Progress Energy customers should report outages to 800-419-6356 or online at www.progress-energy.com/storm, or via smartphones at the company's mobile website at m.progress-energy.com. Register online before the storm hits.
Progress will update its storm restoration progress at www.facebook.com/ProgressEnergyCarolinas.
N.C. Electric Membership Corp. customers should call the co-op that serves their area to report outages.
If you evacuate, shut off gas, water and electricity before leaving.
If the power goes out, keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. Food usually stays frozen 48 hours. A refrigerator can keep food cold about four hours.
Do not connect a generator directly to your home's electrical system. Follow manufacturer's directions to connect appliances directly to your generator.
Avoid downed power lines and trees entangled in power lines.
Check for electrical damage inside your home: frayed wires, sparks or the smell of burning insulation. If you find damage, do not turn your power on until an electrician inspects your system.
If you need a place to stay
Residents and travelers displaced by Hurricane Irene can find a list of available hotel rooms posted at www.visitnc.com/advisories/view/12
Still time to prepare for the storm
Make sure you have a portable radio with fresh batteries, a flashlight for each member of your household, a first-aid kit, canned or packaged food that can be prepared without cooking or refrigeration, and one gallon of water per person (or pet) per day.
Unplug major, non-vital appliances.
Board or tape up windows.
Put important papers in waterproof containers and move valuables to upper floors.
Find your homeowner or renter's insurance policy and find out how and where to report a claim.
Fill your bathtub with water.
Fill all prescriptions. (Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin issued a bulletin advising insurance companies to waive time restrictions on filling prescriptions in light of the hurricane. People who live east of Interstate 95 may obtain one early refill of a prescription or one replacement prescription for a medication that was recently filled.)
Have a family communication plan in place: Designate someone outside of the storm area as a central contact for your family in case people become separated.
Program all your emergency numbers and emails into your mobile phone; include area hospitals and police departments.
Keep wireless batteries charged and your wireless phone dry.
Forward your home number to your wireless number.
Back up important computer files.
After the storm
Watch out for debris-filled streets and weakened bridges.
Remember that snakes and insects can be a problem after storms.
Boil water to drink until local officials say the water supply is safe.
The state's price gouging law is in effect. Charging an unreasonably excessive amount in times of crisis is against North Carolina law when a disaster is declared by the governor.
Don't pay upfront for repair work. Some contractors may require a "reasonable" down payment, but insist on a written contract that details the work to be performed, the cost and a projected completion date. Pay with a check or credit card, not cash.
Beware of anyone who promises a "guaranteed" loan from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, especially if they require an upfront payment. (FEMA doesn't charge a loan application fee.) Verify the credentials of anyone offering low-interest government loans by contacting the agency involved.
Beware of a contractor who knocks on your door soliciting work. Ask for recommendations from people you know.
Whenever possible, obtain three written estimates for repair work and compare them. Check whether any complaints have been filed against contractors with the Attorney General's office and the Better Business Bureau.
Watch out for charity scams. Telemarketing frauds spring into action with phony pleas for donations in the wake of disasters. Check on a charity's legitimacy by calling the secretary of state's office at 888-830-4989.
Report a scam or fraud by calling the attorney general's office at 877-566-7226 or by filing a complaint on the AG's website www.ncdoj.gov/
Hurricane Irene could result in several hundred thousand claims for wind damage and about 100,000 federal flood insurance claims, according to the Consumer Federation of America.
Report claims promptly because adjusters handle them on first come, first served basis.
Once reported, get your claim number and write it down.
Keep records of all contacts with your insurer, listing date, time and brief description of exchange.
Find out if the adjuster is an employee of your insurance company or an independent. If independent, find out what company your information is going to and if it is authorized to make decisions and payments on behalf of your insurer.
Limit any repairs done before an adjuster's visit to those needed to protect your home from additional damage.
Before making emergency repairs, take photographs and then keep receipts for work done.
Keep receipts for any living expenses such as hotel costs if your home is uninhabitable.
Consult your insurer or check your policy before hiring a tree removal service. Policies differ on whether tree removal or debris is covered; some policies only cover tree removal if the tree has fallen on your house or other property such as a utility shed.
If you have questions, contact the N.C. Department of Insurance at 800-546-5664 or 919-807-6750. Visit www.ncdoi.com