Despite the record-breaking warmth seen across the east coast states this year, storm-related power outages are a real threat for home and business owners alike. According to recent studies, the number of these outages has dramatically increased in the last twenty years.

Climate Central, an independent organization of leading scientists dedicated to reporting climate changes across the country, has issued a recent report spotlighting the prevalence and effects of severe winter storms. They report that 2014 saw a record number of severe storm-related power outages. The organization defines a major power outage as “a loss of electrical power for at least 50,000 people for at least an hour, or where the power supply interruption reached at least 300 megawatts, or where demand exceeded supply by at least 100 megawatts.”

Between 2012 and 2013, 80 percent of all power outages were weather-related. The organization further breaks down the data by tearing apart the outages and reporting on the specific weather that precipitated the break in electrical power. The breakdown was listed as follows.

Causes of Weather-Related Power Outages Between 2012-2013

  1. Storms and Extreme Weather: 59 percent
  2. Severe Cold and Ice Storms: 19 percent
  3. Hurricanes and Tropical Storms: 18 percent
  4. Tornados: 3 percent
  5. Extreme Heat and Wildfires: 2 percent

In the event of a weather-related power outage, there are two main concerns - heating your home and heating your body effectively and safely. These power outages have the capability to render your home’s heating system inoperative for days or weeks. Preparing for the crisis ahead of time by installing alternative heating options like an ethanol fireplaces and devising a survival plan of action for your family will minimize suffering and increase the wellbeing of everyone in your home.

Survival Tips for Staying Warm During Power Outages

  1. Alternative Heating Options: When your heating system is down for days, the most immediate priority becomes finding alternative heating options. Ethanol fireplaces, oil stoves, space heaters, and gas-fired water heaters are all excellent sources of alternative heat for your home.
  2. Focus On A Single Room: Focusing on a single room is key to optimizing the minimal heat you have during a power outage. Choose a room that is small, well insulated, and located on the warm or sunny side of the home. The bathroom and the basement are ideal options due to the least amount of heat leakage and the highest level of insulation. Avoid choosing rooms with large windows or uninsulated walls.
  3. Insulate Effectively: The key to conserving heat is proper insulation. During a power outage, conserve the heat you do have by hanging bedding or heavy drapes over entryways. Move the shower curtain from the bathroom to your window to provide insulation without blocking sunlight. For extreme cold, build temporary partitions with cardboard or plywood and place in front of windows and entryways.

The chance of freezing to death in your home during a weather-related power outage is incredibly unlikely. Far more likely are the risks associated with asphyxiation from lack of oxygen and carbon monoxide poisoning. Therefore, understanding and addressing the safety concerns that stem from alternative heating options during a storm is crucial to your family’s survival.

Safety Tips for Heating Your Home During a Storm

  1. Fire Prevention: Fire safety is the top priority when using alternative heating options. Take heed of the following suggestions and stay safe. Never burn anything larger than a candle without proper ventilation. Never run emergency stove piping close to flammable materials such as drapes, curtains, and shades. Never use outdoor barbecue materials to heat your home during a power outage. Never use bottled gas with a natural gas appliance unless you have previously converted your natural gas appliance to bottled gas. Keep firefighting materials such as a fire extinguisher, dry powder, tarps and heavy blankets, salt sand, and water available. If burning alternative heat, designate family members to stay awake at night to keep watch for fires.
  2. Staying Warm: Conserving your body heat is key to remaining mentally and physically alert and prepared to handle any obstacles that present themselves. Your body loses the majority of its heat through your head. Every family member should be wearing warm hats. Furthermore, dress everyone in layers to conserve body heat. This means a couple of pairs of pants, long sleeved shirts, and thick sweaters. Invest in chemical hand and feet warmers to keep your extremities warm. Eat before bed. This will keep your body digesting food while you sleep and this extra effort on your body’s part will keep you slightly warmer while you sleep.
  3. Trapping Your Home’s Warmth: Trapping your home’s warmth is the third aspect of staying safe during a weather-related power outage. The trick is maximizing the heat of the room you’re in. Move all the rugs and carpets in your home into the room you are staying in to prevent heat from escaping through the floors. Avoid opening and closing the doors to prevent heat from escaping. Use duct tape or painter’s tape to seal all windows. Use sunlight whenever possible. Keep the family close to large windows to maximize the power of the sun.

Preparing for a weather-related power outage is a matter of equipping your home with alternative heating options and stocking up on needed supplies for an unexpected emergency. With preparation, winter storm-related power outages can be a hassle, instead of a life threatening crisis situation.

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