The nature of the electric distribution system cannot guarantee an uninterrupted power supply. Electricity is generated in one location and then transported to the various homes and businesses where it is used. Along the way, any number of things can happen to disrupt the supply. It is therefore wise and necessary to prepare for these conditions before they happen. The following suggestions can help you prepare for emergency situations.
Home Emergency Checklist
Food – Keep enough on hand for several days--canned goods, powdered milk and freeze dried foods that require little preparation. Check expiration dates periodically. Refrigerators and freezers will keep food for awhile without power--avoid opening the doors as much as possible. Wrapping blankets around them can also help.
Water – Plan on a quart of drinking water per person per day. A supply is also need for washing and cooking. Water can be stored in bathtubs, sinks bowls, plastic jugs or other closable containers.
Cooking – Fireplaces, wood, pellet or camp stoves, and barbecue grills may be used for cooking. Be sure to ventilate properly and never burn charcoal indoors.
Sanitation – Toilets should be flushed as little as possible. If the water supply is shut off, many toilets can be flushed by pouring water directly into the bowl. A portable camper's toilet may also be used.
Flashlight and portable radio – A flashlight, battery-powered radio and extra batteries are a must. Be extremely cautious with candles, oil or gas lanterns. An explosion could occur if gas lines are broken.
First-aid kit – Should contain basic supplies such as bandages, disinfectant and aspirin or other pain reliever.
Extra medicine – This includes medications that must be taken regularly. Check expiration dates periodically.
Fire fighting equipment – A fire extinguisher, suitable for use on ordinary combustibles, flammable liquids and electrical fires (ABC extinguisher), should be kept in the home at all times. All family members should know how to use it.
Emergency phone numbers
Fortify your home against winter weather.
Energy efficiency – Identify ways to conserve energy around the home. Discuss ways to eliminated wasteful habits and improve energy efficiency.
Insulation – Adding extra insulation, caulking and weather-stripping to help keep your house warmer.
Heating – Plan an alternate method of heating your home and learn how to operate it safely. Choose a small, well-insulated room near your alternate heating source as your emergency living quarters. Avoid opening outside doors as much as possible.
Alternate Heat Sources
These devices can keep you warm in an emergency.
Fireplaces – Generally do not heat efficiently or have the ability to heat the whole house, but can provide adequate heat in an emergency.
Wood/pellet stoves – Must be properly installed but are more efficient than fireplaces.
Portable fuel-burning heaters – Should be used only as directed and only in well-ventilated areas.
Fuel – Obtain and keep a supply in advance, but be sure to store it properly in approved safety containers.
Prevent fire – Use backup heating equipment only as directed by the manufacturer. Handle fuel and ashes carefully, and keep combustible materials a safe distance from stoves, space heaters, etc. Don't use a gas range for heating. Make sure your chimney is free of creosote and in good condition.
Prevent suffocation – Any unvented heater that burns fuel can give off deadly gases. Such devices should only be used in well-ventilated areas. Check restrictions on the use of portable heaters.
What to do when an emergency occurs?
- If the lights (electricity) go out
- Check circuit breakers or fuses. Make sure you're familiar with their location. Know how to reset or replace them.
- If there are no tripped breakers or blown fuses check to see if power is out to surrounding buildings. If so, the utility most likely will know of the problem. If not, call the utility to report the outage.
- Turn off most lights, appliances and electric heat to reduce electrical load when power returns. Heavy loads on utility circuits when power is restored can lead to additional outages.
After power is restored, wait a few minutes before gradually turning on disconnected lights, appliances and electric heat.
Prevent pipes from freezing.
Frozen pipes can cut off your water supply. They may even burst, causing water damage to your home or business.
- If the heat will be off only for a few hours
- Wrap exposed pipes with insulation or layers of newspaper. Be careful of burns from hot water pipes.
- In extremely cold weather, open faucets slightly and run a small, constant stream of water.
- If the heat will be off longer than two days
- Turn off the main water valve or pump, and the water heater and/or water heating furnace valve. Then open faucets to drain all pipes and also drain the water heater.
- Shut off the water valve to the toilet and flush until the bowl and tank are empty.
- Pour anti-freeze down drains and in toilet bowls and tanks.
- If the pipes freeze
- Shut off the main water supply and open faucets. Remove any insulation around pipes.
- To thaw, expose pipes to warm air or wrap them with hot, wet rags. Never use a torch or open flame to thaw pipes. Call a plumber if these procedures do not work.
Protect Your Health
Dress warmly – Wear several layers of dry loose-fitting clothing to say warm indoors or outside. Remove wet clothing as soon as possible.
Wear a hat. Most of a person's body heat is lost through the head.
Eat healthy meals – Food supplies should contain foods from each of the five food groups. Eat a variety of foods at each meal to provide energy for warmth. Avoid alcoholic beverages.
Be alert for hypothermia – Know the signs-mumbling, slurred speech, shivering, drowsiness, exhaustion, white fingers and toes, red ears, nose, and cheeks and low body temperature.
First aid for hypothermia – Cover the person's head, and wrap in dry blankets. Keep the head low and the feet slightly raised. Keep the person quiet.