Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives

SAFETY TIPS

If a power outage occurs:
  • Call your local electric cooperative to report your outage – even if you think a neighbor has already called it in. The more calls received, the easier it is to identify the issue and determine the extent of the outage.
     
  • Stay away from downed power lines and poles. Always assume all power lines are energized and dangerous unless told otherwise by an authority.
     
  • Turn off the stove, oven and other appliances (except refrigerators and freezers with food) to prevent heavy startup loads that could cause secondary blackouts when power is restored.
     
  • Unplug sensitive electronic equipment such as computers, TVs and other home entertainment equipment to avoid damage to them when power is restored.
     
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed to prevent food from spoiling. Click here for food safety tips.
     
  • Leave a light turned on so you’ll know when the power is restored.
     
  • Use flashlights during outages instead of candles to avoid fire risks.
     
Winter outage tips:
  • ‚ÄčSelect a room on the warm side of the house away from prevailing winds to wait out the outage.
     
  • Keep curtains and exterior doors closed.
     
  • Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing. Remove layers to avoid overheating, perspiration and the resulting chills.
     
  • If you have an unvented, fuel-burning space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface – not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Cross-ventilate by opening a window an inch on each side of the room; it’s better to let some cold air in than to run the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Also, never leave a space heater unattended or within the reach of children or pets – and turn it off when you leave the room or go to bed.
     
  • If temperatures fall to near freezing in your home, open all faucets slightly so they drip. This minimal water flow will help prevent pipes from freezing.
     
  • Close off as many rooms as possible, unless you are using an unvented, fuel-burning space heater. Then you should keep the doors open to the rest of the house, to prevent pollutant and carbon monoxide buildup.
     
  • Do not use your stove, oven, cooktop, outdoor grill, camping stove or any other fuel-, charcoal- or wood-burning cooking equipment to try to produce usable heat inside your home. The carbon monoxide these devices produce could be fatal within in a mater of minutes.
     
  • Use your fireplace if you have one. Otherwise, make sure the flue is closed.
     
  • Anyone who may be without power for any extended amount of time is encouraged to relocate to a nearby emergency shelter.
     
  • If possible, check on elderly neighbors and others who may need assistance.
     
  • Avoid riding snowmobiles in ditches and other areas where power lines are down. Buried conductors, downed lines, and broken poles represent a significant safety issue.

Portable generator safety:
  • Make sure your generator has a manual or automatic transfer switch. This switch will isolate your home circuits from power lines. A generator that does not have a transfer switch can backfeed electricity onto main power lines, causing a shock hazard for you and utility crews. 
     
  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions and learn how to operate and shut off your generator before you need to use it.
     
  • Make sure the extension cord you use is in good shape and rated for a load greater than the total wattage of all connected appliances and other devices (125 volts x amps = watts).
     
  • Keep the generator dry, and don’t operate it indoors or in an enclosed or partially enclosed area such as a garage or porch. Generators can quickly produce high levels of deadly carbon monoxide gas.
     
  • Keep children and pets away form the generator when it’s running.
     
  • Practice power management. For example, when the power is out for several hours or longer, use the generator to run the refrigerator every few hours so food won’t spoil – instead of just powering lights in your home all day long.
     
  • Give your generator several breaks during the day. Most portable generators aren’t designed to run 24/7, so shut down your unit several times a day to let it cool down.
     
  • Always switch the engine off and allow it to cool before adding fuel in a well-ventilated area. Take care not to contaminate the fuel tank with dirt or water.
     
  • Turn off the generator’s circuit breaker before starting, so the load doesn’t draw current until the generator is running smoothly. Turn off the breaker before stopping the generator.
     
  • Test the ground fault circuit interrupter, commonly referred to as a GFCI, on the generator every time you fire up the engine.

Additional safety tips:
  • Do not attempt to clear downed or damaged electrical equipment on your own. If the damage is on the utility side the meter, please call your local electric cooperative. If the damage is on your side of the meter, please contact a licensed electrician.
     
  • Severe weather and power outages may cause you to improvise solutions for home heating, cooking and other necessary tasks. We strongly urge members to avoid using products designed for outdoor use inside their homes.
     
  • If you know of elderly persons or those with medical needs who may be without power, we suggest you check on them and help them find a place to stay until power can be restored. You may contact your county’s Emergency Management Coordinator to find established shelters.

     
Power outage preparation:

To be prepared for a power outage, gather these supplies before an outage occurs:

  • Flashlights and extra batteries
  • Battery-powered weather radio and portable radio to receive emergency information
  • Plenty of water – the American Red cross suggests one gallon per person per day
  • High-energy food that don’t require refrigeration or cooking, such as dried fruit, nuts, granola bar, cereals and canned goods
  • A non-electric can opener
  • A week’s worth of medicines and prescriptions
  • First-aid supplies
  • Individually wrapped moist wipes for hand cleaning
  • Extra baby items (diapers, formula, etc.)
  • Sleeping bags, blankets and pillows
  • Books and games to keep kids occupied
  • ABC-type fire extinguisher
  • Plenty of food and water (and shelter) for pets
  • Check the batteries in – and test – all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms in your home every 6 months. Replace them after 10 years.
  • Your electric garage door opener won’t work during a power outage; Make sure you know how to open the door manually

Medical equipment:

For those who rely on life support or other essential medical equipment, a power outage can present a life-threatening situation. If you or someone you know relies on electricity to power life-sustaining equipment, please take the following steps before an outage:

  • Contact your local electric cooperative. Your account will be noted and priority will be given, when possible, to restore power to your home first during an outage.
     
  • Invest in power supply backup equipment. This could be a generator or battery backup for the medical equipment. Have a qualified technician install this equipment.
     
  • Notify family, friends and neighbors. During an outage, they know to come to your assistance and take you to a location that has power.

Iowa's locally owned electric cooperatives are committed to providing safe, reliable, affordable & environmentally responsible power to 650,000 Iowans.

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