Today we're going to discuss something you hope NEVER happens! But, in this climate, you should always be prepared. So, what should you do if your homes' heat stops working?

It might be the unit itself or it might be the city power is out in your entire neighborhood. Heavy ice, snow and high winds can cause trouble in sub-zero temperatures whether it is knocking down powerlines or freezing up electrical boxes. No matter what causes it, a prolonged power outage in the dead cold of winter can be a serious issue. It can be even worse if it takes days to repair. 

Here are a few tips for power outages in the cold weather of South Dakota:

1. Prepare now! It's always better to be at least a little bit prepared for an emergency. Look for resources, such as FEMA, to help you be prepared with an emergency kit containing supplies such as food, water, flashlights, batteries, first aid items and a digital thermometer. Also be sure you know how to shut off your home's natural gas, electricity and water in case of a disaster. 

2. Look around the neighborhood. If your neighbors' lights are on, the outage may be short-lived. It might even be a tripped circuit breaker or a blown fuse that you can replace on your own. 

3. Report it. If the issue isn't easy enough to fix on your own, be sure to call the power company to let them know about the outage. Even better, put their number on your emergency kit or save it in your phone for quick reference. Avoid calling 911 unless it's a serious emergency that needs immediate attention. 

4. Actively prevent potential problems. If the outage is more then temporary, shut off and unplug major appliances and electronics. This can prevent any further damage to those items from possible surges when the power comes back on. For your refrigerator and freezer, leave the doors closed to help the food stay cold - the refrigerator food is generally safe for 4 hours and freezer food should survive for 48 hours. But, if you can store food outside in a safe place, that might be a better option. 

5. Add layers. If you can't get out of your home, stay warm by bundling up and putting on hats and gloves. Also, keep moving to stay warm as physical activity naturally raises your body temperature. 

6. Warm safely. It might seem like a good idea to pull in a heater designed for outdoors or for your garage, but it could also produce additional carbon monoxide not meant for confined, indoor spaces. Use a wood burning stove and avoid any item using gasoline, propane or charcoal. 

7. Save your pipes. To help prevent pipes from freezing, open cabinet doors under sinks to allow warm air to flow into those areas. Open faucets to allow a constant water drip. Close all window coverings and put towels at the bottom of your exterior doors to help keep out the cold.

8. Snuggle in. Gather everyone into the one room your heating and close the doors to that room if possible. Shared body heat in one room will help everyone stay warmer. 

9. Set a signal. Flip on at least one light switch so it's obvious when power is restored. 

I'm tempted to throw in a 10th idea - pray you're never in this situation! As with most disasters, you don't plan for them to happen; you try to be as prepared as possible for something happening. I wish you nothing but the warmest and safest winter possible. But if it comes to this, I hope these tips help you out! 

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Posted by Shane Andersen on
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