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How to prepare for, stay safe when the power goes out during a storm

Neighborhood flooding is stressful alone, but when the power goes out, a new set of problems unfold — here are some helpful tips.
Credit: Gabriel Cassan - stock.adobe.com
Power outage.

HOUSTON — Power outages can often be unpredictable and frustrating during floods, not knowing exactly when your home will lose power or when lost power will be restored.

While we're sharing important information about dealing with power outages during a flood, it's always best to be as knowledgeable and prepared before the storm arrives. 

First, here are a few tips to keep in mind if you suspect power may go out during a flood or intense flood.

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Power outage preparedness

Power out means lights out. You'll want to move your flashlights, lanterns or candles to a spot that easily accessible, so you're not fumbling around the dark. 

Double check that your flashlight has batteries and is functional. It's also smart to buy extra batteries. It's the same with candles and lanterns, make sure you have lighters or matches handy or any necessary fluids.  

Be sure to turn candles and lantern off before bed, and never leave candles or lanterns unattended!

What's in the fridge? It's strongly advised to have only nonperishable foods or counter-safe (some vegetables, fruits, bread) in the home. But if there's an item you can't part with and must be kept cold, here's an idea: have a styrofoam or other portable cooler, a quick-response thermometer and bags of ice handy.

Plus, if the weather is hot and humid, that ice can be useful in keeping you cool.

Electric stoves are useless during a power outage, and using a generator to power an electric stove or microwave can be dangerous. Plus, they can take up a lot of power in a short amount of time. 

Before the storm is your chance to prepare other options: mini folding camp stove with canned fuel, self-heating portable meals or portable butane stove.

Charcoal and propane grills, which must be used only outdoors with adequate space, are other good options.

How do I keep my phone and other devices charged? In the hours leading up to storm conditions that can cause flooding, you will want to minimalize your device usage and allow them to charge to 100%. 

If you have portable chargers — great! Make sure those are fully charged as well. They'll definitely come in handy.

If you have a vehicle, and it's safe to be outside, charging your phone in the car is a great backup option. REMEMBER: Do not sit in a running vehicle in a closed garage or other closed space. You could get carbon monoxide poisoning.

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Generator safety

Of course, if you have a generator, a power outage is the optimal time to put it to use. Do not use generators indoor or a closed garage.

Generators are helpful machines but the carbon-monoxide and other fumes they produce can be deadly. 

Upshur Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation offers the following advice:

Be sure to know your generator. Read all of the information on installation, safety and maintenance. Follow instructions regarding maintenance and testing.

When a generator is not properly installed, it can "backfeed" through the transformer and produce an output of 7,200 volts on the distribution line. As a result, a line crew working on the system would be put in danger.

Isolate your generator. Keep your generator away from the power lines. Connect appliances and other devices directly to the generator with the appropriate-sized cords.

If you connect it directly to your building's wiring, a transfer, double-throw switch is required to separate your generator from the your service provider's system.

Take care when fueling. Never try to refuel the unit while it is operating. Avoid spilling gasoline or other fuels on hot components.

Provide adequate ventilation. Give your generator adequate ventilation and air cooling to prevent overheating and the accumulation of toxic exhaust fumes. Do not install your generator in a basement or any closed area.

Exhaust gases contain carbon monoxide, which is an odorless, invisible, poisonous gas.

Beware of electrical lines even if power is down

During a flood, it is important to shelter in place, or stay where it is dry and safe! If it is an emergency or your shelter is compromised, forcing you to leave your home, be extremely cautious.

Don't try to leave in stormy weather conditions or during dark or nighttime hours.

If you're on foot, beware of power lines and electrical wires — even if the area is experiencing a power outages. Also be aware that electrical currents can travel through water.

Rule: treat all downed powerlines as if they're energized.

CenterPoint Energy said you should stay at least 10 feet away from any downed power lines and objects it may be touching. Be especially mindful of downed power lines that could be hidden in flood waters.

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