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How to Prepare for Emergencies

January 11, 1996

Editor: Zachary D. Smith, OEP Public Information Officer
Contributors: Charles Morgan, Washington Gas; Jill Downs, Pepco; Michelle Snyder, WTOP; Jill Burnette, Red Cross
For more information contact OEP at: (202) 727-6161

Washington Emergency Preparedness Guide

Winter Storms

Winter Safety Tips
Be prepared for winter storms by taking the following precautions:

  • Don't park on Snow Emergency Routes
  • Dress warmly and in layers
  • Stay indoors during storms and cold snaps unless in peak physical form
  • Stock an extra supply of non-perishable food items
  • Shovel the sidewalks in front of your home or business
  • Check battery-powered flashlights and radios before storm arrives
  • Check your heating fuel supply
  • Don’t drive if you don t have to
  • Prevent fire hazards
  • Beware of carbon monoxide if you are trapped in your car
  • If your car starts to skid, turn the wheels in the direction of the skid
For more information, contact the Department of Public Works at: (202)939-8000

Lights Out

What Causes Power Outages?
The most common cause of power outages in the Washington area is weather. During rain and snow storms, the trees that beautify our area become a mixed blessing. High winds and lightning strikes cause branches and trees to topple onto power lines, causing outages.

Major Causes of Outages:

  • High winds or lightning
  • Heavy rain or snow
  • Trees falling on power lines or small animals
  • Utility poles damages in traffic accidents
  • Equipment failure
  • Accidental damage from construction
Can Outages be Prevented?
Because many outages are caused by the uncontrollable and unpredictable forces of weather, they can’t be completely prevented - but we're constantly working to minimize their number and restore power promptly when they do occur. Pepco’s telephone numbers: call (202) 833-7500 to report outages. To report life-threatening emergencies, such as burning wires, call (202) 872-3432.

How Do We Restore Service?
We have a Control Center operating around-the-clock for quick assessment of the nature of outages from customer calls and a computerized monitoring system.

Give Us a Call
If you experience an outage, please call us at (202) 833-7500. A Customer Service representative reports the information you provide. It is quickly analyzed by computer systems and a repair crew is directed to the location for power restoration. We also provide recorded telephone messages to tell you what we already know about outages in various neighborhoods.

A Computer Sorts and Analyzes Outages
It is important that we have your correct telephone number to help us pinpoint your location and restore your power as quickly as possible. You can update your telephone number in our system by calling (202) 835-1007 anytime.

When you call in an outage report, the information you provide is fed into the computerized Trouble Processing System, to be analyzed and sorted with other customer calls. For example, the computer will sort all the reports according to priority, geographic areas and probable cause.

We Dispatch Repair Crews
When we have a major storm, this analyzed outage information is received in a constant stream at the Control Center and crews are quickly dispatched.

We follow these priorities for restoring service:

  1. We work to correct situations that might threaten lives, such as live wires across a road, or darkened hospitals.
  2. We work to get the largest number of people back in service in the least time by focusing on repairs, (such as substations and feeders) that can help thousands of customers.
  3. We then move to restore power to small groups of customers and finally individual homes or businesses.
How Long Will Your Services Be Out?
In addition to the guidelines for restoring service mentioned above, there are several factors involved in service restoration which affect our ability to predict when restoration will occur. When a crew arrives to make repairs, it has to investigate the cause of the outage, and it may encounter complex problems that require additional time, equipment or crew. Given the factors, we try to estimate a restoration time for specific locations.

Thank You for Your Patience

D.C. Emergency Numbers

Fire, Police or Medical Emergency: 911
OEP 24hr D.C. Government Crisis: 727 6161
PEPCO 24hr. Emergency: 833 7500
Washington Gas 24hr. Emergency: (703) 750 1000
National Poison Center: 625 3333
OEP/TDD Number: 727 3323
National Weather Service: 936 1212

OEP’s Family Protection Program
For D.C. Residents

1. Learn About Hazards and How to Prepare
You can start planning for disaster by familiarizing yourself with what disasters are most likely to occur.
2. Hold a Family Meeting
Once information has been acquired, you should hold a meeting with your family to talk about what could happen and how to prepare and respond. Evacuation plans and family check-in contacts should be determined.
3. Put The Plan Into Action
Each family member can be responsible for implementing some aspect of the Family Protection Program. Activities include posting emergency telephone numbers, assembling a disaster supply kit, installing smoke detectors, determining escape routes at home, and taking CPR training.
4. Practice and Maintain The Plan
Family members are encouraged to practice their plan on a regular basis, conduct fire and emergency evacuation drills, check smoke detectors and maintain disaster supply kits.
Be prepared for any emergency that can occur in Washington by implementing the Family Protection Program today. To schedule a Family Protection Presentation for your school, business, or neighborhood group contact OEP at (202) 727 6161.

