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Winter Power Outages

January 20, 2012

Based on the amount of time I’ve spent on a snow blower, it looks like winter is back.  With this much snow, wintertime power outages are a real possibility, especially if you’re a rural resident.

Power outages are a fact of life in rural areas.  You need a means to heat the house and provide lights for your family and power for certain appliances.  You just have to be cautious so that you still have a house standing when the power gets restored.

Power outage problems come in several flavors:

Open Flames

Candles and oil lamps work for lighting.  Just remember to keep at least a 12″ bubble around open flames.  No combustibles should be inside that 12″ bubble.  Keep kids and pets away from open flames.  And don’t leave open flames unattended.  If no one is in the room, put the flame out.  Remember, the closer you get to the candle so you can see something, the closer your hair gets to the candle, and your hair ignites pretty quickly.

Alternate Heating Devices

Central heating is installed to meet codes and laws so you don’t have to think about it.  Portable heaters require users to think about use and placement.  Read the manufacturer’s recommendations and follow them religiously.  Pay careful attention to the distance the heater should be from combustibles.  If the heater is designed for outdoor use, do not use it indoors.  If we get called to investigate a fire at your house involving portable heating devices, our investigators will be reviewing the same manufacturer’s recommendations.  Again, keep kids and pets away.

Carbon Monoxide

ANY fuel burning device gives off carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon monoxide will kill.  It is the number one accidental poisoning agent in the U.S.  Do not use fuel burning appliances without proper venting.  If you do, your family may not wake up in the morning.  Certain fuels can NEVER be used indoors; like charcoal briquettes.

Generators

Ensure your gasoline generator is outdoors (not in the garage) and away from any doors or windows where carbon monoxide can migrate indoors.  Ensure your electrical system has been designed so you can isolate it from the power grid in accordance with State electrical code requirements.  That will keep you from electrocuting power company technicians who are trying to restore power to your neighborhood as well as protect your household system.

Here’s hoping no one has the lights go out this winter.  I’m still staying ready myself.

If you’ve got questions about power outage issues, you can call us at 466-4602, or e-mail me at dbleeker@scfd9.org, or leave a comment on this page.

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