The preparation and the heroes that help keep us safe

Severe thunderstorms, ­tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes can cause devas­tation to lives, homes, ­businesses, and communities. On top of which, these storms can cause the power to go out for extended periods of time. Being prepared for a severe storm and ­knowing what to do in its aftermath can mean the difference between ­survival and a tragedy. The Safe Electricity program offers tips to help you and your family safely weather severe storms.

While your utility works around-the-clock to minimize the ­possibility of power outages, they do occur. The risk is even greater during severe weather events, such as when strong winds bring tree limbs into contact with power lines or bring down whole utility poles.

Line workers are dispatched to the disaster areas where storms have ­damaged electrical equipment to ensure public safety and restore power. These linemen have the knowledge, training and courage to head into the ­immediate aftermath of a severe storm to help others.

These linemen face numerous ­dangers as they restore power to homes and communities by ­clearing any lines or equipment that pose a risk to public safety, reconnecting downed power lines, and ­repairing damaged equipment. They are often working in inclement weather ­conditions and ­putting in a great deal of time. When a storm’s devastation is extraordinary, it is not uncommon for crews to travel great distances to help others in need.

The time it takes to restore power can vary widely depending on the extent of storm’s destruction, the ­number of ­outages, and when it becomes safe for utility personnel to get to the damaged areas. Whether it is minutes, hours or days, it always pays to be prepared.

“Preparation is key when it comes to safety,” says Matt Eisenmenger, Safe Electricity Advisory Board ­member. “Making a plan and an emergency kit now can save lives later.”

Some of the important items to include in an emergency kit are: water ­bottles, non-perishable food, ­flashlights, extra batteries, first aid kit, and a ­portable weather radio. For a full list, visit SafeElectricity.org. Another part of ­preparation is paying attention to weather forecasts for your area so when a storm hits, you can already be in a safe shelter.

If you are outside, head inside immediately to avoid being caught in a storm. Stay away from ­windows, go to the ­lowest level in your house, avoid corded ­equipment, and have your emergency kit in reach. Remember, no place ­outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area.

Even after a storm passes, it can leave many hazards in its wake. Stay far away from all downed lines and any objects they are touching. If you see a downed power line, call 911 to notify emergency personnel and the electric utility.

Do not venture out on roads after a storm unless you must. If your vehicle contacts a downed power line, do not leave the car. Downed power lines can still carry ­electricity, and while you are safe inside your vehicle, creating two points of ­contact by touching the ­surrounding ground could result in shock or ­electrocution. Wait for utility and emergency professionals to make sure the power line is de-energized before exiting the car.

“Be prepared to safely weather severe storms and possible extended power outages,” urges Eisenmenger. “When you have the chance, thank a lineman for helping keep the lights on and people safe.”

For additional safety tips, visit SafeElectricity.org

Molly Hall is Director of Safe Electricity. Email molly-hall@SafeElectricity.org. Safe Electricity is a public awareness program of the Energy Education Council. www.EnergyEdCouncil.org

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