6 Mistakes Not To Make During A Power Outage
Is that a live wire or a piece of rope?
When the power goes out, you know what happens next: If it’s hot out, no more AC. If it’s winter, no more heat. And if the outage lasts long enough, there goes the food in the fridge.
In the United States, experts have been warning for years that we’ll be subject to more and more brownouts and blackouts unless we update our 100-year-old electric grid. According to one report, every year the average New Englander loses power for more than three hours. In Japan, the average yearly power loss is three minutes.
Losing power can be more than an inconvenience; it can be downright dangerous. Next time your neighborhood goes dark, stay safe by avoiding these mistakes.
Mistake 1: Touching a downed wire. D’oh! It may seem obvious, but people often forget that any downed or dangling power line is potentially “live,” even if it doesn’t appear to be. “Even if the lines are not sparking, they could be energized and extremely dangerous,” notes Pacific Power, a utility company in the northwest, in a recent advisory.
Keep at least 30 feet away from downed power and utility lines, advises the utility, and if the ground is wet, stay at least 60 feet away. If you find yourself in a car when a wire is downed, Pacific Power cautions not to leave the safety of the car for any reason except fire — and then to leap out of the car with both feet and land as far away as you can. If you touch the car and the ground at the same time, the utility warns, you could be electrocuted.
Mistake 2: Using candles. There are so many inexpensive battery-powered LED lights and flashlights that run safely for hours that there really isn’t any excuse for resorting to candles, which can cause a fire. Stock your home with these and save the candles for romantic evenings. If you must use a candle, put it in a lantern if possible and never leave it unattended. Look for stocky candles that won’t tip over.
Mistake 3: Letting your cell phone die. Almost a quarter of people get their emergency information from apps on their phones now, and the same number use social media during an emergency, according to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC).
Find the back-up battery for your cell phone if you have one. Keep the phone on airplane mode or off when you aren’t using it.You may be able to charge your phone in your car if you can get to it.
If you still have a land line, have at least one old-fashioned phone with an attached handset; cordless landlines won’t work during a power outage.
Mistake 4: Opening the fridge or freezer. Opening it means the food won’t stay cold as long. Keep the doors closed except to add ice if you have it. (If you can’t get ice from the store and it’s below freezing outside, put water in some gallon bags and freeze them outside. You can also keep bottles of water in the freezer for this purpose.) A full freezer will stay cold for about 48 hours, and a half-full freezer, about 24 hours.
If you have ice and there are a few foods you really want to save, put them in a cooler along with the ice.
Discard perishable food such as meat, seafood and eggs if they have been exposed to temps over 40 degrees F for more than 2 hours. (Use an appliance thermometer to find out.)
Mistake 5: Using a generator or grill indoors. Carbon monoxide poisoning from grills and generators used indoors claims many lives during disasters. Never use these indoors. That includes your garage. Before you use a generator outdoors, find out how to use your generator safely.
Mistake 6: Failing to unplug. It’s easy to forget during a blackout, but if you don’t turn off your appliances and equipment, spikes and surges that occur when the power comes back on can damage them. The American Red Cross advises you to turn off and unplug any unnecessary electrical equipment, along with the stove and other appliances. Leave one light on, though, so you’ll know when the power comes back on.
And for the next outage….
…you’ll be better prepared, right? For information on how to prepare for a power outage or create an emergency outage kit, visit the Edison Electric Institute or the federal government’s disaster readiness site.