Disasters and Other Pleasant Experiences

explosion, photo
Today TaxMama® wants to talk about sudden, unexpected events – and some tips on how to prepare for them.





Dear Friends and Family,

Saturday we came home from a delightful evening with friends, only to see traffic lights out half the way home. Then we noticed, all other lights were out. Arriving home, our power was off – except for that persistent beeping sound from the back-up power for our U-Verse devices. No lights, no power, no air conditioning, not even the ceiling fan – on the hottest night of the year.

Fortunately, my husband keeps small, powerful LED flashlights all over the house. So we were able to get around, turn things off that would be harmed when the power would surge back on – and perform our nightly ablutions.  For a little while, we still had Internet and learned that a major transformer had exploded (probably from the intense heat) and knocked out 154,000 homes and businesses.  We called it a night, went to sleep, hoping the power would be on in the morning. It wasn’t…but, with DWP working through the night it came back up by 7:59 am. Whew!

What I learned:

  • Keep LED flashlights all over the place – they are cheap. Especially this week with Amazon’s Prime campaign – you can get a pack of 18 mini LED flashlights (with batteries) for under $20.
  • Check the flashlights periodically to make sure the battery is charged. The flashlight on my desk lit up for a couple of minutes then went to sleep forever. (And when changing the batteries, don’t lose the little spring between the battery pack and the connection. Sigh.)
  • Avoid using candles – they drip and make a mess. Worse, they can start fires.
  • Keep your devices charged up regularly, while they are not in use. (I forgot to charge my smartphone and was down to 72%. Enough for an emergency, but not much else.)
  • Do go through the house and turn off appliances that are normally set to on. (Or, save time. Turn off the fuses in your fuse box, except for a set that only operates lights – to avoid power surges.) Leaving one set of fuses functioning, you will know when the power comes back on, and can safely re-set all the other breakers.
  • When you’re in an area with frequent outages, get a back-up generator. Make sure it’s always fueled and accessible in the event of an emergency. Teach everyone in the family how to use it safely. This is especially important if you have aquariums or enclosures for animals that require power.
  • Keep an emergency supply pack at home, containing enough fresh water for several days, and non-perishable foods that don’t require cooking. Amazon.com has several earthquake survival kits – for various family sizes.
  • You cannot make coffee or toast the usual way – the toaster, coffee maker and microwave all require electricity. But if you have a gas stove and/or oven, you can boil water for coffee, cook omelets, and toast bread (or make quesadillas) in the oven. Or, you can always use your barbecue outside and invite some neighbors for camp-out coffee and food.
  • Be very sparing about opening the refrigerator. As long as it’s closed, everything in the fridge and freezer is safe. Each time you open it, cold air departs. As evidenced by the Twilight Zone feeling at the supermarket on Sunday, where all the dairy areas were covered and sealed off with warnings that nothing was for sale. But the food in the closed cases was still being sold.
  • When the power comes back on, if you have food or other things that have spoiled, you might be able to file an insurance claim. So photograph all the spoilage to prove what happened. Unfortunately, we cannot record smells. Whatever the insurance doesn’t reimburse, might turn into a tax deduction. (Or not.) For disasters where you face tangible damages, there may be tax breaks for casualty losses. Read more about them here.

Note: If there is a major problem that will take days to resolve, consider getting out of the area for a few days. Friends, family or hotels are viable options. Especially if you have health issues and need power for the devices that keep you alive. (Refrigeration for meds/syringes, power for breathing devices, recharging wheelchairs, etc.) Also, to get work done using the Internet, you may need to get some temporary lodging outside the affected area.

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And remember, you can find answers to all kinds of questions about casualties and other tax and business issues, free. Where? Where else? At www.TaxMama.com.

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