Winter power outage preparation

A heavy build-up of ice and snow on power lines can cause wires to snap and utility poles to topple. Falling trees and tree limbs covered in ice can bring down power lines, cause outages, and threaten property, even life.

MiEnergy Cooperative stresses the importance of being prepared and knowing what to do during these potentially dangerous storms and the potential power outages that they may cause.

Having the right supplies and knowing how to stay warm safely are keys to weathering a winter storm emergency, stresses Brad Pecinovsky, MiEnergy's training and compliance coordinator.

Here are some tips for preparing for a winter power outage:

  • Always keep a battery-powered radio or TV, flashlights, and a supply of  fresh batteries in case of an emergency
  • Know where to find extra blankets
  • Fill spare containers with water for washing, and keep a supply of bottled drinking water on hand
  • Keep a supply of non-perishable food items, along with a hand opener for canned food
  • Switch off lights and appliances to prevent overloading circuits and damaging appliances when power is restored. Leave one lamp or switch on as a signal for when your power returns.
  • To prevent water pipes from freezing, keep faucets turned on slightly so that water drips from the tap

"Never use a charcoal grill to cook or heat with inside the home," adds Pecinovsky. "Charcoal grills give off deadly carbon monoxide gas. Grills should be used only outdoors."

It's a good idea to assemble a disaster supply kit that includes needed items ahead of time. Don't forget to include a first aid kit, any prescription medications, and any special items needed for infant, elderly or disabled family members. 

Maintaining warmth is a priority during a winter emergency. Loss of body heat or hypothermia can be life threatening.

In order to avoid cold weather fatalities:

  • Stay inside and dress in warm, layered clothing.
  • Close off unneeded rooms.
  • When using an alternative heat source, follow operating instructions, use  fire safeguards and be sure to properly ventilate.
  • Stuff towels and rags underneath doors to keep the heat in.
  • Cover windows at night.
  • Eat: Food provides the body with energy to for creating its own energy.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
  • Move around to keep warm, but not enough to perspire. Perspiring causes  the body to lose fluids which could potentially lead to dehydration.

If you use a standby generator, make sure it has a transfer safety switch or that your power is cut off at the breaker box before you operate it. This prevents electricity from traveling back through the power lines, or what is also known as "back feed." Back feed creates danger for anyone near power lines, particularly crews working to restore power.

When outside, treat all downed and hanging lines as if they are active electric lines: Stay away, warn others to stay away, and immediately contact MiEnergy. Call 1-800-432-2285 to report power outages. 

For more information on electrical safety, visit Safe Electricity.