What to do before, during and after the power goes out!
We are entering the season when power outages are much more common. Windy weather is here and snow and ice won’t be long to make an appearance. Fall and winter are notorious for having more power outages not just because of stormy and cold weather, but also because that same weather increases car accidents that disrupt power.
And, as we all know, power outages have the potential to affect our lives more seriously when the weather is colder, wetter, darker and the roads less safe to drive.
So, follow the Boy Scout motto: “Be Prepared”! The best time to think about what you should do in a power outage is beforehand. That’s why we’re providing this list now!
What you can do now to prepare
Buy quality surge protectors for your expensive and sensitive equipment such as computers and TVs. Make sure to plug those devices into the surge protectors!
Make sure you have emergency items such as flashlights, battery-operated lanterns, batteries, tarps, a bucket, matches and drinking water in a designated place that is easy to find in the dark.
Make sure your home has battery-operated carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.
When the winds start howling
If your water pump is powered by electricity – as many are in the county – an outage quickly limits your water use. So, when the winds start howling, store as much as possible in closed or covered containers. You may also want to fill a bathtub with water to be used to flush toilets if needed. Tip: Fill your bucket with water from your roof’s downspout if you run out of water to flush toilets.
Another good idea is to turn off and unplug any sensitive equipment such as TVs and computers. (The surge protectors should take care of them, however, it is better to be safe than sorry.)
Get out your emergency supplies and some food and water before the power goes out. It’s a lot easier to simply put it away again if you don’t end up needing it than to risk injury trying to find it in the dark.
Use a surge protector and fully charge your cell phones as well as a back-up battery.
When the power goes out
If your power is out, check to see if other houses in your neighborhood are dark too. If it’s just your house, first check your service panel or breaker box for tripped breakers or blown fuses before calling the PUD.
If the power is out in your area, use your landline phone (if possible) and call the Grays Harbor PUD Outage Reporting Hotline at (360) 537-3721 or 1-888-541-5923. (If you don’t have a landline or it isn’t working, you can use a cell phone.)
Leave a front outdoor light switched on as well as a light inside your home, so both you and the PUD crews can quickly ascertain when your electricity has been restored.
If you’re able, turn down your thermostat and turn off your water heater circuit breaker. By doing so, you will help reduce the demand for electricity when power is restored. If the demand is too great all at once, the power system will overload and cause the power to go off again!
If you haven’t already done so, turn off and unplug all sensitive electrical equipment such as computers, television sets, stereos and microwaves. It’s possible there will be a change in voltage for a moment when the power comes back on and that surge could harm your equipment. Major appliances that are too large for a surge suppressor (typically microwaves, refrigerators, washing machines, dryers and ranges) should be unplugged or powered off at the breaker panel.
Make sure to keep freezer and refrigerator doors closed as much as possible so the cold air stays inside. Food will stay frozen in a full freezer for about two days and about one day in a half full freezer – depending on what kind of food you have inside – meat will stay frozen longer than bread, for instance.
Remember – never burn charcoal briquettes or operate BBQs of any kind indoors – even in your fireplace! You could risk deadly carbon monoxide poisoning if you do.
Also, never operate a generator indoors, or in a place where the exhaust fumes could seep inside.
If you must use candles, be extremely careful. Keep them on sturdy surfaces and never leave a candle burning unattended.
Remember – when you see PUD crews working, keep your distance for safety’s sake.
Once power is restored
Once the power to your house is back on, wait at least 20 minutes before turning key equipment on – such as a computer or TV. There can be a fluctuation in voltage when electricity is restored that could hurt your electronics.
Make a list of the things – from extra batteries to drinkable water and nutritious foods – that you wished you had when the power was out. Then either find them in your house or buy them and place in an area that you will remember.
Always assume downed power lines are energized, even if they aren’t sparking, and stay far away!
If you see a downed line, call the Grays Harbor PUD at (360) 532-4220, immediately or 911. If you happened to be out of the area when you encounter a downed line, call 911.
If a power line falls across your vehicle while you are inside of it, Do Not Get Out! Instead, wait for help to arrive.
In the rare case that you must leave your car because of some other imminent danger – threatening fire, for instance – do not step out of the car. If your body is touching the car and the ground at the same time, you will be severely shocked. Instead with your feet together, jump clear, landing with your feet together. Then shuffle away, keeping both feet together and on the ground.
A quick way to contain leaks
This has more to do with leaks than it does power outages, but sometimes the two come at the same time! Wind and water are very powerful forces and when they come together, they can push water deep into a home.
Everyone should keep a few items on hand that can help contain water damage until the storm is over. Our list includes plastic tarps, thin plastic painters drops, a ball of twine, packing tape, a box of tacks or a staple gun, and some buckets.
If you get a leak in your roof and water is dripping from one or several spots at once, hang a wide plastic tarp from the ceiling like a funnel to catch most of the drips that will go to one area of the tarp and then, with a small hole, into one bucket. Poke a wire clothes hanger into the center of the tarp under the pooling water and let it hang down. You may have to change the shape of the hanger to guide water into a bucket.
If wind-driven rain is pushing rain through a window area, tape the plastic sheet right to the glass and drape it into a curtain funnel directed into a bucket. Safely tackle the outside repairs once the storm is over.