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Lights Out! What to do in the Case of a Power Outage

Jun 14, 2017 11:42AM ● By Linda Ditch
The world seems to stop when the power goes out. No humming appliances, yakking televisions, or rowdy electronic games. So much of our life is connected to the grid that it’s downright disconcerting when that connection is broken.

The most common causes of power outages are failed equipment, wildlife, vegetation (trees), and extreme weather. Sometimes these causes combine to create a problem, such as when a summer storm causes lightning, which strikes a tree, which then falls on a power line, and voilà . . . lights out. Hot weather doesn’t help either. When the temperature rises, so does the use of electricity. This can put outage-causing stress on the system.

Most outages last only an hour or two. However, weather disasters such as tornadoes and ice storms can cause outages that persist for weeks. And the more rural your location, the longer you might have to wait to see the light.

The first thing you should do when the power goes out is call the electric company. Put the Green Mountain Power Company’s outage number, (888) 835-4672, in your phone’s contacts. There’s also an Outage Center on their website (www.greenmountainpower.com/map/outages/) where you can report an outage and get current information. The more reports they receive, the faster the company can pinpoint a cause and work toward getting power restored to you.

Next, turn off all your appliances, including the furnace, air conditioner, water heater, and water pump. Unplug televisions and computers. That will keep the circuits from overloading when the power is restored. Leave on one light to signal that the power is back on.

Keep the doors to the refrigerator and freezer closed. Food in the refrigerator will stay safe for about four hours, and a full freezer of food will stay frozen for about 48 hours. If the power will be out for an extended period, consider transferring refrigerated food to a cooler with ice or ice packs.

In the summer, to help keep your home cool, close curtains and blinds on the sunny side of the house. Also, keep the doors and windows closed until the indoor temperature equals the temperature outside. And drink plenty of water.

In the winter, take steps to keep water pipes from freezing. The easiest way is to allow a small trickle of water to run from each faucet. If the power is out for a long time, it may be a good idea to turn the water off to the house and purge water from the pipes. If your home has a hot-water boiler heating system, purging all the water from those pipes is necessary to keep them and the radiators from freezing and cracking.        

Green Mountain Power has lots more useful information on their website about dealing with power outages (www.greenmountainpower.com/help/outages/). You can also sign up for text alerts to get the latest news about a current outage.

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