On Friday, April 22nd, 2011 the St. Louis metro area was hit with at least two tornadoes, which tore through several communities including Bridgeton, Maryland Heights, Berkeley, Edmundson, St. Ann and Ferguson as well as St. Louis Lambert International Airport. Major damage was sustained in these areas, also resulting in thousands of power outages. Though St. Louis, for the most part, has been fortunate in escaping tornadic activity, other storm-related power outages are quite common in the spring and summer months. Therefore, every citizen should be aware of safety procedures that will provide the best protection for their families during a power outage.
Following are several safety tips to keep in mind following a severe storm:
- Never use a generator, or any propane powered appliance, indoors, even if you are opening windows or using fans to circulate the air. Generators can build up poisonous carbon monoxide, which can not be detected by human senses. A generator should only be placed outdoors and kept away from windows and doors where carbon monoxide may enter your home. If you begin to feel dizzy, fatigued or otherwise sick when using a generator, go outdoors to fresh air immediately. Call the fire department for suspicion of carbon monoxide build up and seek medical attention for your symptoms. Equipping your home with a carbon monoxide detector is also a good safety measure, though it should not be relied upon exclusively for protection.
- Never go near a downed power line. Report any downed wires to Ameren Electric immediately. If someone is injured by a downed power line, do not touch the person as the electrical current can transfer to you. If it appears that you can not wait for emergency responders to arrive, use only a wood or plastic object to move the wire away from the injured person. Avoid all metal objects as they conduct electricity. Seek medical help immediately.
- When lighting candles, count the number of candles you will be using before you light them. Write that number down in a highly visible spot, and make sure you blow out the same number of candles before you go to bed.
- Make sure candles are burned in glass jars and that all flammable objects are moved away from the candle. Do not place your lit candle near an open window, where a breeze may blow the flame or embers toward flammable objects, including kitchen cabinets, curtains or other furnishings. Furthermore, if you have pets that may jump up or otherwise interfere with the placement of lit candles, use flashlights or push lights as an alternative.
- Exercise extreme caution before trying to light the burners of a gas stove that is normally lit by electric ignition. Some models are not equipped for manual lighting, so you need to consult your owner’s manual or contact the manufacturer first. However, to avoid burns or causing an explosion, it is best to avoid using your gas burners until the power is safely restored. Consider consuming perishable foods first, to both exercise safety and reduce waste from food spoilage.
- Do not consume any food that has been kept in a refrigerator for more than two hours. If it looks like your electricity will be out longer than two hours, move all perishable foods into coolers, packed with ice. Do not consume any food that reaches a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit. You may determine this by using a food thermometer. Consider using up chicken, hamburger, fish and other freezer perishables on an outdoor grill before switching to refrigerated foods.
- Tune in to local news broadcasts via radio or by visiting sites that still have power, and listen for any boil order instructions. When power outages occur, they can sometimes interrupt the normal safety guidelines put in place by water companies. When this happens, water that has not been properly cleaned for human consumption, can sometimes reach our home pipeline system. In such cases, water will need to be brought to a full boil to remove any contaminates. To avoid all possible power outage related contamination, you may wish to use bottled water to prepare infant formula
- Regardless of warm temperatures during the day, make sure you have an adequate supply of clothing and blankets for the overnight hours when temperatures may drop. Precautions should be taken for children and elderly citizens, especially, since they can lose body heat quickly. Do not use blankets for infants, however. Dress infants in layers of clothing and if necessary, use a Halo Sleepsack wearable blanket, for the evening hours.
While power outages are a nuisance, they are a part of life. During these times, it’s important to exercise caution, so that the power outage does not become more deadly than the original storm that caused it.
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