talk to your children about what an emergency is and what to do. Practice emergency scenarios with them, no matter how young [they are]. You would be surprised how much they understand and remember.

Photo caption: Susan Hughes (right) showed she could bake without power in a 2010 PLAN!T NOW contest.