Winter is coming. As the storms blow in, homes and businesses deal with the annual ups and downs of power outages.
Here are a few do's to keep in mind.
- Do keep flashlights around the house and plenty of batteries. Keep them in a handy location -- like near the front door, so you don't have to stumble around when you come home to a power outage. While candlelight is romantic, it's hardly the safest way to light dark rooms.
- Do keep a storage tub filled with blankets to stay warm. Nights without heat in homes that can dip below freezing are difficult -- make sure you can bundle up. Flannel sheets are also nice.
- Do take advantage of when the power is on -- even if it's intermittent. Run the dishwasher, charge your devices, take a shower.
- Do have a few gallons of water handy -- for yourself, for your pets, or for your toilets if they are on electric wells.
- Do have a battery-powered radio so you can listen for news reports.
What not to do:
- Don't open the fridge unnecessarily. You don't want the food to warm up during extended outages. If necessary, move items to a cooler and stock up on ice if the outage lasts days. After the outage, clean out the fridge. A rule of thumb: When in doubt, throw it out.
- Don't plug the whole house into a generator -- they are not meant for that. If you have a generator, use it for a few specific functions.
- Don't depend on surge suppressors to protect your valuable electronics. Unplug the computer and other gadgets until the power returns.
- Don't go near any downed power lines. Wait for the professionals to clean it up. The lines are likely still live and can electrocute you.
- Don't bring a barbeque or a grill inside the house to keep warm -- they need ventilation. (I realize this sounds silly but it's been done.)
The Center for Disease Control has more tips and information about coping with power outages. With luck and proper planning, we can all weather the worst of the coming winter.