The ice and snow storms hitting the entire Midwest the last few weeks proves that we in the heartland are never free from dangerous winter storms until well into springtime.
While total power outages don't happed very often, they do occur with enough frequency that should force families to be safely prepared if they're left in the cold and dark.
The following home safety tips are quite timely for this time of year:
*Have flashlights, fresh batteries and candles on hand. Hide batteries from children so they don't end up in toys instead of emergency equipment.
*Keep fresh batteries in a battery-powered radio so you can hear the news if power is out. And keep a battery-powered clock handy.
*If your telephone line is plugged into an electric answering machine, disconnect it and plug the phone directly into the phone jack during a power outage.
*Keep your local electric cooperative telephone and account numbers handy so you'll have them when you call to report the power outage.
*Stock your cupboards with unrefrigerated prepared foods, so you won't have to open the freezer or refrigerator during an outage. A tightly shut refrigerator will keep food from spoiling for up to eight hours, and the freezer should stay safely cold for 24-48 hours.
*Bundle up. Have plenty of warm clothes, including hats and mittens to dress the family in layers for warmth. Children and the elderly are especially susceptible to hypothermia, so cover their heads, ears and hands.
Above it all, keep your family calm, do not panic and do your best to ride it out. Normally, the outages are restored in a hour or two.
And remember, if you lose your TV signal but still have power to the rest of the house, you can still play videos on the VCR or DVD player which do not need a television signal to function.
Just don't forget the popcorn!