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Stay Safe During an Outage and Around Power Lines

Be Prepared for Storms!

Storm Checklist

To report an outage, call your cooperative.

If your lights go off during a storm, be prepared for the power outage. Assemble supplies to have on hand rather than rushing around when the storm is coming and waiting in long lines fo rmilk or bread. Rotate your supplies to keep them fresh and use the following checklist to prepare for power outages:

Have Plenty of Food

  • Keep a 3- to 5-day supply of drinking water in plastic bottles. Plan on at least 1 gallon of water per person, per day.
  • Store a manual can opener with enough nonperishable foods for 3 to 5 days. Canned meats, tuna fish and peanut butter are good foods to store. Don’t forget pet foods!
  • Conserve water by using paper plates and plastic utensils.
  • Have a camp stove or grill for outdoor cooking.

Stay In Touch

  • Have a portable,battery-powered radio and alarm clock.
  • Have one non-portable phone that will work even if power is interrupted.
  • Plan where to meet and how to communicate with family members if separated.
    Keep essential family member contact information near your phone, in your wallet, and in your glove compartment.

Keep Things Going

  • Keep plenty of gas in your car.
  • Keep extra batteries, matches, propane, charcoal and firewood.

Stay Happy, Healthy and Warm

  • Coordinate with neighbors for care of the elderly and disabled living alone.
  • Maintain a supply of prescriptions, nonprescription drugs, vitamins and special dietary foods.
  • Playing cards, books, drawing and writing supplies, and board games help pass the time. If you have a video camera and tapes, your family can make a storm documentary.
  • Keep sanitary and personal hygiene supplies replenished. Premoistened cleansing towelettes are useful and help conserve water.
  • Use plastic trash bags and ties for garbage.
  • Put first-aid kits in your home and car.
  • Make sure you have cold weather clothing, foul weather gear, blankets and sleeping bags.
  • Consider purchasing alternative UL-approved heating devices. For example, a fireplace insert or woodstove will keep the heat in your home instead of up the chimney.
  • Use flashlights and other battery-operated lighting instead of candles.
  • Keep fire extinguishers fully charged.
  • Fill your bathtub with water for bathroom use before the storm (if you have a well).

Flooded areas

Be careful when attempting to walk in flooded areas and remember that submerged outlets or electrical cords could energize the water.

Wet electrical equipment

Do not use electrical appliances that have been wet. Water can damage the motors in electrical appliances, such as furnaces, freezers, refrigerators, washing machines, and dryers. Electrical parts can pose a shock hazard or overheat and cause a fire.

A qualified service repair dealer should recondition electrical equipment that has been wet. Certain equipment will require complete replacement, while a trained professional can recondition other devices.

Portable generators

Take special care with portable electric generators, which can provide a good source of power, but if improperly installed or operated, can become deadly. Do not connect generators directly to household wiring. Power from generators can back-feed along power lines and electrocute anyone coming in contact with them, including line workers making repairs. A qualified, licensed electrician should install your generator to ensure that it meets local electrical codes. Other tips include:

  • Make sure your generator is properly grounded.
  • Keep the generator dry.
  • Make sure extension cords used with generators are rated for the load, and are free of cuts, worn insulation, and have three-pronged plugs.
  • Do not overload the generator.
  • Do not operate the generator in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. Generators can produce high levels of carbon monoxide very quickly, which can be deadly.
  • Use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) to help prevent electrocutions and electrical shock injuries. Portable GFCIs require no tools to install and are available at prices ranging from $12 to $30.

Winter storm safety

Snow and ice storms are an inevitable part of the winter season. However, they can lead to downed power lines and outages. Remember the following tips to stay safe and warm should you find yourself in the dark after a severe winter event:

  • Never touch a fallen power line, and assume all wires on the ground are electrically charged. Call your electric co-op at (000) 000-0000 to report it immediately. Avoid contact with overhead lines during cleanup and other activities.
  • In the event of an outage, an alternate heating source - such as a fireplace, propane space heater, or wood stove - may be used. Extreme caution should be taken.
  • Plan to stay in an area of the home where the alternate heat source is located.
  • Fuel- and wood-buring heating sources should be vented. Be sure to follow manufacturer's directions.
  • Make sure carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors are working properly.
  • Do not use a gas-powered oven for heating. A gas oven may go out or burn inefficiently, leading to carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Do not use a gas or charcoal grill inside the home. Do not use charcoal briquettes in the fireplace.
  • If you use a portable generator to power a heating source, be sure the generator is located outside your house for proper ventilation. Do not use a generator in an attached garage.
  • Follow manufacturer's directions for operating the generator.
  • Take special care not to overload a generator. Use appropriately sized extension cords to carry the electric load. Make sure the cords have a grounded, three-pronged plug and are in good condition.
  • Never run cords under rugs or carpets.
  • Never connect generators to power lines. The reverse flow of electricity can electrocute an unsuspecting utility worker.

Ideally, your family will stay warm until the power comes back on. But keep an eye on family members for signs of hypothermia, which include shivering, drowsiness, and mental and physical slowness. The elderly and young children are particularly vulnerable to hypothermia. Call 911 immediately if you notice these symptoms. At least one telephone in the house that does not depend on electricity should be available in the case of a power outage.

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