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Winter weather planning 

How to hunker down safely when the power goes out

WINTER WEATHER HAZARDS immediately bring to mind ice- and snow-covered roads, but many Kentuckians have learned the hard way that the dangers are also off-road. 

Our unpredictable winter weather, from freezing rain and ice storms to heavy snows, can bring a slew of dangers, especially where power lines are concerned. The weight of snow and ice accumulating on power lines can cause the lines and poles to snap. Those power lines can fall on the ground, trees, homes, vehicles and other objects. If people or pets come in contact with a live power line, they can suffer serious injury or even death. 

These dangers, in addition to travel hazards, mean you need a plan to safely shelter at home during a prolonged power outage. Staying off the roads also minimizes the traffic dangers to lineworkers out working to restore power. 

Plan for warmth and food 

The best time to prepare is before a storm hits. Keep these items in your home emergency kit: bottled water, nonperishable food, emergency blankets, first aid kit/medicine, flashlight and extra batteries, toiletries, and battery operated or hand crank radio. 

For warmth, if you’re not using a generator, keep outdoor doors closed unless necessary and help keep warm air where you need it by not opening doors to unused rooms. 

To protect a home’s electrical equipment during an outage, turn off and unplug all unnecessary electronics or appliances to help keep devices from being damaged by surges or spikes when the power returns.

Safety precautions don’t end once an outage is over, since electrical lines could still be down. Don’t touch them—call your local co-op or 911.

JIM BEECHAM is Director of Engineering and Operations at Tri-County Electric. 

When in doubt, throw it out 

During an outage: 

Use perishable food from the refrigerator first, then the freezer. Perishables should have a temperature of 40 degrees or below to be safe to eat. 

An unopened refrigerator helps keep food cold for about four hours; an unopened freezer, 24 hours or 48 hours if full. 

Fill a cooler with ice for frozen foods if the power will be off for more than a day; keep food in a dry, cool spot and cover it at all times. 

After power is restored: 

Throw away any food (particularly meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that has been exposed to temperatures higher than 40 degrees for two hours or more, or that has an unusual odor, color or texture. 

Don’t taste questionable food, or depend on its smell or appearance to be safe. 

Source: American Red Cross

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