Be Ready for Summer Storms
Planning ahead can make unplanned power outages less inconvenient
The past few months, we all have had to alter our lifestyles and think more about sustaining ourselves in our homes due to COVID-19.
It also is a good idea to be prepared for summer storms that may cause power outages, close roads, and cause other damage that may restrict travel from our neighborhood.
Northern Lights Inc.’s goal is to keep your power on all the time, but when it does go out, restore it as quickly and safely as possible. However, given our large, diverse, heavily treed service territory, there are times it could take a few hours or days to get power back on. Even with NLI line crews working around the clock, repairs are time-consuming, difficult, and often dangerous.
Please report your outage through our outage phone number or through the SmartHub app. This helps NLI dispatch verify the location and extent of an outage.
If you see any specific damage, such as lines on the ground, broken poles, or trees on lines, please provide that information. Remember to be safe and stay away from any damaged electrical equipment and lines.
Following are suggested ways to be prepared for an extended power outage:
Have a headlamp, flashlight, or battery-powered lantern easily available in your home. Have spare batteries or ensure they are charged. Many cellphones can be used for a flashlight, but you will likely want to save the battery power on your cellphone for checking weather updates and getting information. Small portable solar-rechargeable lanterns are a good solution as well. Although they are not as bright as other portable light sources, consider having candles and matches to light them. Do not leave burning candles unattended.
Charge portable battery chargers before a storm. There are many portable charging solutions to charge cellphones, tablets, and other USB devices, but these do not do you any good during an outage if they are not charged. Portable solar chargers are also available for charging USB devices. If the sun comes out after the storm and you are without power, these can be handy. If you are able to drive, you can use your car to charge devices while traveling.
Keep a supply of extra potable water on hand because many water systems require electricity to continue running. This could be store-bought bottles or jugs of water, or reusable jugs kept filled for an emergency. A rule of thumb for how much water a person needs is one gallon of drinking water per person per day. Do not forget about your pets. If the storm forecast predicts extensive damage and you rely on electricity to run a well or pump for water, consider filling a bathtub or large container with water. Use buckets of this water to create a vacuum flush in your toilet(s).
Although we generally do not heat our homes in the summer, storms often bring cooler weather. It is a good idea to have extra blankets and warm clothes available in the event you are unable to run your heat.
Keep easy-to-prepare food items on hand, such as canned foods, instant prepackaged pastas/rice, instant mashed potatoes, soups, and freeze-dried meals. Keep snacks on hand, such as protein bars, dried fruit, nuts, and meat snacks such as jerky or shelf-stable sausage. Make sure to have enough food for your pets.
Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible during a power outage. Food in a refrigerator will last 12 to 24 hours if the doors are kept closed. A full freezer can last 24 to 48 hours. You can drape a sleeping bag over your refrigerator or freezer for added insulation during an extended power outage.
Large empty jugs filled with water and placed in a partially full freezer ahead of an outage can be a supply of both water and ice in an emergency. A freezer stays colder longer if it is full, so fill that extra space with ice. Some grocery stores sell dry ice. Consider transferring food to a cooler if you have access to dry ice.
If you cannot use your stove due to an outage, consider using a camping stove, backpacking stove, or grill. Remember to keep extra fuel on hand for your portable stove or grill. Never use a camping stove indoors. Use in a well-ventilated area outside. A portable stove is great for heating water for freeze-dried meals or instant coffee.
Keep a first-aid kit and supplies in your home. This is a good practice year-round and not just for storm preparations. Remember to check and refresh the supplies in your first aid kit every year. If you or someone in your home has a medical condition that requires powered life support equipment, have a number of backup locations you can go or alternatives you can use.
If you have a generator, never plug it directly into your electrical panel! DO NOT connect household breaker circuits to the generator without a transfer switch installed by a licensed electrician. An incorrectly connected generator can be fatal to a lineman if it back feeds into one of NLI’s power lines and a lineman is working on it.
Outages can be a good time to play cards, board games, read, and spend time outside (if safe to do so after the storm passes). Keep games and other non-electronic entertainment items on hand at home.
NLI hopes none of us will need to use any of the above advice this summer, but should you experience an outage, please call NLI’s outage hotline at (866) 665-4837 or report your outage on SmartHub.
Northern Lights Engineering & Operations Manager Kristin Mettke is an electrical engineer and has worked in the electric utility industry most of her career.