By Connie Hogue, Director of Human Resources & Safety

The Energy Cooperative cares about the safety of our members, and we want you to be prepared during the cold winter months. Heavy snow, high winds, and ice can cause several safety issues. This includes downed power lines and dangerous driving conditions. During an outage, our crews work as safely and quickly as possible. There are a few things you can do, however, to ensure you are prepared before an outage occurs.

Outage Checklist

  • Have at least one heating source in working order in case the power goes out.
  • Consider a fireplace, indoor portable space heater, kerosene heater, or an electric generator to provide heat during an outage.
  • Collect extra blankets, sleeping bags, and warm winter coats, mittens, gloves, scarves, and hats for everyone in your home.
  • Have a power outage supply kit handy (flashlight, extra batteries, first aid supplies, and bottled water).
  • Make sure your fireplace is in good condition. If you have a wood burning fireplace, ensure you have plenty of dry firewood available. If you have a gas log fireplace verify it is usable.

Space Heater Safety

Whether you are supplementing your home heating with space heaters, or using them for outages, space heaters can be effective when used properly. The National Fire Protection Association reminds the public, however, that space heaters should be used with caution as they do present potential fire hazards. Most of those fires started by space heaters were a result of the heater being too close to flammable items, especially furniture and fabric (such as clothes, curtains or bedding). If you decide to use a space heater this winter season, be sure to use one with automatic shut-off switches and non-glowing elements. Also, keep heat sources at least 3 feet away from anything.
Additionally, if you are utilizing space heaters plan to have the following safety equipment on hand:

  • Chemical fire extinguisher
  • Smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector that are in working order (Check prior to winter storm season and change batteries twice a year).

Home Heating Safety

There are also a few dangerous behaviors you should always avoid when heating your home.

  • Never turn on the cook stove for heat. It is not safe.
  • Never use an electric generator indoors, inside the garage, or near the air intake of your home. Doing so significantly increases the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Do not use a generator or appliances if they are wet.
  • Do not store gasoline indoors where the fumes could ignite.
  • Never place a space heater on top of furniture or near water.

Generator safety

Never connect a standby generator into your home’s electrical system. There are only two safe ways to connect a standby generator to your equipment.

  • Stationary Generator: An approved generator transfer switch, which keeps your house circuits separate from the electric co-op, should be installed by a professional.
  • Portable Generator: Plug appliances directly into the outlet provided on the generator.

Set up and run your generator in a well-ventilated area outside the home. Make sure it’s out and away from your garage, doors, windows and vents. The carbon monoxide generated is deadly.

Use a heavy-duty extension cord to connect electric appliances to the outlet on the generator.

Start the generator first before connecting appliances.

Car and Emergency Checklist

Plan to ensure you are protected for vehicle emergencies during winter storms or inclement travel weather. The following items can help you in vehicle emergencies.

  • Cell phone and portable charger
  • Windshield ice scraper
  • Battery-powered radio with extra batteries
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Water
  • Snack foods
  • Heavy Blankets for all passengers
  • Spare winter gloves, hats and scarves
  • Shovel.

Winter Storm Warning Tips

  • WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY: Expect winter weather conditions (e.g., accumulation of snow, freezing rain, and sleet) that could cause severe inconvenience and life-threatening hazards.
  • FROST/FREEZE WARNING: Expect below-freezing temperatures.
  • WINTER STORM WATCH: Be alert; a storm is likely.
  • WINTER STORM WARNING: Take action; the storm is in or entering the area.
  • BLIZZARD WARNING: Seek refuge immediately! Snow and strong winds, near-zero visibility, deep snow drifts, and life-threatening wind chill.
  • BLACK ICE: a thin coating of glazed ice on a surface.

Perhaps the most dangerous of winter events is black ice. Black ice is virtually clear, and forms when the surface air temperature is freezing (or colder) and rain is falling. The best recommendation for black ice is to avoid being out in these conditions, especially at night. If you must drive, exercise extreme caution.

5 Safety Tips for Driving on Black Ice

  • Keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you. Remember it takes twice as long to stop on black ice.
  • Never hit the brakes on ice to avoid skidding. Instead, hold your steering wheel steady.
  • Be vigilant in the early morning hours, when air temperatures rise faster than the temperature of the road’s surface.
  • Take extra caution when driving on bridges, overpasses, and in tunnels.
  • Don’t over correct your steering if you feel your car sliding.

Sources: National Safety Council, National Fire Protection Association