High temperatures don’t just cause discomfort, they can be deadly and can cause a whole host of other problems that you would only expect during a disaster. Power outages are one very real concern. As air conditioners are running at maximum capacity, there is a heavier demand on the energy grid. Sometimes this can result in widespread unexpected power outages, other times areas institute “rolling blackouts” to help ease the demand. Either way, you could be without power which means you and your family are completely without air conditioning, your food could quickly spoil and you need a plan. Make sure you have alternative places to go to stay cool if something like this happens. You and your family should have a plan ready to go just as you would in any other situation. Here are other helpful tips to keep you and your family safe should you lose power.
What Should I do During a Power Outage?
Keep Food as Safe as Possible
•Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. First use perishable food from the refrigerator. An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold for about 4 hours.
•Then use food from the freezer. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.
•Use your nonperishable foods and staples after using food from the refrigerator and freezer.
•If it looks like the power outage will continue beyond a day, prepare a cooler with ice for your freezer items.
•Keep food in a dry, cool spot and keep it covered at all times.
•Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment, including sensitive electronics.
•Turn off or disconnect any appliances (like stoves), equipment or electronics you were using when the power went out. When power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment.
•Leave one light turned on so you’ll know when the power comes back on.
•Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic lights will be out and roads will be congested.
Using Generators Safely
•When using a portable generator, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect a portable generator to a home’s electrical system.
•If you are considering getting a generator, get advice from a professional, such as an electrician. Make sure that the generator you purchase is rated for the power that you think you will need.
What Should I do When the Power Comes Back On?
Do not touch any electrical power lines and keep your family away from them. Report downed power lines to the appropriate officials in your area.
Throw out Unsafe Food
•Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40° F (4° C) for 2 hours or more or that has an unusual odor, color or texture. When in doubt, throw it out!
•Never taste food or rely on appearance or odor to determine its safety. Some foods may look and smell fine, but if they have been at room temperature too long, bacteria causing foodborne illnesses can start growing quickly. Some types of bacteria produce toxins that cannot be destroyed by cooking.
•If food in the freezer is colder than 40° F and has ice crystals on it, you can refreeze it.
•If you are not sure food is cold enough, take its temperature with the food thermometer. Throw out any foods (meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that have been exposed to temperatures higher than 40° F (4° C) for 2 hours or more, and any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture, or feels warm to touch.
Caution: Carbon Monoxide Kills
•Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoalburning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
•The primary hazards to avoid when using alternate sources for electricity, heating or cooking are carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock and fire.
•Install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas to provide early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide.
•If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door.
• Call for help from the fresh air location and remain there until emergency personnel arrive to assist you.