A power outage is inconvenient at any time of year, but losing electricity and heat in the winter can be life-threatening. Here are some tips to keep your family safe and warm as you wait for power to be restored.
How to Prepare for a Storm
Monitor the weather forecast. If a storm is coming, make sure you have enough food, water, medication and pet supplies to last at least a few days, as well as flashlights, batteries and other essentials. Fill your gas tank and charge your cell phone. Don’t wait until the last minute, since stores and gas stations will be flooded with people searching for supplies.
Check your windows, doors and frames for cracks or gaps and make any necessary repairs. That will prevent drafts and reduce your regular utility bills.
How to Stay Warm
If you shelter in place, wear layers of warm, relatively loose clothing. Cover your head, hands and feet and wrap yourselves in blankets.
Keep family members and pets in a few rooms and close the doors to rooms that aren’t being used. Place door sweeps or rolled-up towels in front of doors to block drafts. Cover the windows with drapes, shades or blankets to keep cold air out and warm air in.
How to Prevent Accidents and Injuries
Turn off lights and unplug appliances and electronic devices so they won’t be damaged by a power surge when electricity is turned back on. Leave one light on so you will know when power has been restored.
If you go outside after a storm, be on the lookout for downed power lines. If you see any, assume they are energized. Don’t touch a downed powerline or anything that is in contact with it. Warn others of the danger and notify your utility company.
If you have a generator, use it in a well-ventilated area. Don’t plug it into a wall outlet since that could endanger utility crews and others. Plug appliances into outlets on the generator.
Don’t use a grill inside your home or garage. That could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Turn the temperatures in your refrigerator and freezer to the lowest settings before the storm. Keep the doors closed as much as possible during the power outage. If you aren’t sure if something is safe to eat, throw it out.
Burst pipes can cause major damage. Turn on the faucets so that water runs at a trickle to keep pipes from freezing.
When to Go to a Shelter
Know the location of a nearby shelter and create a plan to get there if necessary. If an infant, a senior citizen, or a person with a medical condition is particularly susceptible to the cold, or if a family member uses a medical device that requires electricity or takes medication that requires refrigeration and you don’t have a generator, consider heading to a shelter before the storm so you won’t have to drive in treacherous conditions if you lose power at home.