Heavy snow and accumulating ice can easily bring tree limbs down onto power lines, cutting off power to homes and businesses. Making plans now for a potential power outage can make riding out a prolonged power outage safer and more comfortable.
Steps to help keep your family safe and comfortable during a winter storm can happen long before one is forecast. One necessary way to prepare is to put an emergency kit together. Some of the items that Safe Electricity recommends you include in your kit are:
- Water – stock up on bottled water for consumption.
- Food – have enough non-perishable food items to last at least three to seven days.
- Utensils – include a non-electric can opener, cooking tools, paper plates, and plastic utensils.
- Blankets, pillows, and warm clothing items.
- First aid kit, medicine, and prescription drugs.
- Flashlight and batteries – be sure to include extra batteries.
- Radio and clock – use battery-operated radios and clocks; also consider purchasing a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio.
- Telephone – keep cell phone chargers (wall, car, and/or solar) on hand and, if you have a landline, a traditional (not cordless) telephone set.
- Supplies for alternate heating methods, such as a fireplace or wood-burning stove.
Other tasks to complete in advance of a storm include having the power company or a tree-trimming professional remove limbs that could fall on power lines if they become covered in ice or snow, insulating your home by installing storm windows, caulking cracks in your home, and making sure your heating system is in proper working order.
If the electricity goes out due to a winter storm, you might be in for a prolonged power outage as crews work through the harsh weather to get the power back on. If you find yourself in this situation, make sure to contact your electrical utility as soon as you can so they know you have lost power. Other actions you can take to stay safe and comfortable are:
- Stay inside, and dress warm.
- Close off unneeded rooms.
- When using an alternative heat source, follow operating instructions, use fire safeguards, and be sure to properly ventilate. Always keep a multipurpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher nearby, and know how to use it.
- Place draft block at the bottom of doors to minimize cold drafts from entering the house.
- Cover windows at night.
- Keep a close eye on the temperature in your home. Infants and people over the age of 65 are often 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.
Winter can bring a variety of weather patterns ranging from mild snows to severe blizzards. To prepare yourself for winter storms, make sure to pay attention to weather forecasts and understand the difference between the warnings provided by the National Weather Service:
- Winter Storm Warning – issued when hazardous winter weather in the form of heavy snow, freezing rain, or sleet is coming or occurring. The warnings are issued 12 to 24 hours prior to the storm.
- Winter Storm Watch – alerts the public to the possibility of a blizzard, heavy snow, freezing rain, or sleet. Watches are issued 12 to 48 hours before the storm.
- Winter Storm Outlook– this is given when winter storm conditions are possible and are issued three to five days in advance of a winter storm.
- Blizzard Warning – issued for gusty winds of 35 mph or more, and falling or blowing snow that creates visibilities of a fourth of a mile or less. These conditions usually last at least three hours.
For more information on how to prepare for a winter storm and how to keep your family safe during and after a winter storm, visit SafeElectricity.org.