Top 10 D.C. Hazards

1. Severe weather
2. Urban fires
3. Transportation accidents
4. Special events and demonstrations
5. Urban floods
6. Utility and power failures
7. Hurricanes
8. Radiological and hazardous material incidents
9. Terrorism
10. Civil disorders

Your Family Protection Checklist

  • Teach children how and when to call 911
  • Post emergency telephone numbers near telephones
  • Discuss what to do about power outages and personal injuries
  • Maintain a battery-powered radio, flashlight, and plenty of extra batteries
  • Have a disaster plan the family has agreed upon
Gas Safety

Make Yourself A Safe Gas Consumer
Natural gas is the cleanest burning energy source of all and has and excellent safety record in this country. In order to keep and improve upon the record, natural gas must be used properly. The safe gas user is a person who knows what to look for and what to do to prevent accidents.

Well-Maintained Gas Appliances
When a gas appliance is working properly, its burners have a steady, bright blue flame. The blue flame shows that the burner adjustment is combining air and gas in just the right amounts for completely safe operation. Yellow or wavering flames indicate that the fuel is not burning completely, which can result in an unsafe situation. This is a signal to have your appliance checked.

Washington Gas appliance service men will check any appliance for its customers free of charge. Call the company at (703) 750-1000 or (202) 624-6049 for this service. Service men can also make small repairs and adjustments for a flat service fee, at your request. If an appliance needs further repairs, they will turn it off until your gas contractor or plumber can repair it.

Keep gas appliances clean, and following use and care instructions in the operation, it is important to keep the area around your appliances clear of anything that can catch fire. This particularly applies to paints, cleaning solvent, oil, coal, natural gas, gasoline, or fuel passage that keeps air from getting to the combustion source.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) in the home is especially treacherous because it’s unexpected. The early symptoms of CO poisoning -- Stinging, watering eyes followed by nausea, aches, and dizziness are often mistaken for the flu. As a result, CO poisoning may sneak up on people who are unaware of the danger signs. Even low concentrations can be dangerous if inhaled over a long period of time. At high concentrations, it can be deadly. Its the same CO found in automotive exhaust. CO in the home is especially treacherous because its unexpected.

All CO accidents can be prevented by taking proper care. The most important step gas customers can take against CO is to have a qualified technician in each Fall to conduct an inspection that includes make sure that all fuel burning appliances and fireplaces are burning properly, making sure all products of combustion are vented properly, and making sure the chimney or vent pipes are free of blockages. And very important: never use the oven or the top burner of a range to warm a room!

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has recommended that CO detectors be installed in homes near sleeping areas. Several models, costing from about $40 to $170, have been certified and approved by national testing authorities and are available in local hard ware stores.

Ask Washington Gas for more Safety Tips.
A safety brochure covering these and other subjects is available at no charge from Washington Gas. To get a copy, telephone the gas company at (703) 624-6049.


D.C.’s Red Cross: Helping Washington cope with today’s emergencies. . .
During times of loss after a disaster, people turn to the American Red Cross. In Washington, D.C., people turn to the National Capital Chapter of the Red Cross for the help they need to rebuild their lives after a local disaster.

The National Capital Chapter is one of the District’s largest and oldest charities. It has brought the vital services of the Red Cross to people of Washington, D.C. for more than 90 years. One of the most important services it offers is prompt relief to the victims of fires, floods and hazardous materials accidents.

The Red Cross is very active helping families uprooted by our most common local disaster, fire. Last year, the National Capital Chapter helped more than 1,300 people after 283 local disasters in the District and Falls Church and Fairfax County, VA, which it also serves. That averages out to helping a family cope with a fire or other disaster five out of every seven day of the week. Of the 283 disasters, 276 were responses to fires.

One such fire uprooted 13 families on March 10, 1995 the same day that the American Red Cross nationwide Community Disaster Drill that helped introduce the new American Red Cross slogan “Help Can’t Wait”. The Chapter used the drill to test its ability to shelter families after a devastating apartment fire. Ironically, many of the same volunteers who participated in the drill that day found themselves performing the same duties in response to the actual fire.

The Red Cross is a vital part of the District’s social safety net and works closely with the District government to aid disaster victims. Whenever people lose their homes to a fire our other local disaster, the Red Cross will provide food, shelter and other necessities of life to those with no where else to turn. The Red Cross often provides this service when a local disaster strikes a lower income family that cannot afford to replace their possession . In such instances, the Red Cross offers vouchers that can be redeemed at local merchants and used to purchase new clothing, shoes and even essential furniture (such as beds).

The Winter of 1994/1995 was a busy time for the Red Cross. During the Christmas 1994 weekend alone, the Chapter assisted 25 people in four fires. The month of January was equally demanding, with nine fires and three floods.

