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How to prepare for ice storms and winter power outages

A little rain and temperatures hovering around 32 degrees are the right blend for an ice storm that can bring down trees and power lines. While ice-covered branches may be beautiful, heavy ice accumulation will pull down utility wires, disrupting electric and communication services.

“A power line does not need to be sparking or arcing to be energized, even if it’s sagging close to or on the ground, and other utility lines can also become energized by being in contact with an electrical line,” says former lineman Richard McCracken, member of the Safe Electricity Board. “Lines that appear to be “dead” can become energized as crews work to restore power, or sometimes from improper use of emergency generators. It’s best to assume all low and downed lines are energized and dangerous.”

Tipmont REMC and Safe Electricity stress the importance of being prepared for these potentially dangerous storms and the potential power outages that they may cause. Having the right supplies and knowing how to stay warm safely are keys to weathering a winter storm emergency.

  • Always keep a battery-powered radio or TV, flashlights, and a supply of fresh batteries in case of an emergency.
  • Know where to find extra blankets.
  • Fill spare containers with water for washing, and keep a supply of bottled drinking water on hand.
  • Keep a supply of non-perishable food items, along with a hand opener for canned food.
  • Switch off lights and appliances to prevent overloading circuits and damaging appliances when power is restored. Leave one lamp or switch on as a signal for when your power returns.
  • To prevent water pipes from freezing, keep faucets turned on slightly so that water drips from the tap. Know how to shut off water valves just in case a pipe bursts.
  • Check on elderly or disabled friends and neighbors.


“Never use a charcoal grill to cook or heat with inside the home,” adds McCracken “Burning charcoal gives off deadly carbon monoxide gas. Charcoal grills should only be used outdoors.”

Assemble a disaster supply kit ahead of time that includes needed items. Don’t forget to include a first aid kit, prescription medicines and special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members.

Maintaining warmth is a priority during a winter emergency. Loss of body heat or hypothermia can be life threatening.

  • Stay inside and dress warmly in layered clothing.
  • Close off unneeded rooms.
  • When using an alternate heat source, follow operating instructions, use fire safeguards and be sure to properly ventilate.


If you use a standby generator, make sure it has a transfer safety switch or that your power is cut off at the breaker box before you operate it. This prevents electricity from traveling back through the power lines or what’s known as “back feed.” Back feed creates danger for anyone near lines, particularly crews working to restore power.

For more information on generator safety and electrical safety tips, visit www.SafeElectricity.org. Safe Electricity is a program of the Energy Education Council www.EnergyEdCouncil.org.

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