Winter storms can be divisive. While some enjoy the whimsical beauty of a fresh-fallen snow, others cringe at the sight of a single flake hitting the ground.
People’s thoughts on power outages tend to be less varied. Aside from some rare, overzealous board-game enthusiasts, most folks prefer to keep their lights, appliances and heat running, especially on frigid winter evenings.
Should you lose power this winter, here are some steps you can take to stay warm.
- Think ahead and have an emergency supply kit ready. You might need it at a time like this.
- As soon as you lose power, close off unused rooms to consolidate and retain heat.
- Wear layered clothing and use blankets or sleeping bags to stay warm.
- Let faucets drip or trickle to prevent pipes from freezing bursting, which can cause extensive water damage. If you believe your pipes have frozen, call a plumber as soon as possible.
- Never use generators or outdoor heating or cooking equipment, like a grill or propane heater, indoors. In addition to presenting a fire risk, it could expose you and your family to dangerous carbon monoxide.
- Never heat your home using the stove or oven, either. If you use a generator, keep it outside in a well-ventilated area at least 20 feet away from any door, window or vent.
- Limit your time outdoors. If you must venture outside, dress in layers and cover up any exposed skin to protect against frostbite. If your clothes get wet, replace them with dry ones.
- Know how to recognize hypothermia. Warning signs in adults include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, slurred speech, memory loss and fumbling hands. In infants, signs include bright red and cold skin and low energy.
- Check on your neighbors, especially older adults and young children, who are the most vulnerable to extreme temperatures.
- If you’re losing heat and don’t think you can make it until the power returns, head to a relief shelter if you can make it safely. You can locate the nearest shelter by downloading the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s mobile app or texting “SHELTER” and your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA). For Spanish, text REFUGIO and your zip code. (Standard text message rates apply.)
- If there’s any doubt the food in your refrigerator or freezer has gone bad, throw it out. Check with your insurance agent to see if your homeowners insurance policy covers food spoilage due to a power outage. If not, it’s a relatively inexpensive update that you’ll be thankful to have if you ever need it.
- If the power is out for more than a day, FEMA also suggests throwing out any refrigerated medication, unless the label says otherwise. If it’s an emergency, consult with your doctor or a pharmacist first.
Contact a AAA insurance agent to learn how your homeowners coverage protects you from winter damage.
Do you have a memorable power outage story? Share it with us in the comments.