Though they are by far the most frequent local disaster, fires are not the only local emergency to which the Red Cross responds. In 1993, the National Capital Chapter worked with the Office of Emergency Preparedness and the U.S. Army during the removal of World War I chemical munitions discovered in D.C.’s Spring Valley neighborhood. The Red Cross supported families evacuated from their homes. It also provided a canteen inside the danger zone where local emergency workers could relax and re-energize.

In the past, the Red Cross has also helped the victims of local airplane crashes, Metro train derailments, hazardous chemical spills and other local emergencies. They also volunteer to help out during major national disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods.

For more information on Red Cross services in the District, or to volunteer with the Chapter, call the National Capital Chapter Office of Public Support at (202)-728-6473.

OEP ‘95 Highlights

Award-winning emergency response operations, dominated the OEP’s agenda during 1995, the year when Mayor Marion Barry’s nominee as the OEP director, Samuel H. Jordan, was confirmed by the D.C. City Council on December 5. Examples of OEP’s emergency management highlights during 1995 include:

  • Responded to some 503,000 citizen crisis calls in OEP’s 24-hour Executive Command and Communications Center.
  • Coordinated the Million Man March
  • Provided 267 air conditioners or fans to at-risk senior citizens during Washington’s July 1995 heat wave emergency, an effort which earned the agency KPMG Peat Marwick’s 1995 Quality Service Award for Excellence in Program Management.
  • Developed ongoing D.C. counter-terrorist training program.
  • Conducted Family Protection workshops for 4,000 D.C. School Children and 12 targeted businesses.
  • Revised District’s bomb threat procedures in response to Oklahoma City terrorist incident.
  • Operated D.C. and Federal Partial Government Shutdown Hotline.
  • 911
Make the Right Call D.C.

When do you call 911 for medical emergencies?
Calling 911 for non-emergencies places lives at risk and strains limited resources. Failure to call in a real emergency can result in more serious medical problems even death.

Call 911 for an ambulance if the victim:

  • becomes unconscious
  • has trouble breathing
  • is breathing strangely
  • has chest pain or pressure
  • is bleeding severely
  • has pressure or pain in abdomen that won’t go away
  • is vomiting or passing blood
  • has seizures, a severe headache, or slurred speech
  • appears to have been poisoned
  • has injuries to the head, neck or back.
Also call 911 for a fire or explosion, downed electrical wires, vehicle collisions, presence of poisonous gas, or victims who cannot be moved easily.

For more information, contact the Office of Emergency Preparedness at (202)-727-6161.

Heating Units: A Burning Issue

The incorrect use of heating units is a leading cause of fires in Washington. These fires cost residents thousands of dollars in damages and endanger hundreds of families every winter.

You can prevent heating fires by taking a few simple precautions.

Remember: Space heaters need their space. They are not drying racks.

Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from your space heater, wall heater or water heater.

Teach children never to play near the heater and ALWAYS to keep clothes and toys away.

Clean up any clutter around your heater and furnace; Plug electric heaters directly into the wall socket -- not into an extension cord. And unplug your heater when it’s not in use.

Have your space cleaner or floor furnace professionally cleaned once a year.

You can contact the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services Fire Prevention Office at (202) 673-3250 for more information about heating units and fires.

With a little care, you’ll be safely warm this winter.

Remember: A working smoke detector doubles your chances of surviving a fire.

Pepco: Building Environmental Stewardship

Clean and Efficient Electricity
Pepco realizes that providing clean and efficient electricity brings a special responsibility for environmental stewardship. For us that means working diligently to comply quickly and fully with environmental regulations serving as a leader in enhancing the natural areas where we work and live.

Throughout the years, we have made continuous strides toward improving our environmental performance, while providing customers with reliable, low-cost service. Some of our recent achievements include:

Making advances in managing coal ash, the largest by-product of producing electricity, by purchasing lower ash fuel increasing ash recycling, and enhancing the undeveloped land at our storage sites, for which we received an award from the National Arbor Day Foundation. In addition, one storage site was designed by the Maryland Department of National Resources as a Wildlife Habitat.

Purchasing 85% of our paper goods from recycled sources and reducing solvent-generated hazardous waste by an additional 16%. Prince George’s County recognized our achievements by presenting Pepco the Public Utility Recycling Program Award.

Contributing to the successful restocking of striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay, for which we won a 1994 Edison Electric Institute award for Environmental Partnership. Over the past decade, Pepco has produced 3.3 million striped bass. Building on that success, we move ahead with a program to raise the endangered American Shad.

Completing innovative plans for contributing to the restoration plan of Anacostia River. We are the first corporation to join dozens of other organizations in this effort.

Promoting aggressively conservation program to minimize the need for burning fossil field by using electricity more efficiently. Nearly one million discounts for compact florescent bulbs were used by our customers.

We are pleased with these achievements, and look forward to the challenges ahead. Pepco people remain committed to preserving the natural beauty of the region we serve, and to seeking new ways to enhance our environment.

This publication was financed by the following corporate sponsors: PEPCO, WASHINGTON GAS, and WTOP.

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