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Emergency Preparedness Essentials
 

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Electric Power Blackouts

The largest blackout in American history took place during the summer of 2003 and resulted in power outages for nearly 50 million Americans. Blackouts can occur anywhere, regardless of how developed a country is. As a result, it’s essential to develop an emergency preparedness plan.

What to Do Before A Black Out

The following are tips for developing a blackout emergency preparedness plan:
  • Develop a family communications plan and put together a comprehensive supplie of emergency preparedness, equipment, food and other essential survival items.
  • Conserve energy by utilizing energy conservation strategies when requested by power companies. During energy shortages, power companies often initiate blackouts to limit energy usage.
  • Store plastic water containers inside the freezer and refrigerator. When freezing water, leave an inch of the container empty since frozen water expands. Frozen and cold water can keep food at safe temperatures by displacing warm air for several hours during power outages.
  • Medication that must be refrigerated should remain in a refrigerator during a power outage. Spoilage will rarely occur during outages lasting a few hours. Consult a pharmacist or doctor if you have any questions.
  • Before an imminent power outage, fill your automobile’s gas tank or ensure the tank is half full since gas pumps do not function without electricity.
  • Learn how to operate the manual release lever if your garage is equipped with an electric door opener. Be cautious when opening and closing a garage door manually since many doors are heavy.
  • If you typically enter your home through the garage, make sure you have a house key in a pocket or other easily accessible location since the garage door could jam when trying to open it manually.

What To Do During A Blackout

  • Avoid using candles during power outages to avoid fire hazards. Store extra flashlights and batteries throughout your home.
  • During power outages, ensure freezer and refrigerator doors are tightly closed. Thoroughly inspect food retrieved from shutoff refrigerators for spoilage prior to eating it.
  • Unplug electrical appliances and other devices, such as televisions, that were on during power outages to prevent equipment damage from power surges since electricity often temporarily returns during blackouts.
  • Never utilize gas powered generators inside enclosed areas.
  • Do not plug generators into electrical outlets. Plug electrical devices directly into plugs located on the generator.
  • Remain informed from local news updates by using a battery-powered radio.
  • Keep a light switch on during a blackout to know when power is available again.
  • During a blackout use a mobile phone, two-way radio, or other battery-powered communication device. Do not jam phone networks by making unnecessary calls. Only use phones during emergencies.
  • Only call 911 during emergencies. Phone lines can become jammed during unnecessary 911 calls.
  • Take precautions to prevent heat stroke during extreme heat. It’s not uncommon for blackouts to occur during hot summer months. If possible, visit a mall, theater, or other public location with power. Some communities provide cooling shelters. Relocate to a basement or the lowest level in the house if relocating to an air-conditioned public facility. Remain hydrated by drinking a lot of water.
  • During extreme cold, layer clothes. Do not use charcoal or propane grills inside your house. Do not heat your house with an oven. During extended power outages, relocate to a public shelter or other location with adequate heating.
  • Ensure pets have access to plenty of drinking water.
  • Avoid automobile travel as much as possible. Roads often become congested during power outages since traffic signals often go down.
  • Have an adequate amount of cash on hand since ATMs and payment systems go down during blackouts.

What to Do After A Blackout

Dispose of spoiled food:
  • Dispose of unrefrigerated perishable food exposed to high temperatures for 2 or more hours. Likewise, dispose of food with bad odors and unusual textures and colors. Do not eat food if spoilage is suspected.
  • Do not taste food to determine if it is spoiled. Many perishable foods spoil without emitting bad smells. Bacteria can fester in perishable foods stored at room temperate for extended periods of time. Certain bacteria are immune to high temperatures.
  • Refreeze food if it’s still covered in ice crystals.
  • Use a food thermometer to check temperatures on food that has been unrefrigerated for long periods of time. Dispose of eggs, fish, poultry, and other meats exposed to 2 or more hours of high temperatures (40° F or higher).

Energy Conservation Recommendations

The following tips will help you conserve power:
  • During the winter, avoid setting the thermostat higher than 68 degrees, and during winter months, avoid setting the air-conditioner at higher than 78 degrees. A few differences in temperature can significantly affect energy conservation. If possible, only run the furnace and air conditioner while at home. The majority of home energy consumption occurs when the furnace or air conditioner is running.
  • Only run the air conditioner when people are home. To cool your house before returning home, program the thermostat to turn the air conditioner on a half hour prior to arrival.
  • Operate large appliances such as the dryer, washer, or dishwasher during late-night or early-morning hours.
  • If the air conditioner has not run for an extended period, set it at a normal temperature when turning it on since setting it to an extremely low temperature will not cool the house quicker.
  • During the winter, open shades and drapes to allow sunlight in the home. During the summer, limit the amount of sunlight entering the house to keep the house cool.
  • Frequently replace air conditioner and furnace filters. Clean filters improve energy conservation and enhance airflow.
  • Regularly clean radiators and baseboard heaters. Check these types of heaters to ensure airflow is not restricted by drapers, rugs, and furniture.
  • Turn off appliances, lights, and other electronic equipment when possible. Turn off your computer when possible. Utilize energy conservation settings on appliances and electronic devices. Computers are not damaged when turned off regularly.
  • Close windows when the furnace or air conditioner is running.
  • Install energy-conserving windows and caulk doors and windows to prevent air leaking from the house.
  • Replace old appliances with energy efficient ones. Appliances with the ENERGY STAR® label are classified by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency as energy-efficient.
  • Unplug televisions, battery chargers, and other inactive electronic devices to limit energy use.
  • Plug chimney flues on unused fireplaces. Close fireplace dampers when the fireplace is not in use. Open dampers permit large quantities of air to exit the house through the chimney.
  • Place an insulation jacket around water heaters. These jackets can be purchased at most hardware stores.
  • When washing clothes, avoid washing small loads to conserve energy. Removing lint from the dryer after every use can improve energy-efficiency. When possible, wash clothes in cold water since it can significantly improve a washer’s efficiency.
  • Utilize your dishwasher’s lite cycle and refrain from washing small loads. Avoid using rinse options that utilize a lot of energy. After the dishwasher has run, open the door to air dry dishes.
  • Use fluorescent lights in your home and office.
  • Utilize a series of large light bulbs throughout your home rather than multiple small bulbs.
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