Just when we thought we could take no more winter last week (April 12), we get the most obvious sign of spring – storms. Last Saturday, a mix of hail, straight line winds and possibly tornadoes swept through West Michigan in a matter of minutes and did some damage. Thousands were without power.
Since this won’t be the last storm this year, what can you do to keep your family safe during storms and power outages? Things can happen quickly during the chaos of a storm or outage, and, since there are many factors involved, we are going to focus on what to do when there is a power outage. First things first – as soon as the power goes out, make sure:·
1. Unplug all motor-driven appliances (refrigerators and freezers), heat-producing appliances (stoves, curling irons, etc.) and sensitive electronic equipment (televisions, stereos and computers) to minimize the danger of fire and to prevent an electrical overload when power is restored. Leave one light on so you'll know when power is restored. Think what happened here, and prevent it. Power surges can cause fires.
· Keep refrigerator, freezer and cooler doors closed as much as possible. If power will be out for a long time, contact a dry ice distributor. Find a local dry ice distributor in your phone book or online at yellowpages.com. Meijers often carries dry ice as well.
· Call your gas or electrical company and have their phone number handy. Most gas and electrical companies have a way for you to report the outage and can call you with updates automatically.
Carbon monoxide hazards
Never use a generator in an enclosed or partially-enclosed space. Generators can produce high levels of carbon monoxide very quickly. Remember that you cannot smell or see CO. Even if you can't smell exhaust fumes, you may still be exposed to CO. If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air immediately. The CO from generators can rapidly lead to full incapacitation and death.
Never use a generator indoors, including in homes, garages, basements, crawl spaces, and other enclosed or partially-enclosed areas, even with ventilation. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO build-up in the home.
Follow the instructions that come with your generator. Locate the unit outdoors and away from doors, windows, and vents that could allow CO to come indoors.
Use battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery back-up in your home, according to the manufacturer's installation instructions. Test the CO alarms and replace dead batteries.
Keep the generator dry and do not use it in rain or wet conditions. To protect from moisture, operate it on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure. Dry your hands before touching the generator.
Plug appliances directly into the generator. Or, use a heavy duty, outdoor-rated extension cord that is rated (in watts or amps) at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads. Check that the entire cord is free of cuts or tears and that the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin.
Never try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet, a practice known as "backfeeding." This is an extremely dangerous practice that presents an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbors served by the same utility transformer. It also bypasses some of the built-in household circuit protection devices.
For best results, use an appropriate power transfer switch, installed by a professional.
Before refueling the generator, turn it off and let it cool down. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.
Never store fuel for your generator in the home. Gasoline, propane, kerosene, and other flammable liquids should be stored outside of living areas in properly-labeled, non-glass safety containers. Do not store them near a fuel-burning appliance, such as a natural gas water heater in a garage.
Keep this information handy with your emergency preparedness kit. You don’t have one, or you are overwhelmed when you think of putting one together? Stay tuned for our next article on Emergency Preparedness.