The calendar has rolled over to October and marks the start of the wind storm season. Flood season starts toward the end of this month, and the threat for snow in the North Sound lowlands begins in mid-November. An earthquake can occur at any unannounced time. All of these natural hazards can and often do cause power outages.
Here are some do’s and don’ts when the power goes out.
Don’t…use a backup power generator indoors or use combustion appliances like gas grills or ovens. A backup power generator must be properly vented outdoors, including outside your garage. Bringing gas appliances indoors is also a no-no. Both of these are sources for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
In the wake of the Hanukkah Eve Wind Storm of December 2006, there were 15 fatalities and 11 of them were well after the storm with CO poisoning. Several hundred more were poisoned and hospitalized. All of these CO tragedies were the result of bringing their outdoor gas grill indoors for heat and cooking, or improper generator ventilation.
Mitchel Kannry, the Fire Marshall and Deputy Fire Chief of the Washington, D.C., Fire and EMS Department pointed out, “Carbon monoxide is very serious. It’s colorless, tasteless and odorless, so unless you have a detector, there isn’t a good way to know that it’s reached toxic levels. It kills people.”
Do…retain the heat you have. During the day, let the sun’s warmth in through your windows, but at night, close all the blinds and curtains to insulate from the cold outside. Close doors to rooms not in use and stuff towels in cracks under doors where there is a draft. Also layer up! Wear three layers of loose-fitting tops along with long underwear under your pants. Thick socks, gloves and hats help too.
Do…use your wood burning fireplace. Experts note that wood burning fireplaces pose little threat as long as the fireplace and chimney have been properly cleaned and serviced. Gas fireplaces are also fine since they are vented out of doors. Just keep in mind the fan blower will not work since they require power.
Don’t…consume food from your refrigerator once the interior temperature rises above 40 degrees for two hours or more. Discard any perishable food once the temperature and time period hits that threshold. Keep in mind that if it colder than 40 degrees outside, you can put those perishables in a cooler and use ice from the freezer to help them stay cool enough outdoors.
Overall once you lose power, your refrigerator will retain its cool temperatures for at least four hours as long as the doors remain closed. The freezer will also stay cold enough for up to 48 hours.
For your meats and some veggies if the power outage is known to be extended, consider cooking all of it on your outdoor grill and stow it in a cooler outdoors for future use. Maybe invite the neighbors over for a fun meal as well.
Do…stock your pantry with nonperishable foods in advance. With storms or an unannounced earthquake in mind, it is also a good idea to ensure your pantry has plenty of nonperishable food items like cereal, shelf-stable milk, canned foods, and snack bars. And it is always a good idea to have plenty of stored bottled water on hand – at least one gallon per person per day.
Do…have a battery powered radio. Staying connected is critical for your business or family’s power outage decision making process. Radio will be your most reliable source for significant event coverage and news. An all-hazards weather radio is also a must have. Many models not only alert you to any local weather or non-weather hazard warnings, but also have extra features like battery backup, AM/FM radio, flashlight, and cell phone charger. Some also have a hand crank to help keep the radio operating even without batteries.
When the power goes out, utility crews jump into action to restore power. Depending on the event, the power may be out for only a few hours or days. But in the wake of a strong damaging wind storm or a big earthquake, the power may be out for an extended period of time. The Hanukkah Eve Wind Storm damaged about 70 percent of Puget Sound Energy’s infrastructure, taking up to two weeks to restore power to all their customers.
Power outages offer a lot of unknowns on when power will return. But now you know a number of do’s and don’ts in case the power goes out.