The Public Utility Commission Monday reminded residents across the state that preparation and awareness are essential parts of winter storm safety. The Commission also offered a series of pre-storm and utility emergency tips as winter storm Stella approaches, along with a short video featuring storm safety information.
“It is important to take a few minutes to address some key pre-storm items to help keep yourself and your family secure during the worst weather,” said Chairman Gladys M. Brown. “Additionally, when a winter storm hits, consumers should understand what they can and should do to stay safe and to help ensure that storm-related problems are addressed as quickly as possible.”
-- Write down, print or save toll-free outage hotlines for your electric utility and/or your natural gas utility, which are listed on the PUC website.-- Save the Internet address for your utility’s outage reporting system, which can provide updates on repair and restoration efforts. Those electric utility outage sites and natural gas company websites are available on the PUC website.
-- Keep your cell phone charged, so you can contact your utility, other emergency services and family members during any power outage.
-- Secure necessary food, medicine and other supplies, including batteries for flashlights.
Chairman Brown noted that there is an extensive amount of behind-the-scenes work whenever a storm bears down on Pennsylvania. Utilities put their plans into motion; crews and equipment are positioned for quick response to outages; and communication with emergency management coordinators is enhanced.
During storm emergencies, the PUC continuously monitors utility issues and works closely with the Governor’s Office and the other state agencies involved in Pennsylvania’s coordinated storm response.
Should you lose power during a storm, the PUC offers the following tips:
-- Call your utility hotlines. Do not assume that the utility already knows about your outage or that neighbors have already called.
-- Use a phone that does not require electricity, such as a cellular phone or corded phone. Cordless phones won’t work without electricity.
-- Do NOT call 9-1-1 to report power outages. Those calls take dispatchers away from other emergencies and can also slow a storm response because you're not talking directly to the utility.
-- SPECIAL NOTE: If you have a downed power line or another hazardous situation, call 9-1-1 and then contact your utility.
-- Do NOT touch or get near any fallen lines, and stay away from objects or puddles in contact with downed power lines.
-- Do NOT try to remove trees or limbs from power lines.
-- Turn off lights and electrical appliances (except for the refrigerator and freezer). When power comes back on, it may come back with momentary "surges" or "spikes" that can damage equipment.
-- After you turn the lights off, turn one lamp on so you will know when power is restored. Wait at least 15 minutes after power is restored before turning on other appliances.
-- Use flashlights or battery-operated lanterns for emergency lighting. Do not use candles or other potential fire hazards.
-- If you use a generator, do NOT run it inside a home or garage. Also, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator, not your home's electrical system, which could shock or injure utility crews working on nearby power lines. Additional generator tips are available here.
-- Check on elderly neighbors and those with special needs who might need additional assistance.
Chairman Brown also noted that consumers using natural gas appliances should also follow these additional safety tips:
-- Keep outside vents for your natural gas furnace or other gas appliances clear any accumulation of snow or ice. The vents provide air flow necessary for safe operation and blocked vents can lead to a dangerous build-up of carbon monoxide.
-- Carefully clear deep snow away from the area around your gas meter to allow utility access and to prevent potential disruptions of service, but keep snow blowers and plows away from the gas meter.
-- Electric power outages can affect gas furnaces and other appliances. If they do not function properly when power is restored call a professional for service.-- If you smell natural gas, get everyone out of the building immediately. Leave the door open and do NOT use phones, switch lights or turn appliances on or off, or take any other action while inside the building. After you are safely outside, call 9-1-1 from your cell phone or neighbor’s home.