Power outages can happen year-round, which is why it’s important to prepare for one, no matter the weather. Winter power outages can be especially difficult, so here is how to prepare for one during the colder months.
When the last major power outages took place in February 2021, Northern Americans took to social media to help out residents in the Lone Star State, offering advice on everything from staying warm to safety tips. Here are some key tips for how to handle a power cut in cold weather.
- Take stock of all items you have that rely on electricity and seek out alternative energy sources (such as batteries) in case the power goes down.
- If you have electrical medical devices or refrigerated medicines, talk to your medical provider about how long your medications can be stored and how to keep your equipment running in case of an outage.
- Check with local officials about nearby cooling and heating locations.
- Block openings around the doors and windows and if possible, lock them.
- Limit the use of your house to a single room if possible. Remember that heat rises, so if there is more than one level to your house, use a room upstairs.
- Gather blankets and warm clothing to stay warm.
- If you have company, huddle together: the additional body heat can help you stay warm.
- Stay mobile: walk about occasionally to keep your circulation flowing.
- Use up food that doesn’t require refrigeration, or use iced coolers.
- Food in fridges can stay fresh for around four hours minus power, while a freezer will retain its temperature for about 48 hours. Following the power cut, do not eat spoiled food and if in doubt, throw it out.
- Avoid drinking alcohol or caffeine as these can cause your body to lose heat.
- Remember to stay hydrated and eat regular meals to fuel your body.
- Layer up clothing using a base, middle and outer layer (working from thinnest to thickest) as insulation.
- The CDC advises to keep generators dry and at least 20 feet away from doors, windows or vents as they can release carbon monoxide if used inside the home (this can be poisonous)
- Install carbon monoxide detectors with battery backup in central locations on every floor of your home.
- Do not use camp stoves, charcoal grills, generators, gas grills or other similar appliances as the fumes can be extremely dangerous.
- Be alert for signs of hypothermia: this includes shivering, exhaustion or fatigue, confusion, memory loss, drowsiness and fumbling hands.
- To avoid water faucets from freezing up, turn all faucets on to allow just a very small continuous drip and keep under-sink cabinet doors open to allow for any warm air from the room to reach the pipes.
- Disconnect electronics and appliances to avoid damage caused by electrical surges.
- Stay home where it’s safest, but if you absolutely have to make a journey, have an emergency kit in your car including a flashlight, blanket, an extra coat, food and cat litter, as this works like rock salt to break ice up if you get stuck.
- Avoid unnecessary journeys, but if you must drive, do so with extreme caution; even roads that don’t appear icy may still be dangerous to drive on.
For more advice on electrical safety during the colder months, Energy Texas can help in addition to offering advice and guidance on how to save money and energy.