What to Do If the Power Goes Out in the Winter
Any number of things can cause a power outage during the winter months. Most probably it is weather-related. If it is caused by the weather, the outage could be wide-spread or it could be localized.
- First check to make sure you have not blown a circuit. Check the circuit breakers in your home's electrical panel.
- If power is out in your entire neighborhood, call your local utility company to report the outage. The phone number should be on your electricity bill, or check the white pages in your phone book.
- If power is out over a widespread area, it may take a longer time to restore power everywhere.
- UNLESS there is an emergency, do not call 9-1-1. That number should ONLY be used if there is an emergency, or if someone is injured or in danger.
- If there are power lines down in your neighborhood, call 9-1-1 and call your utility company. DO NOT GO NEAR DOWNED POWER LINES.
- Stock up on batteries before the storm.
- Listen to your battery-powered radio or TV, especially for news at the top of each hour, to find out when the power might be restored.
- Dress to stay warm - wear layers, including a sweater, sweatshirt or even a jacket. You lose heat through your hands and the top of your head. Wear gloves and a knit hat, not just a baseball cap.
- Avoid opening your refrigerator and freezer as much as possible. Food inside should stay cold for hours if the door is left closed.
- Stock up on non-perishable food items.
- If you're cold, take a warm shower - to increase your body temperature. Your hot water tank, even if electric, will stay warm for a few hours.
- Unplug some of your major appliances. When the power comes back on, all of those appliances can create a drain or power surge. This can harm sensitive equipment. To avoid a power surge when the electricity returns, turn off computers, TVs, stereos and other unnecessary electronic equipment at the power source. Leave a light on so you'll know when the power is restored.
- Buy gas for your generator in advance.
- If you have a generator, do not connect it to your home's power system unless it has been properly installed and disconnects you from the main power grid when it is operating. If you do not disconnect from the power grid, you can be sending electricity back down the lines; not just to your home. That could be deadly for power company workers.
- If you have a regular wood stove or fireplace, you can use it for heat. However, DO NOT USE kerosene heaters, BBQs, or any outdoor type heater inside. Such devices create poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas given off by combustion and could kill.
- Check on your elderly neighbors or those who may have medical conditions or use medical machinery that operates on electricity. Make sure they are dressed appropriately warm. If someone needs to have machinery that operates on electricity, move her to a place where electricity is working.
- If you have to go out, drive carefully. Remember that traffic signals may be out during a power outage. Consider each intersection to be a four-way stop and drive defensively.
Protect You and Your Home:
- With icy weather in the forecast, Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens wants to remind Georgians of some important insurance and fire safety tips for winter.
- If icy conditions cause damage to either your house or car, contact your insurance agent immediately. Your agent should provide you with claims forms and arrange for an insurance adjuster to visit your property. If you can't reach your agent, contact the insurance company.
- When filing a homeowners claim, make a list of all your property and valuables you believe were damaged or destroyed. Take photographs of damage to submit with your claim.
- Secure your property. For example, if a tree falls and damages your roof, cover the affected area with a tarp or plywood to reduce further damage. Your insurance company will reimburse you for repair costs, but may not pay for subsequent damage caused by rain, sleet or snow. Keep receipts of materials used for repairs.
- If damage is so severe you have to leave, remove valuable items if there's nowhere in the home to lock them up.
- If you rent, you must have your own renter's policy to cover your personal belongings such as furniture, appliances and clothing. The management/landlord is not responsible unless you can prove they were negligent.
- Heating equipment is one of the leading causes of home fires in Georgia. Portable space heaters, open fireplaces and wood stoves can be dangerous if misused. Keep them away from curtains, draperies, and other flammable material. Make sure heaters have adequate ventilation, and always follow the manufacturer's operating instructions.
- Have your home heating unit checked annually to be sure it is working efficiently and safely. Make sure all fuel-burning appliances and fireplaces are properly vented. If you suspect a gas leak in your home, leave immediately and call the gas company from elsewhere.
- If you use kerosene space heaters, make sure each heater has an automatic shut off in case it tips over. Use only K 1 kerosene in a space heater; gasoline can cause an explosion.
- Install an adequate number of smoke alarms. Most fatal fires start between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., while the family is asleep. The advance warning of a smoke alarm may mean the difference between life and death. Nine out of 10 fire victims are already dead before the fire department is even called, mainly from smoke and toxic gases. Also, Georgia law requires a smoke alarm in every home. If you already have smoke alarms, don't forget to replace the batteries annually.
