Safe Electricity Provides Tips on Weathering a Winter Power Outage

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Residents of the Northeast have been preparing for the winter storm expected to cause blizzard conditions. However, the Safe Electricity program also encourages people to be prepared with knowledge — to know what to do when a snow storm strikes.

Winter storms can bring down power lines.

Winter storms can bring down power lines and cause power outages.

To be prepared for a winter power outage, supplies are essential but are not all that is needed. The Safe Electricity program also encourages people to be prepared with knowledge — to know what to do when a snow storm strikes.

The Northeast is facing blizzard conditions in coming days. High winds, power outages, and coastal flooding are possible from this storm. Residents have been buying storm preparation supplies to prepare since travel will be hazardous. To be prepared for a winter power outage, supplies are essential but are not all that is needed. The Safe Electricity program also encourages people to be prepared with knowledge — to know what to do when a snow storm strikes.

"Winter storms can severely damage power lines by weighing lines down with ice and snow, causing trees to fall into power lines or creating hazardous road conditions resulting in automobile accidents with power poles," says Molly Hall, executive director of the Energy Education Council’s Safe Electricity program. "All of these scenarios can create prolonged power outages."

When the lights go out, the first step is to contact the 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 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 everything possible to keep home and family comfortable.

Get out the storm preparedness kit to help get you and your family through the power outage. The supplies in this kit 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 the home. Infants and elderly people are more susceptible to the cold. If a home cannot be kept warm, consider staying with friends or relatives or going to a shelter.

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. Also, 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 using an alternative heating source during a power outage, be sure to know how to use it safely and that all supplies are 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 backfeed, which occurs when electricity travels from the generator back through the power lines. Backfeed creates danger for anyone near lines, particularly crews working to restore power.

Take steps to protect circuits and appliances before power is restored by switching off lights and unplugging everything. Leave one light switched on as a visible reminder of when power has been restored.

For more information visit, SafeElectricity.org.

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Kyla Kruse
@EnergyEdCouncil
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