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Power and Electricity During Disasters

Recently, millions were left without power during the cold winter. Freezing temperatures and massive snowfall paralyzed much of the United States. Since electricity runs the modern world, when it goes out suddenly, we too often find ourselves helpless.

No-one can predict where or when a disaster will strike next. When you find yourself suddenly in the dark, you will want to be prepared by doing the following things:

  • Put together a power outage emergency kit (wrench, pliers, duct tape)

  • Emergency weather radio (battery or solar)

  • Fashlights and extra batteries

  • Water purifying pills or enough bottled water for 3 days

  • Food thermometer

  • Non-perishable food and can opener

  • Portable generator

  • Surge protectors for computers

  • Plenty of warm clothing and blankets

  • Basic sanitation kit - toilet paper, soap, garbage bags, feminine supplies

How to prepare for a power outage?

When a power outage happens, it’s too late to think about what you should have purchased or packed. Take an inventory of the items that you use that rely on electricity. If you are aware a storm is coming, charge up all of your phones and other electrical devices and then unplug all electronics and move them as high as possible to avoid water damage from flooding. Learn how to turn off the main power breaker in the home to prevent surges to the wiring and equipment. Also, talk to your doctor about a power outage plan for medical devices power by electricity. If you have power-dependent medical devices, make sure you have alternate plans.

What to do if power goes out during a storm?

  • Check the circuit breakers

  • Check-in with neighbors

  • Call the power company

  • Stay warm

  • Preserve food

  • Unplug major appliances

Check with the neighbors to see if their power is on. If it is, then try to reset your breakers, including the main breaker. You don’t need any tools. Find your breaker panel (see image on right). It may be located in the garage or somewhere in the home. Turn off all of the breakers, one by one. Reset the main breaker. You may find it outside by the electric meter (don’t touch the meter). Turn the breaker switch two times. Return to the breaker panel and turn each breaker on, one by one.

Other useful tips for when power goes out during a disaster:

  1. Use flashlights only. Candles can cause fires.

  2. Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed to keep food cold for about four hours. Use coolers with ice if necessary.

  3. Identify and throw away food that may not be safe to eat. It is helpful to have a thermometer to check whether the food temperature is 40 degrees or higher. If so, throw it out to be safe.

  4. Take steps to remain cool if it is hot outside (consider going to a movie theater or shopping mall to keep cool.

  5. Put on layers of warm clothing if it is cold outside. Never use a gas stove or oven to heat your home.

  6. Disconnect appliances and other equipment so a surge of electricity will not damage computers or other devices. Consider using surge protectors.

  7. Consider purchasing a generator. Consult an electrician or engineer before purchasing and installing it

  8. Never run a generator inside a home, garage, or connect it to your home’s electrical system. Only use generators at least 20 feet away from your home. Doing this will prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

  9. If power is out for more than a day, throw away any medication that should be refrigerated. Then consult your doctor and get a new supply from the pharmacy.

  10. Use camp stoves and charcoal grills to cook food at least 30 feet from windows.

  11. Make sure your water is safe by checking with local authorities.

  12. Avoid downed power lines. Stay inside your vehicle if a power line falls on it.

What to eat if you have no power?

Shop for staples to have on hand during the storm season and pick up a few packages of nonperishables every time you shop.

That way, you won’t need to run to the store right before a storm.

  • Canned vegetables and fruit

  • Beans

  • Breakfast cereal

  • Peanut butter

  • Nuts

  • Protein bars

  • Crackers

  • Snack bars

  • Almond milk

What is the best way to protect yourself against electrical hazards?

There is always a risk associated with electricity. The most significant risks are electrical shock and fire. Sparks can come from electrical equipment and ignite flammable or explosive vapors or combustible materials. When the power goes out, it can create a hazardous situation. You can prevent common electrical hazards.if you:

  • Inspect equipment wiring before using

  • Use safe working practices while using electrical equipment

  • Be sure you know where the shut-off switches or circuit breaker panels are

  • Limit the use of extension cords

  • Multi-plug adapters must have circuit breakers or fuses

  • Place exposed electrical conductors behind shield

Today's the day to prepare for the next power outage.

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