Prepare for blackouts before the power goes out

Monday, December 10, 2007 | 7:07 p.m. CST; updated 10:56 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — With the area under another ice storm warning through 6 a.m. Wednesday, there are many steps that residents can take in case of an electric outage.

Connie Kacprowicz from Columbia Water and Light said that residents should stock up on food that can be prepared without cooking and water and have a battery-powered flashlight and radio.

If electricity is lost, avoid opening the refrigerator or freezer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a freezer that is half full can hold food for up to 24 hours and a freezer that is full can hold food for up to 48 hours if the door stays closed. Perishable food, such as dairy products and leftovers in the refrigerated section should be packed into a cooler with ice.

Kacprowicz said to stay warm, it is necessary to dress in layers and avoid opening doors to outside.

The Boone Electric Cooperative in a news release advises that those who have lost power use flashlights and battery-powered lanterns instead of candles, gas lanterns or torches to minimize the risk of fire.

A standby generator should not be operated inside and should be run only in an open area to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Instructions for plugging appliances directly into the generator, such as a space heater, should be read carefully. Boone Electric Cooperative emphasizes that it is important that the generator have a proper transfer switch, which should disconnect from the two hot conductors and the neutral conductor.

If there is an extended outage, the Red Cross and the City of Columbia will open shelters that will have heat and food. A statewide hot line, announced by Gov. Matt Blunt, can be called toll-free for questions regarding the location of the nearest shelter and to provide information to assist citizens affected by the continuing severe weather. The hot line can be reached at 888-377-2100 for areas without 211 access.

The city has an aggressive tree-trimming policy meant to stave off electric loss due to falling limbs, Kacprowicz said. She said it’s hard to predict how additional accumulation might impact local power.

“You can’t really ‘what if’ the weather and the different variations of freezing rain that accumulate differently,” Kacprowicz said. “We have redundancies in our system so if outages occur, we can reroute power and get power to them. Most of our stuff is done in advance. After that, we just cross our fingers.”

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