- Each household should have a well rehearsed family escape plan. All rooms, especially bedrooms, should have two escape routes. Have a predetermined meeting place outside the house so you can be sure everyone is out safely.
Protect Your Pets:
As frigid temperatures sweep over many parts of the country, it is critical for pet parents to take the appropriate measures in keeping their pets warm and safe. Below are some tips from Petfinder.com, the largest online database of adoptable pets and the No. 1 pet-related site on the Web.
- After a walk, remove any ice or snow from your pet's paws and towel him / her off to avoid a chill.
- Make sure your pet has plenty of high-quality protein if he / she is outside - staying warm burns more calories.
- Always give the hood of your car a sharp knock before starting the engine. Cats and other small animals sometimes climb up under the hood of a car to get warm. The noise will wake them up and give them time to escape.
- Never leave your pet in a car in cold weather. Your car is like a refrigerator and may cause hypothermia.
- Make sure your pet has a warm place to sleep.
- Never use metal water bowls outside. When it is cold, your pet's tongue may stick to the metal. Check water frequently to ensure it has not frozen.
- Save that shaved look for warm weather. A dog can use a bit of a fur coat when temperatures dip.
Fulton County Animal Services offers additional tips.
- Coats and booties can help your dog stay warm. In particular, short-haired or elderly dogs benefit from wearing a coat or sweater. Look for coats or sweaters with high collars or a turtleneck that covers the dog from the base of the tail on top to the belly underneath.
- Remember to be very careful with sick or older dogs, since they are more sensitive to cold weather. For any dog sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only to relieve himself.
- Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter. If necessary, paper train your puppy inside if he appears to be sensitive to the weather.
- Clip the fur between toe pads to reduce the amount of snow that collects between toes.
- To help protect dry, sensitive paws, try coating them with a bit of cooking spray before walks in very cold weather.
- During deep snows, shovel out a potty spot for your dog.
- Do not be tempted to let dogs off leash in snow or ice. Canines often lose their scent in cold weather and can become lost. Dogs also can panic in snow storms and run away. The decreased daylight does not help either. More dogs are reported lost during the winter than any other season, so always keep dogs on leash when outside a fully fenced yard and make sure yours always wears proper identification.
- Do not leave antifreeze, coolant or windshield wiper fluid within reach. And do not let pets drink from puddles. These products taste appealing to pets but most are lethal to animals when ingested. So thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle. Also, keep your pets on leash outdoors and steer them far away from any suspect puddles.
Protect Your Pipes:
By taking a few simple precautions you can save money and aggravation frozen pipes can cause.
- Before the cold hits insulate pipes in your home's crawl spaces and attic or cover any exposed pipes. The more insulation you use the better protected your pipes will be.
- Many people use heat tape or thermostatically-controlled heat cables to wrap pipes.
- Use caulk or insulation to keep the cold out and the heat in. With severe cold, even a tiny opening can let in enough cold air to cause a pipe to freeze.
- Be sure to disconnect garden hoses and shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the short span of pipe just inside the house.
- A trickle of hot and cold water might be all it takes to keep your pipes from freezing. Let warm water drip overnight, preferably from a faucet on an outside wall.
- If you think that your water pipes have frozen and burst, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve in the house.
- Leaving kitchen cabinet doors open will allow warm air to reach pipes. If the worst happens, repairing damage to internal plumbing caused by freezing, and related damage to carpeting, furniture and other belongings may be covered by your homeowners policy.
Driving Safely In The Snow:
Of course CBS Atlanta News advises you stay off the roads, but if you must drive in the snow, here are some tips that might help.
- Slow down and allow plenty of time to stop. You should allow 3x as much space as usual – between you and the care in front of you.
- Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels lock up, ease off the brake
- Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
- Don't use your cruise control.
- Use extra caution on bridges and overpasses. They freeze first.
If your rear wheels start to skid…
- Take your foot off the accelerator
- Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your back wheels slide left – steer left. If your back wheels slide right – steer right.
- If you have standard brakes, pump them gently. If you have anti-lock brakes, hold them down.
If your front wheels skid…
- Take your foot off the gas and shift into neutral. Don't try to steer immediately.
If you get stuck…
- Don't spin your wheels. That will only dig you deeper.
- Turn your wheels from side to side to push the snow out of the way
- Tap the gas lightly to ease your way out
- Pour sand, kitty litter, gravel or salt in the pathway of your wheels to help get traction
Remember in severe weather to drive with caution. Inclement weather does not absolve you of liability should you have an automobile accident. It is your responsibility to drive with a degree of caution warranted by hazardous conditions.
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