Power outages, especially outages that last for extended periods of time, affect people’s daily lives in ways much bigger than simply necessitating flashlights and battery-operated clocks. Outages can leave families in dangerously cold temperatures, and they can force families to find new ways to preserve food.

Planning ahead and appropriate decision-making during and after power outages is necessary to protect yourself from their effects.

Planning Ahead

Before a storm hits, make sure your ready-made storm kit includes the following:

  • Extra blankets or firewood
  • Flashlights
  • Extra batteries
  • Plenty of drinking water
  • Battery-operated radio
  • Cell phone or corded telephone

When the storm hits

No matter how many preparations you take, you’ll still have to take some more precautions once the power actually goes out. National Grid Rhode Island suggests the following:

  • Disconnect: Unplug “sensitive appliances.” These include computers, televisions and microwaves.
  • Protect the food: Keep refrigerator and freezer doors shut. Food will stay fresh for 6 to 9 hours in an unpowered refrigerator without spoiling. Frozen foods will keep for around 24 hours.
  • Keep warm: Burn only wood or newspapers in your fireplace or wood stove.

Generator Safety

Over the past few years, generators have become more popular for homeowners. Let’s face it. Who likes to sit in the dark? But, when not used properly, a generator can become deadly. Here are a few tips from the U.S. Consumer Public Safety Commission:

  • Don’t: Use a generator inside of a home, garage or shed or leave the generator running near any doors, windows, and vents.
  • Do: Read all safety labels and instructions. Use a generator outside and far from your home. Install CO detectors on every level of your home, especially outside of bedrooms.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless/colorless gas. It’s created by the generator’s exhaust and is called the invisible killer. That is why it’s critical you have working carbon monoxide detectors in your home. If you feel weak, dizzy, or sick move outside immediately and dial 911.

Food Safety

Power outages of more than two hours may be hazardous to food. The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) recommends that all food retailers develop a plan to obtain alternative energy sources or emergency supplies before the need arrives.RIDOH says hot food needs to be kept above 140 degrees Fahrenheit and cold food below 40 degrees Fahrenheit for as long as possible. To do this, health officials are offering the following tips:

  • Close the fridge: Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.
  • Consolidate: Group packages of cold food together to reduce heat gain.
  • Cover: Cover open refrigerated and frozen food cases, especially vertical displays.
  • Caution: The use of dry ice for cooling foods may result in an unsafe build-up of carbon dioxide.

If you’re not a Rhode Island Energy, National Grid or Eversource customer, call (401) 568-6222 to reach the PASCOAG Utility District or (401) 466-5851 for the Block Island Utility District.