Winter Power Outage Preparedness Checklist

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With the upcoming change in weather there is also the possibility of power outages. Have you ever thought about what you would do if the power went out for a day or two or even a week? We count on electricity everyday for our heat, food, medical, communication, and financial needs. Often even newer gas-powered appliances require some amount of electricity to run. The more you prepare for these outages, the better likelihood you will only suffer a minor inconvenience and can stay quite comfortable when the lights go out. Here is a quick checklist to remind you what you need to get through short term power outages such as during winter storms or when a vehicle hits a power pole.

1)      Have flashlights ready in multiple locations that are easily accessible around your home. Fresh batteries are also required. A good rule of thumb is to change the batteries in your emergency flashlights when you change the batteries in your smoke detectors twice a year. Have candles and matches available. Candles will produce light and heat however be cautious of fire hazards around the home with the open flames. A good oil or propane lantern is a good source of some minor heat and plenty of light. Cheap glow sticks are also an option to light your home. Snap them, shake, and place around your home to help light your way without batteries or lantern fuel.

2)      Keep a battery-operated radio or a crank radio in your kit so you can keep in contact with the world. Make sure it is in good order by testing it at least twice each year.

3)      Have a wide assortment of warm clothes and blankets to keep warm in. Layer up with extra clothing and cover with blankets. Extra towels and blankets running along the bottom of your doors and window sills will also keep drafts out and heat from escaping your home.

4)      Learn to cook over an open fire. This is only safe if you have an approved wood stove or fireplace in your home and a fire extinguisher just in case. Never use a propane cooking unit indoors as it is not safe and may cause carbon monoxide poisoning. If you are able to cook; prepackaged foods such as pastas and instant potato mixes will help fill you up and keep you warm. If you don’t have access to an open fire, plan meals that can be eaten cold if necessary, such as cereal or sandwiches with canned toppings (salmon, tuna) or peanut butter and jelly. Make sure you have a manual can opener in your utensil drawer to open cans of food. Fruit cups, granola bars, trail mixes and protein shakes are also good to keep on hand.

5)      Fill empty space in your freezer with containers of water. Frozen water will displace air and keep food cold longer if the power goes out for an extended period of time. This also provides a healthy drinking source as it melts if your water relies on a pump system.

6)      If you have a landline, have at least one handset in your home that is corded. Cordless phones will not work when the power is out. Cell phone users should try to keep their phones charged as much as possible or at the very least, have a car charger so you can refill your battery in the vehicle if it runs down.

7)      Always keep your vehicle fuel tank at least half full. Many gas stations will close down during a power outage. If a storm is predicted, fill up. If nothing else, a running vehicle has heat to warm you up, just do not run a vehicle indoors including in your garage to eliminate carbon monoxide poisoning.

8)      Do not open refrigerators or freezers more than necessary. If left unopened, a fridge can keep food cold for up to 4 hours, and a freezer for up to 24 hours. Keep a thermometer in both and if the temperature becomes higher than 5o Celsius, throw the food out. No exceptions.

9)      Unplug sensitive items once the power goes out. Electronics such as computers, printers, televisions, and major appliances turning on all at once may cause a spike when the power returns and can damage delicate items. Surge protectors may help however unplugging the unit will eliminate the possibility of damage completely.

10)   Keep a supply of books, games, puzzles, playing cards and other items that can keep you and your family entertained during an outage. A few snacks such as tortilla chips, salsa and cheese dip, dried fruit, or jerky will also keep the amusement level high and hunger at bay until the power returns.

11)   Make sure you check in on your neighbours. The elderly especially are not always as capable to handle a power outage. Other neighbours in the area may be experiencing issues due to the weather or power outage and may be without a formal means of communication. It may not warm your home to tropical temperatures however more people in a small space will actually warm you up without any additional heat source.

12)   If your budget allows, acquire a portable generator or have your electrician install an automatic start gen set. Learn to safely use your generator and test it monthly. Store extra fuel in a safe place to run the set for up to a week. You can also look into solar options for your home which will assist with maintaining your power consumption while everyone else is in the dark.

Whatever choices you make, stay safe, stay warm and be thankful to the power linesmen who are out there working to get your power turned back on as soon as possible.

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