Weathering a Winter Power Outage Safely


Winter storms can cause prolonged power outages by weighing power lines down with ice, causing trees to fall into lines, or creating hazardous road conditions resulting in vehicle accidents with power poles. To safety weather a winter outage, you need to prepare and know what to do when a storm strikes.

When the lights go out, you should first contact your utility company to inform them of the outage. Once they are aware of an outage, they will immediately begin the assessment and restoration process. How long it takes to get your power restored depends on the extent off the storm's destruction, the number of outages, and when it becomes safe for utility personnel to get to the affected areas. Until the power comes back on, do all you can to keep your family comfortable.

A storm preparedness kit can help you do this. The kit will need to be assembled ahead of time and should include such items as: bottled water, non-perishable food, blankets, warm clothing, first aid kit/medicine, flashlight, radio, extra batteries, and toiletries.

Monitor the temperature in your home. Infants and elderly people are more susceptible to the cold. You may want to stay with friends or relatives or go to a shelter if you cannot keep your home warm.

There are many ways to stay warm during a winter power outage. First, dress warm and cover up in layers of blankets. Next, remember to close off unneeded rooms and place draft blocks at the bottom of doors to minimize cold air entering the house. Cover the windows at night to keep the cold air out. Finally, avoid going outside. Opening doors will let cold air in and going outside will make you more vulnerable to the cold.

If you are using an alternative heating source, be sure to know how to use it safely and that you have all supplies gathered for it. Follow operating instructions, use fire safeguards, and properly ventilate. Always keep a multipurpose, dry chemical fire extinguisher nearby and know how to use it.

Use caution when using a portable generator. These should never be operated indoors because they omit deadly carbon monoxide. Additionally, never plug it into a wall outlet. This is an important precaution in preventing potentially deadly backfeed, which occurs when electricity travels from the generator back through the power lines.

Take steps to protect your circuits and appliances before power is restored by switching off lights and unplugging everything. Leave one light switched on as a quick reminder that the power is restored.

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