Emergency Power Outage 'Kit'

During an outage you can help the cooperative or power company by providing several things to the dispatcher. You can help assess the damage quicker and restore power sooner if you have your account number ready. The account number can tell the dispatcher exactly where the outage is. Sometimes a member may have more than one account listed under the same name, so knowing the account number is very helpful.

If you do not know the account number, then give the name that the account is under in the exact way it appears on the bill. You can also give the phone number of the outage location. However, if your phone number has changed, and you have not updated your number with them, it will be of little use. Always be sure to alert your cooperative or power company when your phone number or mailing address changes.

Finally, check with your neighbors. Knowing whether their power is out is helpful to the dispatcher also.

We want to remind you that during an outage you may be directed to our automated outage answering service. You will be directed to the system only if all dispatchers are busy answering outage calls. Additionally, here are four helpful tips to keep in mind during an outage:

1.  Assemble an emergency kit. Have these items on hand and make sure they can last for at least 72 hours: a flashlight; candles and matches; batteries; a portable battery-powered radio; at least 1 gallon of water per person per day; non-perishable foods such as canned goods and granola bars; a manual can opener; an extra set of clothes; durable shoes; blankets; items to help pass the time, such as a deck of cards; a first aid kit that includes prescription drugs as needed; a whistle; and supplies such as duct tape and plastic so you can build a "shelter in place" if necessary. You can make smaller versions of this kit for your car or office and stock it with practical items for either setting.

2.  Take special steps if you have special needs. Do you rely on life-support equipment or other power-dependent equipment to maintain your health? If so, register with your cooperative. You also should put a plan in place, possibly involving an emergency standby generator for your home or an arrangement to stay at a health-care facility that has backup power. If you personally don't have special needs but can think of someone in your area who might, offer your assistance. Think about your elderly, disabled or non-English-speaking neighbors.

3.  Keep your refrigerated food safe. If the power goes out, try not to open your refrigerator or freezer doors so you don't lose cold air unnecessarily. The contents of a full fridge should keep for about six hours; the contents of a full freezer should last for as long as two days. Don't taste foods to see whether they're OK. Instead, follow these rules: Throw away any food items that become warmer than 41 degrees. And if you're in doubt about a food item, throw it out.

4.  Avoid shock and electrocution. Never do any of these things: operate a generator in rainy or wet conditions; touch a generator with wet hands; use electrical appliances that have gotten wet; touch exposed cables or electrical wires in your home; get near or touch downed or sagging power lines outside; or engage in an extremely dangerous practice known as "backfeeding," which involves connecting a generator to your home's wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet without the use of an appropriate power transfer switch.

5.  Alternative heat sources during power outages are great; however, your chances of carbon monoxide poisoning are much greater than that of freezing or hypothermia. Any type of heat other than electricity should be vented to provide oxygen and to safely remove exhaust fumes, gases and smoke. Do not burn anything larger than candles in your home without providing adequate ventilation to the outside. Do not ever operate generators indoors, not even in the garage. Operate them outside and connect them to your appliances via cables.   There are also ways to connect generators directly to your home's electric system, thereby allowing you to run some or all your appliances as you usually would; however, it is important that you seek professional guidance when installing this type of generator. Special equipment for such installations is required in order to prevent "back-feeding" into the power lines, which could cause serious injury to electric utility personnel.