If you live in Georgia, you are not a stranger to power outages. According to an Outage Study from MRO Electric, our state ranks in the top ten for experiencing the most electrical downtime each year. And, as you know, it’s usually not because your hairdryer overloaded the circuit…although it could. So, you need to know what causes the outages, how to prepare, what to do when they occur, and how to get back to normal when the lights come back on.
Causes of Power Outages
Power outages are typically caused by circumstances beyond your own control.
- Storms: Wind, ice, and lightning can damage power lines and cause widespread outages.
- Trees: Limbs that come in contact with power lines can cause disruptions. The more severe disruptions, of course, are when trees fall and bring down power lines altogether.
- Vehicles: If a vehicle hits a utility pole, an outage can result.
- High Power Demand: Overburdened electric cables, transformers, and other equipment can melt and fail if the demand is too high…like during a heat wave.
The one thing you CAN control is the maintenance of the trees on your own property. Often, dangerous situations could have been avoided if trees near power lines were trimmed to give proper clearance for the lines.
Dead trees, too, are particularly hazardous if not removed in a timely fashion. Power lines can be ripped from the side of your home, allowing exposed live wires in your yard or street. Yikes!
What to Have in Advance
Before the inevitable power outage occurs, you want to be prepared. So, start by having certain items on hand all the time.
- Phone Number for the Power Company: If the power goes out, be sure to report the outage to your power company as soon as possible. They can also provide you with important information about the outage.
- Wired Phone: If you have a landline, it’s a good idea to have a phone that does not require electricity to work. Since the wire can conduct electricity, avoid using it during a storm.
- Emergency Light Bulbs: Consider buying emergency rechargeable light bulbs. They work like any other light in your house, but when the power goes out, the disruption is sensed, and they will illuminate for a few hours. Why risk starting a fire with candles, right?
- Flashlights and Portable Chargers: Have flashlights and portable chargers in a designated spot so they are easy to find.
- Batteries: Flashlights and radios need batteries, so have some on hand.
- Backup Power: Have backup power ready, especially if needed for medical devices or medicines.
- Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Installing both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors is critically important for your safety, whether there is a storm approaching or not. If you must use alternative heating or cooling equipment, don’t even consider it without a CO2 detector!
- Cooler: Have a cooler and ice or ice packs ready in case you need cold storage.
- Fridge Thermometer: When the power is out for an extended period of time, you’ll need to know just how warm your food got and for how long. A fridge thermometer is a handy thing to have!
- Emergency Kit: It is always a good idea to have an emergency kit that contains nonperishable food, water, first-aid supplies, batteries, etc.
Food in the fridge will usually stay cold for at least 4 hours if the door stays closed. Some may even hold it slightly longer. A full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours.
If food is above 40 degrees for two hours or more though, you’ll want to toss it. It is helpful to have a fridge thermometer to help you monitor. Also be sure to check food for changes in color, texture, and odor. If it seems off, it probably is!
When a Storm Starts to Move In
If you’ve got advance warning that extreme weather conditions are headed your way, take the following steps:
- Charge: Charge your mobile phone before the storm gets close, then disconnect.
- Disconnect: Disconnect all other electronics and appliances to avoid damage from electrical surges.
- Preserve: Keep the refrigerator closed.
- Collect Water: Fill your bathtub or spare containers with water. You may need it to drink, bathe, or flush if your water pump or the city’s goes out.
It is recommended that you turn off your A/C or heater during a power outage. A power surge when the electricity comes back on could overload it.
When you’re away from home, you can still protect your system. Smart devices are helpful because they can be controlled from anywhere, and surge protectors can be installed on external heating and air components.
Indoor Safety During an Outage
When an outage does occur, you may not know what caused it, so be cautious both indoors and outdoors.
- Carbon Monoxide: If you use a generator, camp stove, or grill, only use it outdoors. And do not use an open gas stove or oven to heat your home. The accumulated CO2 can be lethal.
