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Preparing for power outages

1/3/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

GREATER AKRON — Winter has arrived in Northeast Ohio, and with it comes a number of issues that area residents will face, including power outages.

American Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region officials state that sudden power outages can be frustrating and troublesome, especially when the outages last a long time. Among the areas of concern are food spoilage and supplies for extended periods without power.

According to Red Cross officials, if a power outage lasts two hours or less, losing perishable food is not likely to occur. For prolonged power outages, there are steps to take to minimize food loss and to keep all members of a household as comfortable as possible.

Red Cross officials offer the following information on preparing for power outages, and what to do during one and after the power comes back on.


for an outage

• Have one or more coolers on hand to store food. Styrofoam coolers are inexpensive and work well.

• Get ice to surround food in a cooler or in a refrigerator to keep it cooler for a longer period of time during a prolonged power outage.

• Get a digital quick-response thermometer, which can quickly check the internal temperatures of food to ensure it is safe enough to use.

• Plan for a two-week supply of water (1 gallon per person per day) and nonperishable easy-to-prepare food items.

• Keep a flashlight with extra batteries handy. Do not use candles during a power outage due to the extreme risk of fire.

• Get a battery-powered radio and weather radio, with extra batteries.

• Keep a first-aid kit ready, along with a seven-day supply of medications.

• Keep sanitation and personal hygiene items handy.

• Gather copies of personal documents, such as a medication list and pertinent medical information, the deed/lease to your home, birth certificates, insurance policies and family and emergency contact information.

• Have a cell phone with a car charger and extra cash on hand.

• Plan for a backup power supply for anyone in the home that is dependent on electric-powered, life-sustaining equipment.

• Keep a noncordless telephone available, as it is likely to work even when the power is out.

• Keep the gas tank in your vehicle full.

What to do

during a power outage

• Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Use perishable food from the refrigerator first. An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold for about four hours. Use freezer food second. A full freezer will keep its temperature for about 48 hours, or 24 hours if it is half full.

• Use nonperishable foods and staples after the refrigerated foods have been exhausted.

• If it looks like the power outage will continue beyond a day, prepare a cooler with ice for freezer items.

• Keep food in a dry, cool spot and keep it covered at all times.

• Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment and electronics.

• Turn off or disconnect any appliances, likes stoves, equipment or electronics in use when the power went out to prevent damage from a power surge when the power comes back on.

• Leave one light turned on so that you will know when the power comes back on.

• Eliminate unnecessary travel, as traffic lights will be out and roads will be congested.

• If using a portable generator, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect the generator to a home’s electrical system.

• Get advice from a professional when purchasing a generator and make sure it is rated for the power that you think you will need.

• Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawl space or partially enclosed area, and locate the unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.

• Watch for carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock and fire when using alternate sources for electricity, heating or cooking.

• Install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of the home and outside sleeping areas to provide early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide.

• If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, move quickly to fresh air outdoors or by an open window or door. Call for help from the fresh air location and remain there until emergency personnel arrive.

What to do

when power returns

• Throw out food that has been exposed to temperatures 40 degrees F or higher for two hours or more or that has an unusual odor, color or texture. When it doubt, throw it out.

• Never taste food or rely on appearance or odor to determine its safety. Some foods may look and smell fine, but bacteria-causing food-borne illnesses can grow quickly, and some types of bacteria produce toxins that cannot be destroyed by cooking.

• If the food in the freezer is colder than 40 degrees F and has ice crystals on it, you can refreeze it.

• If you are not sure if food is cold enough, take its temperature with a food thermometer. Throw out meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers that have been exposed to temperatures higher than 40 degrees F for two hours or more and any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture or feels warm to the touch.

• Do not touch and stay away from any electrical power lines, and report downed lines to the appropriate officials.

If your community experiences a disaster, register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well website, www.redcross.org, to let your family and friends know about your welfare. Those without Internet access can call 866-GET-INFO to register.

For more information on disaster and emergency preparedness, visit the website.

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