Empower yourself when the lights go off

As colder temperatures approach, preparation is important in staying safe and warm should the electricity go out. Safe Electricity shares tips to help you prepare for winter power outages.

If power lines go down because of a winter storm, you may be in for a prolonged power outage as cooperative crews work to get the lights back on. Having an emergency kit prepares you to weather the storm and outage safely and comfortably. The kit should include bottled water, non-perishable food, flashlights, a weather radio and extra batteries. For a complete list of recommended items, visit ready.gov.

Before a storm begins, tune into your local weather service for the weather forecast. It is important to know the differences among various watches and warnings.

  • Winter storm watches signify that a winter storm event, including heavy snow, heavy sleet or ice, is likely. You should be alert, as adverse conditions could begin within the next 24 to 72 hours.
  • Winter storm warnings call for a winter storm event to begin within the next 12 to 36 hours. Those in the range of the warning should be mindful of impending conditions and consider canceling plans to travel outside of the home.

If bad weather is headed your way, it is a good idea to keep cell phones and other electronic devices charged and ready for use. Consider purchasing a power bank to charge mobile devices.

When power is lost, notify your utility of the outage. Unplug all sensitive electronics to avoid a surge when electricity is restored. Leave one light switched on as a quick reminder that power is restored.

Stay inside. Dress in warm, dry layers and wear a hat, which can help keep in heat. Be aware of the temperature in your home. Cover windows at night, close off unneeded rooms, and place draft blocks at the bottom of doors to minimize cold air entering the house.

If you are using an alternative heating source during an outage, know how to use it safely and have all supplies for it gathered. Never heat your home with stoves or grills.

During an outage, only venture outside if absolutely necessary. Be on the lookout for downed electrical equipment. Snow can obscure an electrical hazard, so take caution when driving. Never drive over a downed line, doing so could pull down the pole and other equipment, causing additional hazards. If you see a downed line, do not get out of your car. The safest place is inside the vehicle. Contact the utility immediately.

For more winter electrical safety tips, visit SafeElectricity.org.