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» Survive a Winter Power Outage

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Last winter, 2006, in Central Nebraska we had the worst power outage in our history, due to an ice storm that swept through the area and created real havoc, removing several thousand power poles and lines.

It was not a pleasant experience, but all in all, I’m glad that we had it. It taught me a great deal and helped me to become more savvy about what steps need to be taken to survive a power outage of several days when temperatures are dipping well below freezing.

Needless to say, generators were in high demand and it was nearly impossible to find one, and the option of leaving our home for another one wasn’t there, because for many miles around, no one else had power either.

Here are some of the things we learned.

Even though any number of things may in fact have caused the power outage, always check your circuit breakers. It is most likely weather related but may in fact be only your electric so check that first.

If the entire neighborhood is out, phone your utility company and make sure to report it. Perhaps a great number of people did so and maybe they, thinking like you, did not phone.
The power may be out for a few hours or perhaps as in our case, a few days. A few things to remember are:

Unless you have an actual emergency DO NOT PHONE 911, if you are not injured or in danger.

Never go near downed power lines. Phone the utility company or law enforcement and report the placement of any downed lines

Keep an emergency backup radio with fresh batteries in it to listen for reports of the power outages and weather arrivals.

Make sure that you dress to stay warm. Our own oven does not light, which might have provided some heat during the outage. Wear layered clothing, including shirt, sweater, and a jacket if you are still cold, or add them as the temperature drops in the house. (as in our case, entire towns and cities were without power in some areas.) Wear gloves if necessary and a real hat, not a ball cap.

Oftentimes even the gas range that has an electronic ignition will light with a match or lighter. Turn the burners on for half an hour to heat the room and be in attendance on the flames at all times. Turn it off after the room heats up slightly.

Close bedroom doors, trying to conserve the heat to one or two areas that are manageable to heat using the burners, or even your own body heat.

Make sure to open the refrigerator as little as possible to keep the cold inside where it belongs. Your foods can last a couple days without a major escape of the cold air.

If you are truly cold take a hot shower to increase your body temperature. Of course this is feasible only the first day or so, but even an electric tank will stay hot for twelve hours.

Unplug all computers, televisions and major appliances. WHen the power does return a surge could destroy many of them if you aren’t careful.

Kerosene heaters and grills are NOT to be used indoors as they impart poisonous fumes to the home. Do not use outside sources of heat for the inside.

Check on your elderly neighbors or anyone with health problems to assure they are warm and well.


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