Outage Preparedness

By Elissa Glassman

Reliable service is a priority at Northern Lights Inc (NLI). NLI crews continuously work to maintain equipment by removing trees from rights-of-way and upgrading the cooperative’s power system.

Sometimes Mother Nature strikes with severe and unusual weather. Sudden weather changes can create storms that may cause power outages. High winds causing downed trees and lightning are a few examples of natural conditions that can cause widespread damage to power equipment.

Given our large, diverse and heavily treed service territory, outages could last a few hours to several days. Even with crews working around the clock, repairs are time-consuming, difficult and often dangerous.

NLI members should be prepared with an easily accessible emergency kit in case of a lengthy power outage. Supplies should include:

  • A flashlight, headlamps, battery- or solar-powered lantern, radio and fresh batteries. Keep the batteries separate until you are ready to use them. Many cellphones can be used as a flashlight, but you should save the battery power on your phone for checking weather updates and getting information.
  • Candles and matches. Do not leave lit
    candles unattended.
  • Bottled drinking water. Store at least one gallon per person per day. If a storm is in the forecast, fill the bathtub with water so bathroom facilities can still be used by pouring a bucket of water down the toilet to create a vacuum flush.
  • If you have a fireplace or wood stove, keep kindling and dry firewood on hand.
  • Clothing. In cooler weather, wear extra
    layers and a hat. Have sleeping bags and
    blankets handy, too.
  • Easy-to-prepare food items. Buy items that do not require much cooking. Canned or instant soups, stews, chili, packaged freeze-dried meals, and protein or breakfast bars are good to have on hand.
  • Gas camp stoves, lanterns or barbecues. Make sure to have extra fuel for cooking outdoors. Never use a camp stove or barbecue indoors. Be sure to use any lanterns on a flat, stable and nonflammable surface.
  • An ample supply of essential prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs. During a storm, road travel may not be possible for several days.
  • A first-aid kit. Make sure all supplies are filled and ready to go. If you have a medical condition, have a backup plan to enact at a moment’s notice.
  • Games. Board games and cards are fun and handy to pass the time.

Power Outage Do’s & Don’ts

If the lights go off, know what steps to take to be comfortable and safe and to help NLI restore service quickly.

  • Check your electrical panel. Look for tripped breakers or blown fuses. Try to reset the breakers by switching them off, then on.
  • Call NLI’s toll-free outage reporting line at (866) 665-4837 and report the location of your outage. Be sure to report any flashes, bangs or trees in power lines to help repair crews locate damage.
  • Turn off major appliances. The water heater and heating-system breakers need to be turned off to avoid overloading your circuits when the power is restored. Unplug any voltage-sensitive equipment.
  • Install surge protectors to protect voltage-sensitive equipment. You can buy high-quality surge protection devices from a variety of online dealers and local electricians.
  • Switch on an outside light. This may assist crews in determining if your power has been restored late into the night.
  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed. 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. Helpful hint: Drape a sleeping bag over your refrigerator or freezer for added insulating value in case of an extended power outage.
  • Keep the freezer full. The freezer will stay colder longer if it is full. Milk jugs filled with water and placed in a half full freezer can be a supply of both water and ice in an emergency. Consider buying dry ice to help prevent spoilage.
  • Listen to radio reports. Keep either a battery-operated or battery-free (handcrank) radio on hand for emergencies. During an extended outage, listen to local radio stations for updates and information.
  • Never go near or touch a downed power line. Call NLI or the sheriff’s department immediately.
  • Never wire a portable generator directly into your electrical panel.

Important Outage Reminders

Remember these tips during an extended outage:

  • Let the repair crews do their job. It is tempting to stop crews and ask questions about when the power will be restored, but this only delays the restoration process. While the crews want to be helpful, they also want to restore your power quickly so they can get home to their families.
  • Be a good neighbor. Severe storms usually increase the number of accidents and medical problems. This can cause increased response time for service agencies. Organize people in your area to check on each other and lend assistance.
  • If not used correctly, portable generators can cause fatal accidents involving lineworkers. Plug appliances into the generator. Do not connect household breaker circuits to the generator without a transfer switch installed by a licensed electrician.
  • Investigate emergency water sources. Runoff from rooftops can be collected and used for washing, but do not drink it. A water heater can supply drinking water. Be sure the breaker is off before you drain it, and fill it before turning the breaker back on.

NLI crews work hard to keep your power on, but should you experience an outage, call NLI’s outage hotline at (866) 665-4837 or report your outage on SmartHub.