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Health & Safety

Help Your Student Be Ready for a Weather-Related Emergency


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Is your student prepared for a weather-related emergency in their on- or off-campus home? Whether they live in the dorms or in an off-campus apartment, share these tips with them and make sure they're ready for an emergency — especially if that emergency means a loss of power.

Emergency Items to Keep on Hand

  • Non-perishable food (i.e. canned foods, nuts, dried fruit, protein bars, etc. Include things that don't need to be heated in case you lose power — tuna packets or peanut butter and crackers are a good option.)
  • Bottled water
  • Basic first aid kit
  • Basic tool kit
  • Extra blankets and warm clothing (a sleeping bag always comes in handy)
  • Back-up power banks for charging electronics
  • Flashlight, headlamp and/or camping lantern with extra batteries. An old-fashioned hand-cranked flashlight is a good idea, too.
  • A supply of any medication they need regularly
  • Hand sanitizer and baby wipes (which can be nice for cleansing; just don't flush them)
  • Battery-operated transistor radio

It's also important that your student know how to get information or updates on the situation, whether from their school or their landlords. The college or university will likely have an emergency broadcast system in place and your student should make sure they're signed up to receive those notifications. They can also read their email and check the school website for updates.

Beyond staying up to date on the situation, it's crucial that your student know who to contact if they need help whether it be 9-1-1 or a campus emergency number. And if your student's school is far from home, it's always a good idea to make sure they have a local contact person they can turn to during a difficult time, whether it's a family friend, relative or the parent of one of their college friends.

Do Not Venture Out During Unsafe Conditions!

In the case of potential flooding from a hurricane or tropical storm, or during an event of extreme snow and cold, students should take extra precautions and not leave their dorm or home unless advised that it's safe to do so. In addition to heeding safety recommendations from their college or university, they should tune into severe weather advisories from their city and county.

If Your Student Lives Off Campus

Students living off campus may need to shoulder a little extra responsibility in emergency situations. It's possible that they'll need to take initiative and contact their landlords and utility companies for advice on what to do to keep their houses safe. Fortunately, many student leasing companies know the drill and are proactive in providing tips to first-time renters — landlords have an incentive to protect property and appliances from damage, after all.

Here are things your student shouldn't do in an emergency situation, especially if they've lost access to power and water:

  • Don't use candles as a light source. If you must, make sure not to use too many at once as candles can easily tip over. Pillar candles and candles in glass jars are the most stable. Never leave a lit candle unattended!
  • Don't play on your phone. It's tempting to use your electronics as a source of entertainment through the boredom, but it's much better to conserve your phone's charge for important communications.
  • Don't open the fridge or freezer. Both are well insulated and will preserve their temperature for a while as long as you don't release the cold air. (According to the U.S. FDA, refrigerated food will stay cold for about four hours during an outage and the freezer can do its job for 24–48 hours.)
  • Don't waste water. Apart from clean bottled water for drinking, if you anticipate losing power, make sure to fill your bathtub with water for things like flushing the toilet or washing your hands.
  • Don't run your car for warmth or power unless you absolutely have to. You may need a full tank of gas later on. Never run the car in the garage!

Keep Tabs on Developing Situations

Sometimes emergencies catch us by surprise but at other times, especially when extreme weather is involved, we may have some advance warning. If your student is aware of a developing situation or simply has a bad feeling about it, they can already be making sure they're prepared for the worst case scenario. Things like making sure their power banks are fully charged and checking on their supply of candles and food can truly make all the difference.

Find more tips on preparing for emergencies on campus, including evacuations, lockdowns and fires >

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