Severe weather can knock out power and strand thousands in the cold and dark. If you live in an area prone to high winds, ice, and snow, or other severe weather, use this must-have list of things to do to make your life a lot easier when the inevitable occurs. A little preparation goes a long way toward your family’s safety, security, and comfort.
Prepare for Power Outages Before They Occur
- Fill your vehicles’ gas tanks. (It’s always a good idea to keep them at least half-full in cold weather.)
- Charge your mobile devices.
- Have a ready supply of cash.
- Keep fresh batteries on hand for radios, flashlights, lamps, etc.
- Have a battery-operated and/or hand-crank NOAA radio with fresh batteries on hand, and preset it to a station that will make frequent weather-related updates.
- Ensure that you have enough drinking water for your family and pets for three days.
- Consider filling the bathtub and other containers to provide water for flushing toilets if you have a well or a reason to believe your town’s water supply could be contaminated.
- If you have a woodstove, fireplace, or pellet stove, ensure that you have a few days’ supply of wood or pellets on hand.
- Ensure that you have a few days’ supply of any required prescription drugs on hand.
- Don’t forget your pets: ensure that they have warm, dry shelter and plenty of water and food.
Dealing with Power Loss
- First, check the circuit breakers or fuses in your home’s electrical panel to be sure you have not blown a fuse.
- If the power is out for an external reason, call your utility company and report the outage.
- Stay away from downed power lines, and keep children and pets away as well.
- Wear multiple layers of clothing, a warm hat, and gloves. (Most body heat is lost through your head, feet, and hands.)
- Keep food as cold as possible by keeping the refrigerator/freezer closed until needed. Discard food that has a temperature higher than 40°.
- Unplug your powered appliances to avoid possible surge damage when the power is restored. (Keep a small light or radio plugged in to alert you when the power is restored.)
- Use alternate heat sources safely:
- Do not run generators, kerosene heaters, grills, or other heaters intended for use outdoors inside the house – the carbon monoxide gas generated is odorless, colorless, and deadly.
- If you own a generator connected directly to your home’s wiring, make sure it is not also connected to the main power grid that supplies the home. Generators connected to the power grid can return electricity to the power lines outside the house and maim or kill workers attempting to restore power.
- Be neighborly. Check on elderly, ill, or disabled neighbors to ensure that they are able to stay warm and have water and food. If a neighbor uses medical equipment that needs electricity to operate, call authorities immediately.
- Keep a disaster kit in your car, and practice defensive driving if you have to go out. Traffic signals may be out, and hazardous conditions can cause collisions.
Power losses often accompany severe weather and can knock out everything from your home’s lighting to its heat and water. In particularly severe cases, you can lose power for days or weeks. These guidelines will help you prepare so you can keep some control over your environment. For more information, visit the online resources below.