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Emergency 101 – When The Lights Go

Stay safe - tips for preparing for utility outages!


by Benton Best - February 5, 2019

The most frequent hazard which impacts the most amount of people on a regular basis in Tioga County is a utility outage. While a utility outage may seem unavoidable or out of our control, there are things we can do now to prepare for power outages that may occur in the future.

For example if you lose power during a winter storm, would you know what steps to take to stay safe? Today we want to give you some tips to help you and your family better prepare for potential utility outages.

We recommend that every individual and family have a preparedness plan in place and test it on a regular basis. It’s important to pay attention to alerts and warnings such as those from the National Weather Service or Swift 911. Learn your nearest evacuation routes and identify a safe place to meet up with your family. Back up important electronic documents in paper form and keep them in a secure location with easy access.

One of the first things to do after a power outage has occurred is to turn off or disconnect appliances, equipment, or electronics. This is because power may return with momentary “surges” or “spikes” that can cause damage to equipment that is plugged in without proper surge protection.

In your family communications plan, you could consider having a process in place for checking in with loved ones to let them know you’re ok during a power outage. If possible, it’s also important to check on your neighbors, especially older adults who are vulnerable to extreme temperatures.

As soon as a power outage starts, so does the timer on perishable items like heat, air conditioning, food, and medication. Being prepared for power outages will help extend the timeframe for you and your family to be safe. We recommend that all homeowners consider investing in a backup power generator to power the essential life-safety components of your home. It’s important to consult with subject matter experts in backup power as the improper use of a generator can be extremely dangerous.

To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator, camp stove or charcoal grill, it is important that the apparatus is always at least 20 feet away from windows, and never inside. You also should never use a gas stovetop or oven to heat your home, as this can be extremely dangerous. It’s essential to have a professional test your generator on a regular basis, and to have plans in place for re-fueling it during a long-term disaster.

Another important issue to prepare for when thinking of power outages is what to do with refrigerated food. It is not impossible to lose power for several days after a disaster or severe winter weather incident. If you lose power, keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to keep the cold inside.

Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for two hours or more. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours. A good rule for food is…”when in doubt – throw it out!”

Also, don’t forget about refrigerated medicine. If you lose power for more than a day, you should throw away any medication that should be refrigerated, unless the label says otherwise. Make sure to check with your doctor, before a disaster, to find out how long medication can be stored at higher temperatures.

Finally, short-term utility outages are common but what if a power outage lasted for several months? What would be different about your life if you needed to live for several months without electricity? Could you pay your bills, communicate with your family and prepare food safely? These are all things to think about and to plan for now rather than later.

For more information on power outage preparedness, please visit:


Idea/Concept: Benton Best

Videography: Andrew Moore

Video Editing: Andrew Moore

Writing: Benton Best


Produced by Vogt Media

Funded by Penn Wells Hotel / Lodge, Citizens & Northern Bank

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