Tips to stay safe during the power outage

Published 12:56 am Tuesday, August 30, 2011

As hundreds of Dominion Power’s customers in Suffolk enter a third day without electricity, the novelty of the situation has worn off, replaced by the prospect of dealing with refrigerators full of questionable food and showers that have gone from lukewarm to downright cold.

Many people in the city will have learned how to live without electricity for long stretches during the aftermath of Isabel in 2003. But others are experiencing the rustic life for the first time.

For them, and for those who just need a refresher, following are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration for life without power.

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Food safety

If you lost power anytime on Saturday, most of the food in your refrigerator will not be safe to eat by now, but there’s a chance that things in your freezer still will be edible. Use care when making that decision, though. The last thing you need in the midst of the other problems you’re facing today is a case of food poisoning.

  • A freezer that is half full will hold food safely for up to 24 hours. A full freezer will hold food safely for 48 hours. Do not open the freezer door if you can avoid it.
  • Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of your food right before you cook or eat it. Throw away any food that has a temperature of more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat safety

As you’re cleaning up the debris that Irene left behind, one of the greatest dangers will be heat-related illnesses. It’s easy to ignore the symptoms of heat stress, but doing so can be deadly.

  • Drink a glass of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes and at least one gallon each day. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, as they can lead to dehydration. Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. And try to work during the cooler parts of the day.
  • If you feel dizzy, weak or overheated, go to a cool place. Sit or lie down, drink water, and wash your face with cool water. If you don’t feel better soon, get medical help quickly.
  • Warning signs of heat stroke vary, but they can include: Red, hot and dry skin (no sweating); rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness, nausea, confusion, or unconsciousness; a body temperature of 103 degrees or higher.
  • If you suspect someone has these symptoms, call 911, move the person to a cooler area, and cool the person with water or ice.

Generator safety

An improperly used generator can be deadly. Always read the label on your generator and the owner’s manual. Follow all instructions.

  • Generators make an invisible, odorless gas called carbon monoxide, or CO, that can kill you. To avoid CO poisoning, operate generators outdoors only in well-ventilated, dry areas, away from home air intakes, and protected from direct exposure to rain.
  • Never use a generator indoors or in attached garages. Install CO alarms with battery backup in your home’s sleeping areas.
  • Get to fresh air immediately if you start to feel sick, weak or dizzy.
  • Never use a portable generator in any enclosed or partially enclosed space. Windows and doors do not provide enough ventilation.
  • Do not locate a portable generator outside near windows or doors.

Driving safety

  • Many of the traffic lights throughout Suffolk are still out as Dominion Power and electrical contractors work to restore electrical service in the city. Use extreme caution when approaching these intersections.
  • Treat all intersections with non-working traffic signals as four-way stop signs. Yield to the vehicle on your right, and wait your turn to cross the intersection.
  • Slow down and obey police instructions at any intersection where police officers are present.
  • Watch for debris in the roadways, low-hanging power lines and other hazards that have not yet been cleared.