Checklist for December 1999

1. Use up the food in the freezer and refrigerator. If you empty the freezer, turn it off; alternatively, fill it with plastic bottles of water (leaving a couple of inches of each bottle empty to allow for the ice to expand as it freezes).

2. Fill the fuel tanks of all vehicles, and any gas cans you are storing. Test your emergency power arrangements, and practice emergency utility turn-offs.

3. Check your contingency plans for emergency heating, lighting, and cooking.

4. Stay out of the stores the last week of the year. Prices will be high. If possible, stay out of the banks.

5. Do all of your laundry and clean the house really good.

6. If there are power failures at midnight on December 31, turn off your breaker switches or unplug your sensitive electronic equipment. Go into the midnight hour using minimal energy (the less stress on the electrical grid at that time, the better).

7. The evening of December 31st, raise the thermostat to heat the house warmer than usual; if you are going into a power failure situation, it is better to have the house well heated up than cooled down.

8. Internet and phone traffic will be higher than normal on December 31st and January 1st, even for a holiday. There may be delays getting telephone calls through and slow-downs in cyberspace. If you need to make a phone call, do so, but don't burden the system unnecessarily by "checking" to see if the system is working.

9. If you go out for the evening December 31st, be sure you have a contingency plan for getting around if public transportation fails, your car quits, and/or the city's traffic lights don't work. Be prepared to pay cash and use the stairs.

10. Have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year! (Don't forget to eat some black-eyed peas on New Years Day. We'll need all the luck we can get!)