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Illinois Country Living

Safety & Health:

Molly Hall
Molly Hall, Director of Safe Electricity

Prepare your home for old man winter
Ice and heavy snows can produce prolonged power outages

Heavy accumulations of ice and snow coupled with fluctuating winter temperatures can bring down utility poles, trees and limbs with the ability to disrupt power for days on end. With this comes a threat to property and also to life itself.

In a winter storm emergency, restoring power and heat to consumers is the highest priority, and electric utility crews work around the clock to restore service. Severe damage to power lines and distribution systems may take days to repair, especially if the icing conditions are ongoing.

Avoid going outside if possible. Downed power lines could be submerged in snow and ice, or hidden in downed trees and difficult to identify. When outside, treat all downed and hanging lines as if they are energized electric lines: Stay away, warn others to stay away and immediately contact your utility company. Remember that downed power lines do NOT have to be arcing, sparking or moving to be “live” – and deadly.

Safe Electricity stresses the importance of being prepared for dangerous winter storms and the power outages they may cause. Preparing ahead of time in order to have the right supplies and the knowledge to stay warm safely are keys to weathering a winter storm emergency. Safe Electricity offers the following tips to winterize your home:

• Insulate walls, attics and pipes.

• Caulk and install weather-strips on windows and doors.

• Install storm windows or plastic sheeting to cover windows.

• Repair roof leaks.

• Call the utility company to cut branches away from your home and power lines.

• Safe Electricity emphasizes that everyone, particularly families with special needs, must be prepared in case of a winter emergency and long-term power outages.

• Always keep a battery-powered radio or TV, flashlights and a supply of fresh batteries in case of an emergency. Test these ahead of time to make sure they are operational.

• 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 damaging appliances and overloading circuits when power is restored. Leave one lamp or light switch on as a signal for when your power returns.

• To prevent water pipes from freezing, keep faucets turned on slightly so that water drips from the tap. Know how to shut off water valves just in case a pipe bursts.

• Check on elderly or disabled friends and neighbors.

• Do not use charcoal grills or gas ovens to heat your home; this could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

• 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, 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. In order to avoid cold weather fatalities:

• 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.

• Always keep a multipurpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher nearby and know how to use it.

• 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. Be sure to let your electric utility know that you have a generator.

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Molly Hall is the Director of Safe Electricity. Safe Electricity is a public awareness program of the Energy Education Council



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Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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