Saturday, December 29, 2012

TOP STORY >> Residents improvise in outage

Leader staff writer

No doubt the campers among the 200,000 or so electric customers whose homes went black on Christmas evening scurried to their closets for their outdoor lanterns and tent heaters.

It’s at times like these that the wisdom of multiple power sources becomes clear. But that doesn’t necessarily mean an electric generator for every home. Oil lamps, gas lanterns LED lanterns, candles and flashlights with good batteries help fight the darkness. But the trick is making sure you buy them before the storm.

Ice chests, filled with a little of the eight inches of snow that blanketed the area, will keep the food from the fridge cold. For the few without an ice chest, a bathtub filled with snow should suffice.

But light and refrigeration really aren’t the biggest problems when snow and ice take down power lines.Heat is.

Perhaps the best way to fight the cold is to have a wood heater, wood fireplace or fireplace with gas logs as backup heat. Portable propane heaters that use disposable tanks are also available from sporting goods stores. Gas furnaces might seem like the perfect defense against an electric outage, but they also require electricity to operate.

But as with buying candles and gas, the time to fill the wood rack and buy propane bottles is before the electricity goes off. And while you’re at the store, sometime in the fall before any threat of an ice storm to break the power lines, pick up matches or lighters or both. You can’t light candles, oil lamps or wood fires without them.

Those with electricity or cell phones that connect to the Internet could look up these tips for surviving a winter power outage on WikiHow. But here they are in print for everyone else:

 Stay calm. A winter storm is usually just a major nuisance, not a full-blown crisis. If proper shelter is provided for, lives are usually not at risk.

 Plan ahead before winter weather strikes, be sure you have enough supplies to handle a few days without being able to leave home. Have enough medication, food, water, toilet paper, diapers, and so on available. Ensure your first-aid kit is well stocked.

 Make sure you have plenty of water. If you have a well which relies on an electric pump you should fill several pots or jugs with water because in a power outage you may be left without running water. Cleaning, then filling the bathtub is a good way to store water.

You can quickly pour water directly into the toilet bowl to flush it. If bad comes to worse, you can melt snow to get water. Keep in mind that snow is mostly air, and won’t yield that much water. Ice or the crust of snow has less air. Don’t waste fuel in melting snow if you need fuel for heating your food or house.

 If the house temperature drops to near freezing, turn off the main water supply and open faucets to drain the pipes. This will prevent water from freezing in the pipes and rupturing them, thereby avoiding future expensive damage.

 Drink liquids and eat plenty of food to keep your body’s energy high and prevent dehydration.

 Wear several layers of loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Most heat escapes the body through the top of the head and the feet, therefore always wear a hat and mittens, which are warmer than gloves. Also be careful to not become soaked by water or sweat – this can cause body related problems. Your skin should stay dry and moderately warm.

 Keep warm indoors. Dress in layers and wear a hat. Be sure to dress children and the elderly. Stay in bed and invite your pet and your whole family into bed for additional warmth.

 Make sure you know where everyone in your family is at all times and that they have shelter.