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Utility, generator experts offer safety tips ahead of freezing temperatures

With possible outages, people may turn to generators, but there are some key safety tips you need to know before using one.

AUSTIN, Texas — The frigid weather much of the nation has been bracing for is now here.

Central Texans are preparing for the temperatures expected in the teens, but with that comes making sure safety is a priority.

"We've been preparing for this for even longer than I think the general population has in Central Texas, and we saw this coming in the extended forecast," said Austin Energy Spokesperson Matt Mitchell.

Mitchell said Austin Energy has its crews ready for any problems that may arise.

Even though no precipitation is expected, strong winds can be a threat to power. Localized outages are common with weather like this but he said safety must remain a top priority.

"If you see a downed power line, do not approach it. Call us. Call 3-1-1. Call the experts. Please, please stay way, way away from those because they could still be energized and they could be energizing things around them," said Mitchell.

With possible outages, people may turn to generators. The owners of the Austin Generator Service said business boomed after the winter storm in 2021.

"I'm wondering, is this going to be a three-month bubble, a six-month bubble or a one-year bubble? And it hasn't stopped. And, of course, every time there's a weather announcement, our phones blow up and everybody wants generators," said Kurt Summers, the president and CEO of Austin Generator Service. "We're also getting calls from people that own generators and are asking, 'Hey, is my generator in need of extra service, or do I need to have you guys come by and take a look at it?'"

Others ask about generator safety. If you have a portable generator, Summers said you need to be aware of the dangers.

"If you have a portable generator, do not run it in the house, do not run it in the garage, do not run it adjacent to the house. Carbon monoxide is a serious killer," said Summers.

Last year, Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services (ATCEMS) reported that they responded to 86 carbon monoxide exposure incidents during last year's Winter Storm Uri.

Both Mitchell and Summers say awareness should be top of mind.

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