When winter hits, it is not uncommon to experience power outages. Storms can knock down power poles, and falling trees and branches can pull down power lines. Even if you ignore weather forecasts, most utility companies are diligent about warning their customers of anticipated storms and potential outages. This warning gives utility customers ample time to take precautions if their power goes out.
Rather than wait until the last minute, have some items already on hand at the beginning of storm season so you can muddle through until the power company can get you back online. Here are a few tips for helping you prepare.
What are the necessities you use that depend upon electricity? Right off the bat, the essentials that come to mind are food and shelter. And in the winter, another necessity is heat. To make sure you can manage an outage, here are some things you should have on hand:
Portable Generator, Ready For Use
Many people have central heating systems. They have electric stoves and ovens. They have refrigerators. They use lights and plug-in lamps. When the power goes out, do you have a way to heat your house, cook, keep food cold, and provide light? If not, a generator is a virtual necessity for power outages.
Heat is vital when the power is out in a cold climate. Sadly, there are far too many stories of people who use kerosene or another portable gas heater indoors and die from carbon monoxide poisoning. Good for you if you have a fireplace, wood stove, or pellet stove. Gas stoves are also good; since gas lines run underground, they are not impacted when the electricity goes out. If you live in a temperate climate, you can get away with extra blankets and wearing outdoor gear indoors for a short while. But if you have no other way of heating yourself and your home where temperatures drop below freezing, you will need a generator.
But you can’t just go out to get a generator and call it done. Here are a few critical requirements for having a generator:
- Unless you know a lot about generators, you must hire a qualified, licensed electrician to establish a location and a dedicated connection for your generator. The system must be equipped with a transfer switch to prevent the generator from powering your house unless disconnected from the central power source. Failure to hook your generator up properly is not only dangerous but could be illegal. Have your electrician show you how to power it up.
- Get the right generator to meet your needs: If the power goes out, focus only on what is necessary to keep you going until power is restored, even if it takes a few days. This means your water heater, refrigerator, oven and stove, a few lights, and a few outlets. If you have a well, you will need power for your pump. For heat, you may need to rely on a portable heater in one or two rooms, and you may have to “camp out” in those rooms until power is restored. Make sure your generator can handle the load you will put on it. Do not power unnecessary items.
- Test your generator before using it, and make sure you have sufficient fuel. Don’t wait until the power goes out or you receive a storm warning to prepare. Test your generator at the beginning of the season to ensure it is working correctly and have fuel on hand.
Candles, Flashlights, or Camp Lights
Even if you have a few outlets working, make sure you have a working flashlight with fresh batteries, some candles, and matches (or lighters), or a camping lantern. There are no guarantees that your power outage will happen during daylight hours. With long winter nights, the last thing you want is to try powering up your generator in the dark.
Portable Radio and Battery Backup for Mobile Phones
Mobile phones are great and helpful in obtaining all sorts of information, but if your battery is dead, you will need to have some other means of communication on hand. A portable radio can bring you news and weather even if you do not have a phone; just make sure you have fresh batteries. Your phone is great for news and communicating with family and friends to assist one another or let people know you are okay. Have a portable charger on hand to ensure you have the sufficient battery life to take care of necessary communications.
Non-Perishable Ready-to-Eat Foods
Generators that power your refrigerator and stove are great for enabling you to have “normal” meals during a power outage, but there are no guarantees that you can outlast a power outage with fresh food. After all, your local grocery store may also be out of power. If you have canned and dry foods on hand, you can carry on a bit longer if you need to.
Be Prepared, Be Safe
When you prepare for a power outage, you are helping both yourself and others. When you don’t have to be rescued, available resources can be used to help those who genuinely need it.
Power outages are not enjoyable, but they can be stress-free if you have prepared well. Keep in mind, however, that power outages always mean pressure and stress for one group: utility line workers. For them, power outages require intense work in some of the worst conditions imaginable: cold, wet, and dark, exposed on power poles or bucket trucks. For added measure, there is also the risk of falling or getting an electric shock.
At Safeguard Equipment, our goal is to keep line workers safe. We know that people like you depend on line workers to get the power back on, so we aim to ensure you can count on line workers. We build personal voltage and current detectors (PVCDs) that line workers wear to alert them to the presence and location of energized lines. This is critically important in storm conditions when visibility is low and power lines may lie on the ground or be tangled up in trees, fences, or shrubs. Line workers can count on our COMPASS PVCDs to keep them safe. To find out more about our products or about how to practice electrical safety, contact Safeguard Equipment.