The fourth nor'easter in three weeks pushed its way up the East Coast on Wednesday, bringing heavy, wet snow likely to knock out power across the region.
Power outages during frigid winter months can endanger lives. Being prepared and knowing what to do before, during and after a power outage can help you and your family stay safe and comfortable.
From stocking your emergency preparedness kit to avoiding carbon monoxide poisoning from portable generators, below are safety tips from Ready.gov and the American Red Cross to help you prepare.
BEFORE A POWER OUTAGE
- Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies.
- Charge cell phones and any battery powered devices. Make sure you have alternative charging methods for your phone or any device that requires power.
- Consider purchasing a generator to power critical equipment during a blackout. Choose a generator that produces more amps than you need – because some machines draw up to 3 times as much power when starting up, and others lose efficiency over time. For information on how to choose a generator, check out this guide from the American Red Cross.
- If you have a generator, install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every floor of your home. This will help provide early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide.
- To keep your food from spoiling, freeze water-filled plastic containers ahead of the storm and place them inside your fridge when the power goes out. Filling a cooler with ice to store your refrigerated goods can also help keep your food cold for a longer period of time during a prolonged blackout.
- Items such as fruit bars, peanut butter, nuts and trail mixes, crackers and canned juices are great to stockpile.
- Fill your bathtub with water for sanitary purposes. Bathtub water should not be used for drinking. Have plenty of bottled drinking water in case your water supply gets contaminated.
- Keep your car’s gas tank full as gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps. It is also worth getting extra containers and filling them up with gas. If the power is out for an extended period of time, gas supply may be limited and service station lines could be long.
DURING A POWER OUTAGE
- Only use flashlights for emergency lighting as candles can cause fires.
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full). Eat the perishable food from the refrigerator first and then use the food from the freezer. Save you non-perishable dry goods to eat after using food from the refrigerator and freezer.
- If it appears that the power will be out for more than 24 hours, prepare a cooler with ice (or snow!) for your freezer items. Keep the cooler in a dry, cool spot and covered at all times. And though storing your frozen food outside in the cold weather seems like a good idea, it can attract stray animals to your outdoor food store. You may not be able to smell frozen peas through a plastic bag, but that won’t stop curious, hungry animals from checking it out.
- Allowing water to drip from the faucets helps prevent pipes from freezing. Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children. If needed, wrap pipes in insulation or newspaper.
- Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment. Turn off or disconnect any appliances or other equipment that was on when the power went out. When the power is restored, a momentary power "surge"can damage computers and other sensitive devices.
- NEVER run a generator inside a home or garage, or connect it to your home's electrical system. Only use generators outdoors, away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors. If the CO alarm sounds, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door.
- Put on layers of warm clothing to stay warm and keep a scarf over your face/mouth to prevent cold air from entering your lungs.
AFTER A POWER OUTAGE
- If electrical power lines are down, don’t touch them. Keep your family and pets away. Be extra cautious of downed electrical wires that can be hidden by snow.
- Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures over 40 degrees for 2 hours or more, or that has an unusual odor, color or texture. Never taste food or rely on appearance or odor to determine its safety. When in doubt, throw it out. If food in the freezer is colder than 40 degree and has ice crystals on it, you can refreeze it.
- Contact your doctor if you’re concerned about medications having spoiled.
- Restock your emergency kit with fresh batteries, canned foods and other supplies.