2016-03-11 / In the Know

Make a power outage plan

By B. Michael Thurlow Special to the Leader

Recently, David Feeney, Cumberland County EMA’s planner and training coordinator, published some tips from FEMA’s Ready.gov website on how to prepare for a longterm power outage.

With his permission, I wanted to share that information with all of you. We’ve been very fortunate this winter in terms of severe storms, but we know it is just a matter of time before we will be dealing with a natural disaster that causes wide spread extended power outages.

Being prepared is the key and here are some helpful tips to consider.

Plan alternative ways to charge your mobile devices, and communication and assistive technology devices before disaster strikes.

Plan how you will address your dependence on electricity.

Tell your power company if you use oxygen- or mechanical ventilation. Be very clear about what you can expect from them in a power outage.

Before disaster strikes, you may register with your power company. They may alert you when power will be restored in an unplanned outage and before a planned outage. This is particularly important if you use oxygen or mechanical ventilation.

If you cannot be without power, plan for how you will obtain power backup. If possible, have backup battery, generator, solar or alternate electrical resources.

Explore newer solutions, and also consider foot pumps and other simple tools that might suffice when nothing else works.

Charge devices that will maintain power to your equipment during electric outages.

Purchase extra batteries for power wheelchairs or other battery-operated medical or assistive technology devices. Keep the batteries’ trickle charged at all times.

Find out if you can charge your wheelchair or devices from a car or using rechargeable marine batteries. Make sure you assemble what you’ll need in advance.

Backup chargers for a cell phone could include a hand crank USB cell phone emergency charger, a solar charger, or a battery pack. Some weather radios have a built-in hand crank charger.

Backup chargers for a laptop or tablet could include a 12-volt USB adapter that plugs into a car, an inverter, or a battery jump pack with an USB port.

Receive important information on a cell-phone or smartphone. Sign up for emergency emails and text messages on your cellphone from your local government alert system.

Plan how you are going to receive emergency information if you are unable to use a television, radio or computer. This may include having an adaptive weather alert system to alert you in the event of severe weather.

Plan for medications that require refrigeration.

These are just a few ideas of things to consider and prepare for before the storm comes. I also want to add a caution about the use of backup generators during power outages.

Make sure they are properly wired with a transfer switch so they don’t inadvertently energize the lines coming into your home. This can be deadly to utility workers trying to restore service to your home and the neighborhood. Make sure you never run a generator in your garage or basement.

All engines give off carbon monoxide and other deadly gases. Make sure your generator is at least 10-feet away from your home and properly ventilated whenever you run it.

Most of us have been through a long-term power outage and it isn’t much fun. Please take a few minutes to think about what you need to do to be able to function and stay safe and comfortable when you lose the power and get prepared today so you are ready.

If you have any questions about his article or any fire department issue, you may contact me at mthurl@ci.scarborough.me.us or 730-4201.

B. Michael Thurlow is fire chief for Scarborough.

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