Preparing for winter storms
When winter arrives, Hoosiers are never sure of what to expect. Indiana winters include everything from heavy snows, to freezing rain, to ice storms — sometimes all in one day. All of those forms of winter weather can create electrical hazards warns Southeastern Indiana REMC.
“Being safe around electricity is a year-round need, but Indiana winters include many dangerous hazards, especially where power lines are concerned,” said Brandon Linville, Southeastern Indiana REMC. “Snow and ice often accumulate on power lines, and the added weight may cause them to snap off the power poles, or to cause the poles to break,” Linville explained. “That can bring power lines into contact with the ground, trees, homes, vehicles and other objects. If people or pets come in contact with a live power line, they can suffer serious injury or even death.”
During dangerous conditions, many residents may be confined to their homes for days at a time. That’s why it is important to have a plan in place, especially during these prolonged outages. To better prepare for a power outage, your electric co-op recommends members keep a storm preparedness kit fully stocked. The basic supplies in this kit should include:
First aid kit/medicine
Battery-operated or hand-crank radio
Now that your family is prepared for a prolonged outage, what should you do if the lights do go out?
Keep warm air in and cool air out by not opening doors to unused rooms. Do not open doors to the outside unless necessary.
Food safety is also important when there is a prolonged outage. Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible and eat perishable food first. If you know a winter storm is coming, stock up on ice so you can keep things in coolers to keep them from going bad if an outage lasts longer than a day. Once the refrigerator reaches temperatures higher than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, foods can become unsafe to eat.
To protect homes’ electrical equipment during an outage, turn off and unplug all unnecessary electronics or appliances. This will keep equipment from being damaged by surges or spikes when the power returns.
Know how long your home healthcare supplies will last and have a backup plan. Plan for a safe alternative source such as a portable battery or generator if electricity is not available. Plan to get to a health care facility should your health worsen or if you are going to run out of necessary power.
Sources: Electrical Safety Authority, Popular Mechanics
When in doubt, throw it out: food safety reminders during an outage
During an outage:
First, use perishable food from the refrigerator. Perishables should have a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below to be safe to eat. Use food from the freezer after consuming refrigerated food.
An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours.
A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it is half-full) if the door remains closed.
If it looks like the power outage will continue beyond a day, prepare a cooler with ice for your freezer items.
Keep food in a dry, cool spot and cover it at all times.
After an outage:
Throw away any food (particularly meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that has been exposed to temperatures higher than 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or more, or that has an unusual odor, color or texture.
Never taste food or rely on appearance or odor to determine its safety. If it has been at room temperature too long, bacteria causing food-borne illnesses can quickly grow.
If you are not sure food is cold enough, take its temperature with a food thermometer. If it is colder than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, you can refreeze it.
Source: American Red Cross
Generator safety: Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area.
Keep these devices outside, away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide (CO) to come indoors.
Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO buildup in the home. Although CO can't be seen or smelled, it can rapidly lead to full incapacitation and death.
Install CO alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas to provide early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide.