Though public power utilities provide their customers with reliable service, severe weather conditions such as thunderstorms, high winds or snowstorms can lead to temporary service interruptions. As the seasons change, it is important to be prepared for possible storm-related power outages.
How to prepare for a storm-related power outage
Don’t get caught unprepared in the event of a major power outage. Sign up for local weather alerts through the National Weather Service or other available service, and assemble an emergency storm kit to be ready for any severe weather event. A basic storm kit should include the following items:
- Water (1 gallon per person, per day)
- Non-perishable food
- Manual can opener for food
- First aid supplies
- Extra batteries
- Radio (battery-powered, hand-crank or solar)
- Emergency contact information
- Cell phones (with alternate chargers)
- Personal sanitation items
- Map of local area
These items will help you avoid potential hazards and manage a power outage or other emergency that may require you to survive on your own for several days. When preparing your kit, make sure it can sustain your household for at least 72 hours and is stored in a cool, dry and safe place.
In addition to arranging an emergency storm kit, there are several other steps you can take to prepare for severe weather:
- Establish an emergency plan for your household.
- Fill your car with gas, but avoid traveling unless necessary.
- Fully charge any electronic devices.
- Before the storm arrives, set your refrigerator to its coldest setting to keep food cold.
- Confirm that the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your house are working, and add fresh batteries if needed.
- Consider purchasing a generator to supply power during an outage. Ensure that you understand the manufacturer’s instructions before using.
- Visit your state’s emergency management agency website for information regarding the nearest cooling and warming shelters.
What to do during an outage
Report any outage to your electric company immediately. Even if you cannot speak to someone directly, reporting an outage can help the utility to identify the location and extent of an outage. This information can often help the utility to address an outage in a timelier manner.
In the event of a nighttime outage, use flashlights for light rather than candles, as this will reduce the chance of a fire. Ensure that you have a ready supply of extra batteries for this purpose. If an outage occurs during cold weather, use blankets and extra clothing to stay warm, rather than an open-flame heat source, as they may cause carbon monoxide accumulation.
Unplug or disconnect any major appliances and electronic devices to protect them from a power surge that may cause damage when the power comes back on.
Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to preserve food.
How to handle downed power lines
In addition to outages, severe weather can cause dangerous hazards such as downed power lines and electrical equipment. Downed power lines pose a serious threat and can potentially be deadly. If you spot a downed power line, call 911 and inform the appropriate emergency responders at your local electric utility company immediately.
In the event of a downed power line, never attempt to touch or move equipment or any surrounding debris, even with a stick or pole. It is very likely that downed power lines are still live, meaning they can still electrocute anything they touch. Keep a safe distance at all times from surrounding objects such as fences, buildings and trees as they may have been energized by the fallen line. Keep away from any water near the downed line.
Do not drive over downed power lines. If a power line falls onto your vehicle, stay in the vehicle, do not touch anything and call for help. If forced to exit your vehicle (the only reason would be if there were a fire), remove any loose clothing first and then jump out of the vehicle, keeping arms and hands at your sides and landing with both feet together. Keep both feet together and shuffle away from the car. If you see someone else in this situation, do not attempt a rescue.