By Megan Wild, Author of Your Wild Home
Power outages are typically caused by particularly intense winter weather events. Whether wind, rain, ice or snow, if you’re expecting harsh weather conditions of any sort, you need to ensure you’re prepared for a power outage.
A winter storm, like a hurricane, can last for several days. Given the usual accompaniment of freezing rain, ice or snow, temperatures during winter storms often drop to dangerous levels, sometimes unprecedented for the region or time of year. These factors can impact entire regions, occasionally immobilizing them entirely and usually robbing them of heat, power, and communication.
Power outages can endanger lives through causing carbon monoxide poisoning, hypothermia, and even dehydration. To combat all this, here is the absolute minimum prep you should do every time there are weather warnings.
Securing the basics is step one. If there is more than one person in the house, take time for a family or roommate discussion to gauge what three days without access to running water and a grocery store would look like. Make a plan, access those imperishable foods and start prepping.
It is typically advised that you have at least 1 gallon of water for every resident each day — and then prepare for three to four days. On top of that, account for emergencies such as wound cleaning or general hygiene and food preparation.
While your power outage menu won’t be the most delicious meal you’ll ever have dined upon, it will keep you alive and kicking. Ensure there is at least a three- to four-day supply of fruit bars, nut butters, crackers and vitamin-rich juices. Canned foods like beans and soup are great options to stockpile, as are nuts and trail mixes.
Your pet needs to eat too, so make sure you can sustain his/her usual diet through the power outage. Also, don’t forget any extra prescription meds you may require.
Investing in a high-quality generator will be your saving grace. While they range between $500 and $10,000, portable and stationary generators are worth their weight, especially during power outages.
Be sure to run your generator at least 10 feet away from your home, and when required, plug your equipment directly into it. Avoid using your standard electricity system during winter power outages, as this could be a risk to utility workers.
Safety is your No. 1 priority when anticipating a winter power outage, as well as during it and afterward.
First things first: Keep off the roads. Steven Blair, fire director and chief of the Centre Region Council of Governments, warns that during winter weather, "traffic accidents tend to dominate, followed closely by wires down."
Simple tools can be a major help during a power outage. Make sure your flashlights have batteries, as well as plenty of extras. Dust off your old portable battery-powered radio too, to make sure you have access to whatever news or weather reports are available. Grab yourself an old but trusty shovel to dig yourself out of any situations where necessary.
Double up on winter clothing storage — opt for comfortable, lightweight clothing in layers, topped with a heavy item for protection. Think about your extremities. Choose mittens over gloves and invest in a good-quality scarf and hat. Keep an eye out for any symptoms of hypothermia, such as shivering, incoherence, and exhaustion. If any are present, consult a medical practitioner as soon as possible.
Finally, unplug every sensitive electrical application you have to guard against any voltage irregularities. Avoid use of gas stoves or open-flame heat appliances to prevent any carbon monoxide buildup. Battery-powered carbon monoxide detectors should have a prime place on your shopping list.
Familiarize yourself with the important points noted above as in some cases, when a winter storm hits, you could be home for an extended period of time without power or heat. These tips could even save your life and ensure you’re best placed to look after yourself, your family and friends, and handle any other consequences of winter power outages should they occur.
Preparation is key and will ease your mind when that snow starts to pile up outside. Oh, and don’t forget to stockpile lots of hot chocolate.