Disaster Response

12 tips to prepare for power outages

We take electricity for granted. We don't realize how much we depend on it until there is a storm or other disaster that takes the power out, for hours or even days, and we struggle with the basics of everyday life.

September is National Preparedness Month and a good time to think about how we can be prepared for power outages in the event of a natural or man-made disaster. The American Public Power Association has compiled 12 tips from federal agencies for things you can do prepare for an extended power outage.

1. Keep your laptops and cell phones charged; also keep a radio & extra batteries handy to listen for directions from local officials if you lose power.

2. Always keep some extra cash on hand and your car tank at least half full — during an extended power outage, ATMs, credit card machines, and gas pumps may not work.

3. Know where the manual release lever of your electric garage door opener is located and how to operate it. Keep a key to your house with you if you usually enter through your garage.

4. Use only flashlights for emergency lighting; never use candles during a blackout or power outage due to extreme risk of fire.

5. Turn off or disconnect appliances, equipment (like air conditioners) or electronics in use when the power went out. Power may fluctuate as it returns and damage appliances. Keep one light on so you'll when power comes back.

6. Do not run a generator inside a home or garage. And do not connect a generator to a home's electrical system.Just connect the equipment you want to run directly to the outlets on the generator.

7. Before using any refrigerated foods, check your refrigerator and freezer thermometers. If the fridge is still at or below 40 ëF, or the food has been above 40 ëF for only two hours or less, it should be safe to eat. Frozen food that still has ice crystals or is at 40 ëF or below can be safely refrozen or cooked. But when in doubt, throw it out.

8. Avoid downed power lines — if a power line falls on your car, stay inside and call for help.

9. If you believe someone has been electrocuted, do not touch them — call 911 and turn off the source of electricity if possible. If not, move the source away from you and the affected person using a nonconducting object made of cardboard, plastic or wood.

10. Communicate with your power company — report downed power lines and outages, and report whether your neighbors have also lost power. Have your utility account number available, if possible. Check for service restoration status updates using a computer or mobile device.

11. Stay clear of power crews working — for safety reasons, crews have to stop what they're doing when bystanders come too close. Remain safe and let them work so they can quickly restore power.

12. If your house sustains flood or wind damage to electric equipment, you may need to hire certified technicians to assess for possible structural, electrical, or natural gas-related safety issues before restoring energy supplies.

Tips compiled from Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Energy, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Red Cross, Food and Drug Administration. Learn more at www.ready.gov."

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