Erie, Pa. (WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — As the upcoming winter storm approaches Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) reminds households of the steps that they can take in order to prepare for, as well as recover safely from, storm-related power outages.
The PUC also cautions residents to give utility crews ample room to perform their repair work – for your protection as well as theirs – and to use extra care while traveling, watching for utility crews working along streets and roads and slowing down in work areas.
PUC Chairman Gladys Brown Dutrieuille notes that time spent on planning and preparing before a storm can go a long way toward keeping yourself and your family safe when severe weather hits.
Below are some helpful tips by the Pennsylvania PUC.
Storm Preparation Tips
- Know Your Utility Hotlines – Write down, print or save toll-free outage hotlines for your electric utility and/or your natural gas utility, which are listed on your monthly bills and posted on the PUC website.
- Save Utility Website Address – Your utility’s outage reporting system can provide updates on repair and restoration efforts. Bookmark these electric utility outage sites and natural gas company websites.
- Keep Your Cell Phone Charged – A well-charged phone will keep you in contact with your utility, other emergency services and family members during any power outage.
- Secure Supplies – Keep necessary food, medicine and other supplies on-hand, including batteries for flashlights.
Power Outage Tips
- Call Your Utility Hotline to Report Outages – Do not assume that the utility already knows about your outage or that others have already called.
- Keep Clear of Wires – Do NOT touch or approach any fallen lines.
- Stay Away from Objects or Puddles in contact with downed power lines.
- Do NOT Try to Remove Trees or Limbs from power lines.
- Pre-Charge Cellular Phones or keep a portable cell phone charger on hand. Plan to use a corded phone, cordless phones won’t work without electricity.
- Do NOT Call 9-1-1 to Report Power Outages – report those to your utility. Calling 9-1-1 to report non-emergency issues like service outages can take resources away from other emergencies. SPECIAL NOTE: If you see a downed power line, immediately call your electric utility and/or 9-1-1.
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Safety while waiting for power to be restored
- Use Flashlights or Battery-Operated Lanterns for emergency lighting. Do not use candles or other potential fire hazards.
- Turn Off Lights and Electrical Appliances except for the refrigerator and freezer. When power comes back on, it may come back with momentary “surges” or “spikes” that can damage equipment.
- Leave One Light On – After you turn the lights off, turn one lamp on so you will know when power is restored. Wait at least 15 minutes after power is restored before turning on other appliances.
- Use Generators Safely – If you use a generator, do NOT run it inside a home or garage or anywhere close to a window or vent. Also, connect the equipment you want to operate directly to the outlets on the generator, not your home’s electrical system, which could shock or injure utility crews working on nearby power lines. Additional generator tips are available here.
- Check on Elderly Neighbors and those with special needs who might need additional assistance.
Natural Gas Safety Tips
- Check Gas Appliances – Electric power outages can affect home appliances that operate on natural gas. If they do not function properly when power is restored, call a professional for service.
- Evacuate if You Smell Natural Gas – Get everyone out of the building immediately.
- Leave the Door Open and Do NOT Use Phones; do NOT switch lights or appliances on or off; and do NOT take any other action while inside the building.
- Call 9-1-1 from a safe location – After you are safely outside, call 9-1-1 from your cell phone or neighbor’s home.
According to the PUC, they continuously monitor utility issues and works closely with the governor’s office and other state agencies involved in Pennsylvania’s coordinated storm response.