IF THE LIGHTS GO OUT
If you lose electrical service during the winter, follow these tips:
1. Call your utility company first to report the power outage and determine area repair schedules. Turn off or unplug lights, appliances, and furnace to prevent a circuit overload when service is restored. Leave one light on to indicate power has been restored.
2. To help prevent freezing pipes, turn the water off to your home or turn on faucets slightly. Running water will not freeze as quickly.
3. Protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning:
DO NOT operate generators indoors; the motor emits deadly carbon monoxide gas.
DO NOT use charcoal to cook indoors. It, too, can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide gas.
DO NOT use your gas oven to heat your home – prolonged use of an open oven in a closed house can create carbon monoxide gas.
Make sure fuel space heaters are used with proper ventilation.
4. Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to help reduce food spoilage. As a rule, as long as you do not open the doors, a freezer that is half-full should remain in tact for 24 hours, and freezer that is totally full 48 hours. If the power is going to be off for substantial amount of time, take your food out of the refrigerator or freezer and place it in a cooler outside of your home. As long as the temperature outside remains freezing or below, you should be able to maintain your food’s quality.
What Carbon Monoxide Does to You
Too much carbon monoxide in your blood will kill you. Most of us know to try to avoid this. Less well known is the fact that low-level exposure to this gas also endangers your health. One of the truths of our human bodies is that, given a choice between carbon monoxide and oxygen, the protein hemoglobin in our blood will always latch on to carbon monoxide and ignore the life-giving oxygen. Because of this natural chemical affinity, our bodies – in effect – replace oxygen with carbon monoxide in our bloodstream, causing greater or lesser levels of cell suffocation depending on the intensity and duration of exposure.
The side effects that can result from this low-level exposure include permanent organ and brain damage. Infants and the elderly are more susceptible than healthy adults, as are those with anemia or heart disease. The symptoms of low-level carbon monoxide poisoning are so easily mistaken for those of the common cold, flu or exhaustion, that proper diagnosis can be delayed. Because of this, be sure to see you physician about persistent, flu-like symptoms, chronic fatigue or generalized depression. If blood levels of carbon monoxide are found to be high, treatment is important. Meanwhile, it makes good sense to put heating system inspection and maintenance on your annual get-ready-for winter list.
Prevention is the best cure.