A severe winter storm could knock out power to your home for days. Are you prepared? Extended power outages are more than inconvenient. During very cold weather, your family’s safety could be at risk.
If possible, stay in a place that has power – a friend’s house, hotel, or local shelter. If that’s not an option, follow these steps to stay warm and safe in your home:
Conserve body heat. Put on layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing. Layers will keep you warmer than a bulky coat. Because half of your body heat is lost through your head, wear a hat. Also, remember that mittens are warmer than gloves because your fingers stay warmer when they touch each other.
Conserve the heat you have. Plan to keep one room warm by closing off others. The smaller the room, the easier it is to keep heated. Try not to choose a room with high ceilings, large windows, or uninsulated walls. Close off your chosen room to the rest of the house by keeping doors shut and hanging bedding or drapes over entryways, doors, and windows. Gather family members and pets and have plenty of blankets available for a sleepover.
Use an alternate heat source. If you have a fireplace or wood stove, get chimneys and wood stoves inspected annually and cleaned if necessary. Creosote is a flammable residue left behind by burning wood, and it must be professionally removed. In addition to firewood and coal, you can burn tightly rolled newspapers and magazines as “paper logs.” Stack just like firewood. Be sure to store ashes outside in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid.
If you’ll be using a kerosene or propane heater, only set heaters on an uncarpeted floor, never on chairs or tables. Use the correct form of fuel – do not substitute gasoline for kerosene. Don’t put kerosene in a propane heater. Never run the heater longer than the manufacturer recommends, and shut it off before you go to bed, or when you leave the house. Refuel heaters outdoors after they have cooled, and always follow manufacturer’s instructions.
Portable generators must be used outside and away from windows. Never use a generator inside homes, or in garages or basements, or in other enclosed or partially enclosed areas. Engine exhaust from generators is toxic. Poor ventilation can result in carbon monoxide poisoning or death. It’s important to note that you cannot smell or see CO. If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a portable generator, get to fresh air immediately. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO buildup.
If you’re using a portable generator, plug appliances directly into the unit. Or use a heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cord that is rated equal or greater to the sum of the connected appliance loads. Never try to power the home by plugging a portable generator into a wall outlet. This is extremely dangerous and may cause electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbors served by the same utility transformer. Following the manufacturer’s instructions is crucial for safety.
For any weather emergency, make sure you have a family plan. This may be the single most important action you can take to protect your family. Make critical decisions now such as choosing an out-of-town relative or friend to be your family’s contact person in emergencies. Learn more and get a free emergency plan worksheet at ReadyVirginia.gov