cy weather and a historic power outage plunged thousands of Midwesterners into darkness as ice-laden power lines snapped under the weight of falling trees. More than 500,000 people were left shivering in the dark, with little hope of regaining power for at least a week.
Sleet and freezing rain blanketed much of central United States with a thick coating of ice on Tuesday, killing more than twenty people and knocking out power to nearly a million homes and businesses.
((Photo: Reuters/Dave Kaup/Courtesy of Alertnet.org)
With temperatures plunging and winter storms posing a threat of power outages, the American Red Cross recommends following a few simple steps to keep your family safe in a power outage.
- Use a flashlight for emergency lighting. Never use candles.
- Turn off electrical equipment you were using when the power went out.
- Avoid opening the refrigerator and freezer to keep your food as fresh as possible.
- Do not run a generator in an enclosed or partially enclosed space, such as your home, garage, basement, or crawlspace. Never burn charcoal for heating or cooking indoors. Never use your gas range, oven, or dryer as a source of heat.
- If you use a generator, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect a generator to a home's electrical system.
- Use a portable radio for updated news and weather forecasts.
- Leave one light on so you know when the power returns.
The Red Cross is urging communities to take steps now to prepare for power outages that could affect their areas in the future. Taking preventive measures like building a disaster kit can go a long way during a winter storm, say preparedness experts.
An Illinois resident who survived a recent ice storm agrees. “We knew the winter storm was heading our way, so we made sure we had enough food and water to get us through a few days if needed,” says Mary D. of Western Illinois. “When our power went out, we pulled out the Red Cross radio. It played weather alerts that were incredibly helpful for keeping us informed of the status of the storm. We were glad we had it.”
Everyone can prepare ahead of time for disasters like a power outage by taking the following actions:
- Build a disaster supplies kit. Your kit should include at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food items and water (one gallon per person per day), a flashlight, a battery-powered or crank radio, as well as batteries, can opener and special items such as medications, diapers, and infant formula.
- Have a communication plan ready. If you have a telephone that requires electricity to work (such as a cordless phone or answering machine), plan for alternate communication, including having a cellular telephone, radio, or pager.
- Keep your car fuel tank at least half full because gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps. Also, keeping your gas tank full helps reduce ice build-up in the fuel tank and fuel lines.
- Be sure to keep a key to your house with you, in case the garage door does not open. If you have an electric garage door opener, find out where the manual release lever is located and learn how to operate it.
- Follow energy conservation measures to keep the use of electricity as low as possible.
For additional safety tips during a power outage, visit www.redcross.org.
- Travel safely during a winter storm
- Food safety during a power outage
All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of thousands of disasters across the country each year, disasters like the Midwest ice storms, by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to victims of disaster. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster please do so at the time of your donation. Call 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org.