How to survive a power outage in the winter
Temperatures can plummet fast in your house when power is knocked out, but there are other potential dangers to be aware of as well.
When the power goes out in the midst of a snowstorm, it's important to know what measures to take in order to ensure the safety of you and your loved ones.
Power outages during frigid winter months can endanger lives. Being prepared can help you and your family stay safe and comfortable.
If the power goes out, make sure you have not blown a circuit by checking the breakers in your home's electrical panel.
Think ahead and unplug electronics and appliances that use electric motors. Turn on an incandescent light to signal when power is restored.
How to stay warm
If the power goes out in a winter weather event, temperatures can drop significantly. Make sure to keep all doors to the outside shut. Use towels to block drafts coming in from window and door cracks.
It's also possible to insulate windows with black blankets. The black draws heat from the sun. If the sun's beams are coming through the window, put the blankets on the floor where the sun is directly shining instead.
A police vehicle blocks a road near downed power lines. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Running a bathtub of hot water also draws in heat to the house.
Turning faucets to a trickle helps prevent pipes from freezing. If needed, wrap pipes in insulation or newspaper. Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.
Don't take risks on the road or in your home
Avoid driving when conditions include sleet, freezing rain or drizzle, snow or dense fog. If travel is necessary, keep a disaster supply kit in your vehicle. Do not travel alone and let someone know where you are going and your expected arrival time.
"Traffic accidents tend to dominate followed closely by wires down," said Steven Bair, fire director and chief of department at the Centre Region Council of Governments in Pennsylvania.
Don't rely on gas stoves, charcoal grills or other open-flame heat sources. Deadly carbon monoxide gas - which is odorless and invisible - may build up in your home.
Avoid carbon monoxide dangers
Carbon monoxide poisoning, fire and electric shock are hazards during an outage. Place generators away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
"Make sure generators are properly ventilated and operated in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. Take time to read the owner's manual before you actually need to use the generator," Bair said.
If you live in an area prone to blizzards, install carbon monoxide alarms. It's best to put one on every floor in central locations. If the alarm sounds, move quickly to fresh air either outdoors or by an open window. Call for help and remain there until emergency personnel arrive.
"A single-unit should be near the sleeping area so it can wake a sleeping person if activated," Bair said. "A second detector could be placed near an appliance likely to be a carbon monoxide source, such as the furnace or hot water heater."
Keep stock of non-perishable foods
During the winter months, its best to maintain a three-day supply of water and non-perishable food. Batteries, flash lights and a radio are also good backup supplies.
Items such as fruit bars, peanut butter, nuts and trail mixes, crackers and canned juices are great to stockpile.
Be aware of fuel fumes while trying to make a hot meal. Asphyxiation is a high risk when cooking during a power outage.
Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. These appliances are well insulated, so food will keep for hours if opening the door is kept to a minimum. In the winter, a ready supply of snow or ice from outside can be placed in a plastic bag and put into the fridge or freezer to keep food cold.
Tips for communicating
Communication could mean life or death in these situations.
Limit non-emergency phone calls during serious situations. This will also minimize network congestion. Texting is better for keeping phone lines open.
It is a good idea to keep a portable charger ready for use in case. If you don't have a portable charger, reduce the screen brightness and close apps not in use to conserve the battery.
How to keep kids and pets safe
It can be stressful to keep track of extreme weather events and children or pets. Staying calm in this situation will help keep children at ease.
Keep emergency phone numbers posted nearby, and keep children's emergency medication organized and accessible. Put extra clothes on your children and animals or wrap up in blankets. Distraction is a big advantage when young children are involved.
Most of all, make sure to give verbal reassurance and hugs. Children might not always express their fears and feelings.
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