- Medical Considerations: Have alternate plans for refrigerating medicines or using power-dependent medical devices.
- Community Help: In extreme cold or heat conditions, check with local officials about heating and cooling locations open near you.
- Monitor Alerts: Listen to the radio or any other available source of information for alerts about the situation like municipal water safety, etc.
- Check on Neighbors: Take a peek outside and see if there is any obvious damage affecting neighbors. Give them a call anyway, especially elderly folks who may be living alone.
If your CO2 alarm sounds, get to fresh air immediately!
Leave doors and windows open, if possible, so that the gases do not accumulate.
Special Safety Tips for Generators
Backup generators are a fantastic way to keep the essentials functioning in your home when there is an outage. But they must be installed and used properly.
- Keep It at a Distance: Run it at least 20 feet away from windows, doors and attached garages.
- Keep It Dry: If you touch a wet generator or anything connected to it, you could get a significant electrical shock.
- Use Appropriate Cords: Always use heavy-duty extension cords to attach it to appliances.
- Let It Cool: Before refueling, let the engine cool to avoid any spills igniting.
For more information about generators, check out our blog post on Spring Storm Prep.
Outdoor Safety During an Outage
If you are outside or driving during a power outage, it’s important to be aware of the dangers.
- Downed Power Lines: If power lines have been pulled down to the street or yard, obviously you don’t want to go near them…even with your car.
- Power Line on Your Car: If a power line falls on your car with you inside, DO NOT attempt to get out unless your car is on fire!
- Power Line of Someone Else’s Car: As much as you would like to help, never try to assist someone in a vehicle if power lines have fallen on it. DO NOT touch the vehicle or the line or you risk electrocution.
- Flooding: Particles in water conduct electricity. So, whether you are indoors or outdoors, you want to make sure you don’t come in contact with water and any source of electricity at the same time. Avoid driving through flooded areas, but if you do find yourself there, be aware that the water could be electrified. Stay in your car.
If you are inside your vehicle when a power line falls on it, AND your car catches on fire, you are obviously having a bad day.
Stay calm, open your door, then try to jump free of the car before touching the ground. Next, shuffle with both feet on the ground until you are at least 50 feet away.
First Aid for Electrical Shock
Living with electricity means that we also live with its inherent dangers. Sadly, life-threatening electrical accidents do happen. So, it’s important that we know what to do to help…and to protect ourselves in the process.
- Check for the Source: DO NOT touch someone who has been electrocuted until you are sure they are no longer in contact with the source of the current.
- Call 911: You’ll need medical help AND the power company to get the power turned off. So, calling 911 should be done as quickly as possible.
- Turn Off the Source: If you can safely turn off the source of electricity, do so and carefully move it away from the person with a nonconducting object made of wood, plastic, etc.
- Do CPR: Check the person’s breathing and pulse, then do CPR if needed. The 911 operator should be able to walk you through the steps.
- Check for Signs of Shock: A person that has gone through physical trauma like this could go into shock. If they look pain or shaky, raise their legs higher than their head and keep them warm.
- Don’t Touch Burns: Electrical shock can cause burns both inside and outside of the body. Do not touch any burns or blisters.
- Get Them to the Hospital: Anyone who has experienced a significant electrical shock will need further evaluation in a hospital.
When the Power Comes Back
When lines have been repaired and electricity is restored, it is common for there to be a surge of power. To protect your home and devices:
- Keep Everything Turned Off: Turn off anything you remember being “on” before the outage until the power is restored.
- Discard Spoiled Food and Medicine: Toss and food or medicine that was not able to be stored properly.
If the power is out for 24 hours or more, medicine that requires refrigeration should probably be discarded…unless the label or pharmacist says otherwise.
Don’t take chances with your health!
Hopefully, that covers it! Please stay safe and know that we are here to help in an electrical emergency and possibly help you avoid one in the first place. Contact Us to learn more!