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Safety during a winter power outage

Power outages don’t just happen during storms on balmy summer days. Winter power outages can be more difficult due to the harsh cold. Here are some tips for staying safe if you find yourself caught in one.

Getting prepared

When a winter storm hits, you may not be able to get on the roads to get any supplies or food. If you know bad weather is approaching, stock up on warm clothing, blankets, and nonperishable food items. Get a portable cellphone charger and batteries for any devices, like a radio and flashlights, that can come in handy while the power is out.

Now is a good time to fix any window cracks or openings before snow really arrives (check out CUB’s guide to Cheaper Alternatives to Buying New Windows).

Staying warm 

An obvious concern in winter power outages is heat. Since natural gas furnaces depend on electricity to work, most homeowners will be without heat in an outage. Temperatures drop quickly, and this can be dangerous if you’re not careful, or the outage lasts longer than expected.

Make sure to completely close doors and windows, and block drafts. (You can buy materials to stop drafts under doors, like a door sweep, or improvise if you have to, with a rolled up towel.) Dress in layers, but at the same time keep clothes somewhat loose. If you or someone you know starts to show signs of frostbite or hypothermia, seek help right away.

Note: If you find yourself in dire conditions, you can always take advantage of your local warming centers.

Electrical precautions

When the power outage strikes, check your home’s electric panel and make sure a circuit didn’t blow. Unplug anything that uses an electric motor. You should keep a light switch “on” just to have as a signal for when power is restored.

If you find yourself having to go outdoors or even drive, be sure to watch for downed power lines, especially those that may be covered in snow.

Avoid pipes bursting 

Don’t waste water, but run your faucets at least at a trickle periodically throughout the day to keep water from freezing in your pipes. On an above-freezing day before winter is officially here, take some time to drain your outdoor faucets.

You can’t stop extreme winter weather, but being prepared can save you a lot of trouble. Keep in contact with your utilities not just to notify them of the outage, but also after the outage, in case there was damage done to your power lines, pipes, etc.