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Preparing for a Power Outage

Outage_Emergency_SuppliesWhen an electrical outage occurs, whether it’s from bad weather, a downed tree limb, an accident, or for some other reason, PSNH works as quickly and safely as possible to repair it. However, should you and your family need to “weather” an extended outage, here are some preparations that can keep you more comfortable for the duration and even save your life.

With the first signs of an approaching hurricane or winter storm, please make sure PSNH has your up-to-date contact information, so we can get in touch before, during and after the storm.

Cold weather: What special preparations must you make for a cold weather outage?

  • Prepare alternative sources of heat. Even a gas or oil furnace needs electricity to operate, so if you have a fireplace or wood stove as an alternative heat source, be sure you have enough wood.
  • And if you have no alternative heat, you can call your local fire or police department or local Red Cross chapter to locate an emergency shelter, if needed.
  • In frigid weather, if your power is likely to be out for more than a few days, you may want to call your plumber and ask about draining your home's water pipes so they don't freeze and burst.
  • Fill your car's gas tank. You never know where you may need to go. What's more, your automobile can be a place to get warm, as long as you keep it well ventilated and don't go to sleep while the motor is running.

Hot weather: What do you need for a hot weather outage?

  • Set aside plenty of extra drinking water for yourself, your family, and your pets.
  • Stock up on extra ice to help maintain cold temperatures in your freezer and refrigerator as long as possible. Use plastic bags filled with ice (or water, if you have enough time to freeze it) in the freezer. Use block ice, if possible, in the refrigerator. And should the ice melt, you can drink the water.

Food and cooking: How will you cook?

  • Be prepared to cook outside. You can use charcoal or propane grills or even a camping cook-stove. Do not bring grills inside!
  • Allow yourself plenty of extra time for this type of cooking and plan to have dinner completed during daylight hours.
  • Stock up on non-perishable food items like canned, bottled and pre-packaged foods that could be quickly heated up or even eaten out of the package.
  • Foods in your refrigerator and freezer should be consumed quickly, particularly in the event of a potentially lengthy outage, before they have a chance to spoil.

Bathroom and personal hygiene: How will you flush the toilet?

  • Set aside water, especially if you depend on a well/water pump that might be disabled during a storm.
  • Sanitize and fill spare containers with water for drinking.
  • Fill your bathtub with water for use in the toilet. (A bucket of water poured in the toilet bowl is all that's needed for flushing.)

Medical: What if someone in your household relies on power for life support machines?

  • If you are on electrically operated life support systems or special equipment for heart or kidney problems, we urge you to notify PSNH in advance of any outages by completing the Physician's Certification Form.
  • Once we receive this form, your account will be noted. Should you ever have to notify us of an electrical outage at your home, we can make sure you're kept informed of the duration of the outage. Please email or call 1-800-662-7764 for more details on registering for this service.

Pets: Are there special preparations to consider for your pets?

  • Make sure you have extra food and water supplies for any and all pets.
  • Tag your dogs and cats so if they are lost you can be contacted.
  • Have extra medications on hand if necessary.
  • Any pet medications need to be refrigerated? Plan to store them in a small cooler with ice.

Stocking up: What general household items can you stock up on any time that can make surviving a lengthy power outage much easier?

  • Oil lamps, candles, camping lights
  • Battery operated radio
  • Flashlights, one for every family member
  • Fresh batteries
  • Non-perishable food items
  • Bottled water, juice
  • Propane for an outdoor grill or camp stove (do not use grills or camp stoves indoors)
  • Extra ice for your freezer, refrigerator and coolers.
  • Extra gasoline if you have a generator. A portable electric generator can be a valuable backup source of power to operate your furnace and appliances. Just be sure you have it installed by a professional.
  • Matches
  • First aid kit
  • Emergency numbers – fire, police, doctor, Red Cross for emergency shelters
  • A cooler for holding perishables
  • Waterless antibacterial hand sanitizer
  • Paper goods: paper plates, paper towels, plastic ware

Contacts: Will you be able to use a phone? Who will you call in an emergency?

  • Keep a landline phone in your home – cordless phones do not work in an outage.
  • Report a power outage online or call 1-800-662-7764 -- 24/7.
  • Keep a list of emergency numbers near a phone and in your mobile phone: Red Cross, fire, police, family doctor.
  • Red Cross, fire, and police can help you locate a shelter if you need to relocate.

Extras: What are you forgetting?

  • In advance of a severe storm, put refrigerator and freezer at coldest settings. Do this a half day before the storm is scheduled to hit. Keep a blanket handy to throw over these appliances for added insulation, if need be. (Return settings to their normal position as soon as the crisis has passed.)
  • Plan to live without everyday tools that require electricity to function:
    • know how to manually open an electronically controlled garage door
    • have a manual (non-electric) can opener for backup
    • use a sump pump to clear water from your basement? Be prepared to call the local fire department for help if you lose power for very long and water collects in your basement.
  • Do any of your family’s medications require refrigeration? Pets’ medications? Be sure you know if these items will be affected by a prolonged interruption of power. Talk with your pharmacist ahead of time. Keep a small cooler handy.
  • Periodically back up computer data to prevent loss during a sudden outage.
  • Invest in an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). During a momentary power outage, the UPS will continue to provide power to your personal computer. (A UPS is not designed to operate a computer indefinitely, only long enough to allow users time to save their work and shut down properly.)
  • Plug sensitive computer and electronic equipment into surge suppressors or surge protectors. A surge suppressor diverts excessive electrical energy away from your equipment to an electrical "ground" where it disappears without doing any harm.
  • If you don’t have surge protectors/suppressors, unplug your sensitive equipment. Voltage irregularities can occur for any number of reasons during or after a storm, especially if there has been damage on or near your home. The safest thing to do is to unplug any sensitive electrical devices (TV, VCR, stereo, microwave, computer, answering machine, garage door opener, etc.).

Some of the items on the above lists can be done well in advance of any outage, while others can be done one or two days before a major storm is forecast.

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