Tips for weathering ice storms, prolonged power outages

Urbana—A heavy build-up of ice on power lines can cause wires to snap and utility poles to topple. Falling trees and tree limbs covered in ice can bring down power lines, cause outages, and threaten property, even life.

Safe Electricity stresses the importance of being prepared and knowing what to do during these potentially dangerous storms and the potential power outages they may cause.

“Having the right supplies and knowing how to stay warm safely are keys to weathering a winter storm emergency,” stresses Molly Hall, Safe Electricity director.

Always keep a battery-powered radio or TV, flashlights, and a supply of fresh batteries in case of an emergency.

Know where to find extra blankets

Fill spare containers with water for washing, and keep a supply of bottled drinking water on hand

Keep a supply of non-perishable food items, along with a hand opener for canned food

Switch off lights and appliances to prevent overloading circuits and damaging appliances when power is restored. Leave one lamp or switch on as a signal for when your power returns.

To prevent water pipes from freezing, keep faucets turned on slightly so water drips from the tap.

“Never use a charcoal grill to cook or heat with inside the home,” Hall emphasizes. “Charcoal grills give off deadly carbon monoxide gas. Grills should be used only outdoors.”

It’s a good idea to assemble a disaster supply kit that includes needed items ahead of time. Don’t forget to include a first aid kit, any prescription medications, and any special items needed for infant, elderly or disabled family members.

Maintaining warmth is a priority during a winter emergency. Loss of body heat or hypothermia can be life threatening. To void cold weather fatalities, the following is advised:

Stay inside and dress in warm, layered clothing.

Close off unneeded rooms.

When using an alternative heat source, follow operating instructions, use fire safeguards and be sure to properly ventilate.

Stuff towels and rags underneath doors keep the heat in.

Cover windows at night.

Eat: Food provides the body with energy to for creating its own energy.

Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

Move around to keep warm, but not enough to perspire. Perspiring causes the body to lose fluids, which could potentially lead to dehydration.

If you use a standby generator, make sure it has a transfer safety switch or that your power is cut off at the breaker box before you operate it. This prevents electricity from traveling back through the power lines, or what is also known as “back feed.” Back feed creates danger for anyone near power lines, particularly crews working to restore power.

When outside, treat all downed and hanging lines as if they are active electric lines: Stay away, warn others to stay away, and immediately contact your utility company.

For more detailed information and electrical safety tips, visit the web site. Safe Electricity is an electrical safety public awareness program created and supported by a coalition of several dozen organizations, including electric utilities, the University of Illinois and other entities committed to promoting electrical safety.

From the Jan. 17-23, 2007, issue

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