September is National Preparedness Month, a good reminder for all to have a plan in the event of a disaster. The most common consequence of a disaster, even minor ones, is power outages. The loss of electrical power for an extended period of time can cause gaps in communication, information, or service networks as well as complications for those with special needs.
Here are some tips provided by the Jefferson County Sheriff to help when preparing for a power outage:
- Maintain a supply of water and flashlights with extra batteries. More powerful battery-powered lanterns are also a wise investment. Fire officials strongly discourage the use of candles during a power outage because of the risk of fire.
- Portable generators are increasingly popular and invaluable during a power outage, but they emit deadly carbon monoxide gas and must be used properly. Never use generators indoors. Always place them at least 15 feet from doors and windows.
- Family members who have power-dependent health needs (i.e. oxygen, dialysis) should have an emergency plan in place at all times. Some families use dry ice for refrigeration following an outage.
During a power outage follow these food and electrical safety tips:
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. 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.
- Use non-perishable foods and staples after using perishable food from the refrigerator and freezer.
- 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 keep it covered at all times.
- Never taste food or rely on appearance or odor to determine its safety. Some foods may look and smell fine, but if they have been at room temperature too long, bacteria causing food borne illnesses can start growing quickly. Some types of bacteria produce toxins that cannot be destroyed by cooking.
- If food in the freezer is colder than 40° F and has ice crystals on it, you can refreeze it.
- If you are not sure if food is cold enough, take its temperature with the food thermometer.
- Throw out any foods (meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that have been exposed to temperatures higher than 40° F (4° C) for 2 hours or more, and any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture, or feels warm to the touch.
- Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment, including sensitive electronics.
- Do not touch any electrical power lines and keep your family away from them. Report downed power lines to the appropriate officials in your area.
- Turn off or disconnect any appliances (like stoves), equipment or electronics you were using when the power went out. When power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment.
- Leave one light turned on so you’ll know when the power comes back on.
- Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic lights will be out and roads may be congested.
- When using a portable generator, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect a portable generator to a home’s electrical system. If you are considering getting a generator, get advice from a professional, such as an electrician. Make sure that the generator you purchase is rated for the power that you think you will need.