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Summer Power Outages: 9 Actions to Take

Summer Power Outages: 9 Actions to Take

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Weather is one of the leading causes of power outages in the US. While some are related to severe storms, others are caused by excess power demands due to extreme heat.

Elsewhere, we’ve outlined commonsense steps to take when the power goes out, but summertime outages pose special challenges and risks. Winter outages tend to be more dangerous overall, but there are significant spikes in heat-related hospitalizations and deaths during every significant summer outage.

To protect your family and home, follow these practical precautions:

  1. Turn off or unplug appliances and electronic devices. Make sure you also turn off air conditioners, ceiling fans, and freestanding fans. Air conditioning equipment in particular draws a significant amount of power, which can lead to dangerous overloads when power is restored.
  2. Protect refrigerators and freezers. In extremely hot weather, refrigerated food can begin to deteriorate in just a few hours. Keep refrigerators and freezers closed as much as possible, and wrap them in quilts or blankets to add an insulating layer to keep cool air inside. Use a food thermometer to confirm food temperature and dispose of anything with a reading higher than 40 degrees F.
  3. Consume fluids. Remove bottled water and drinks and place them in a cool spot, so you can access them readily without opening the refrigerator. Consume water steadily throughout the day, and reduce caffeine intake because it acts as a diuretic.
  4. Ventilate. Encourage cross ventilation by opening windows and doors at opposite ends of the room or house.
  5. Reduce solar heat gain. During the day, close blinds and drapes to block sunlight and minimize heat buildup. At night, open blinds, drapes and windows to draw in cooler night air.
  6. Dress comfortably. Wear light, comfortable layers that are easy to remove if you get hot.
  7. Cool off. Take a cool shower, sponge off or go for a swim. To maximize the cooling effect, don’t dry off, just let the moisture evaporate. Moisten a cloth, drape it around your neck and repeat as necessary.
  8. Adjust your activities. Pursue quiet activities (or take a nap) during peak heat, and shift demanding physical tasks to early morning and late evening when temperatures are cooler. Avoid over-exertion and scale back physical activity as much as possible. Spend as much time as possible in the coolest room, preferably one with windows for air flow.
  9. Be alert to signs of dehydration and heat distress. Heat distress encompasses everything from mild discomfort to heat stroke, which can be life threatening. Be proactive and respond immediately to early symptoms such as thirst, headache, light-headedness and fatigue. Slowly and steadily rehydrate by drinking plain water or sports drinks with electrolytes. Seek immediate medical help if anyone stops perspiring or begins running a fever.
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