Dealing With A Winter Power Outage
What to do when the lights go out.Nobody ever wants to deal with the headache of a power outage, but the fact is winter storms bring the distinct possibility of loss of power to your home. In 2012, when 14″ of snow were dumped on Chicagoland rendering Lake Shore Drive a parking lot frozen in time, many homes throughout Chicago and its suburbs were left without power for nearly a week. Because we never know just how long it may take for ComEd to restore power in such an instance, it’s important that every home have a plan in place should power loss occur for any length of time.
We’ve assembled a few tips that are key to making sure you’re prepared should the lights go out this winter:
The G-Word: The first thing people wish they could get their hands on in a power outage is a generator. It may be impractical in some living situations, but without a doubt, a generator is the one luxury item that makes an outage live-able more than just about any other resource.
If, however, there is someone in the home that relies on electricity to manage a health condition (such as someone who depends on a ventilator or other power enabled devices) a generator is not just a luxury; it really is a must. Whether you have a generator or not, it’s important that those that do rely on electricity to manage a health condition register with ComEd to ensure that their home is prioritized when they begin to effect repairs to restore power.
Without a home generator, such individuals should be fully aware of the nearest health facility with a back-up generator in the event of a power failure and, if possible, make arrangements in advance to stay there if and when it happens. In any case, when using a home generator you should ALWAYS pay careful attention to the manufacturer’s instructions. And never operate a generator in or near standing water.
Be Like Handy Andy: Every home should have a few things set aside for an emergency. Depending on its severity, a power outage can threaten your comfort or it can threaten your safety. So it’s best to keep a supply of key items and know exactly where to find them at all times.
One thing you will always want to have access to is a good, reliable flashlight and a fresh batch of batteries–enough to last at least 72 hours is best. Also necessary is a battery powered radio. Absent a smart phone, which may last 6 hours or so without a charge, a radio may be your only means of information for some time, so be sure you keep enough batteries on hand for that also.
It’s a good rule of thumb to always have at least one gallon of water per person in your household stocked as well, along with non-perishable foods like cereals, nuts and canned goods (and a hand-operated can opener, of course). Hunger is just another thing you will not want to have to deal with if you have to spend any time without electricity unexpectedly.
As for the food in your refrigerator, try to open the door as little as you can to preserve as much cooling as possible for as long as possible. Items within a filled refrigerator are expected to keep for up to about six hours. Items in a filled freezer should keep for about 2 days or so. A good rule of thumb is dispose of food whose temperature drops below 45 degrees. A better one: when in doubt, throw it out.
Be A Smart Dresser: If temperatures dip below freezing while power is out, dress in layers, keeping your head covered first and foremost. (Heat escapes more quickly from your head than from any other part of the body.) Conversely, should an outage occur during the summer months, stay in the lowest area of your home to keep coolest. Heat rises, cold sinks.
If temperatures in either direction begin to overwhelm, and power is out for an extended period of time, don’t hesitate to leave and seek shelter with friends or family with power or a local shelter. It makes no sense to endanger yourself and your family just to avoid the added inconvenience of leaving your home.
While many outages last no more than a few days, some in Chicagoland have famously continued for weeks. Above all, stay calm and, as much as is possible, stay connected. Keep hydrated and conserve food. And if you have a plan and necessary supplies, you’ll get through just fine.
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