As we move into what is the most intense period of winter weather for much of the country, it’s important to be aware of the possibility of losing power. A blackout can be even more worrying this time of year when the temperatures drop. What can you do to be prepared? Here are a few suggestions.
Taking a few precautionary steps before a winter storm hits can make a blackout easier to weather. Stock your home with supplies you’ll need, including enough nonperishable food and water for three to five days; a solar, car, or hand-cranked cell phone charger; a battery-operated radio; flashlights with new batteries; any medications you might need; blankets and warm clothing; a carbon monoxide detector; a fire extinguisher; and games and books. Make sure your fireplace and chimney are cleaned. You’ll also want to winterize your home and put together an emergency communication plan for your family so you will know how to contact one another.
Once the blackout hits, you will want to take appropriate steps to stay safe. Dress in layers and stay under blankets as much as possible. Cover your windows with black curtains or fabric, as dark colors absorb sunlight. Keep windows closed and open doors as little as possible. Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed to keep the inside temperature down and prevent food from spoiling. Only use your fireplace if both the fireplace and chimney have been cleaned recently. In order to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, be wary of using gas devices to warm your home. Don’t use gas generators, camping stoves or barbecues inside the house. Assuming you’re able to recharge them, listen continuously for weather updates on a phone or battery-powered radio. Unplug appliances to avoid a surge when power is restored.
There may still be some risks once the power in your home is returned. If a pipe has burst and there is water in your basement, don’t enter the basement until you’re sure all power is turned off. Don’t turn on any appliances or devices until the area has been checked by a technician. Make sure all devices and appliances are turned off before plugging them back in. Double-check to make sure your food has not spoiled before consuming it. Replace any water, nonperishable food, or other supplies you kept stocked for an emergency situation.