With tens of thousands of Oregonians facing potential power shut-offs this weekend, emergency officials are urging people to be prepared.
Andrew Phelps, director of the Oregon Department of Emergency Management, said when it comes to emergency response, every person’s contribution counts.
“For every one of us who is planned, ready and prepared, that’s only going to strengthen the ability of first responders to help folks who haven’t been able to prepare and need help the most,” he said during a news conference Thursday.
But what exactly should you do to prepare for a power outage? In some cases you might have advance notice from your utility — as is the case for at least 42,500 Oregonians bracing this weekend for planned safety outages. In other cases, a tree might fall on a power line and cut off electricity in an instant.
Phelps said no matter your situation, the earlier you can prepare, the better.
The first step: gather critical supplies.
That includes batteries, cellphone chargers, flashlights, nonperishable food, water and extra medication, Phelps said. Keep those items in a safe place along with key documents. Have a go-bag ready in case you need to evacuate.
Keep your cell phone charged, so you have a communication source for at least a few hours.
Phelps said it’s a good idea to connect with neighbors and identify community members who might need extra support.
If an outage strikes your home or apartment, be sure to keep the refrigerator door closed. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, food in the refrigerator can stay cold and safe to eat for four hours. Food in the freezer will still be safe for up to 48 hours.
Depending on how long the outage lasts, you might end up having to throw out spoiled food. FEMA recommends keeping a thermometer handy to gauge the temperature of your fridge. But if you’re in doubt about whether something is still good to eat or not, throw it out.
Under no circumstances should you try to use a generator inside your home, garage or shed, according to FEMA. The carbon monoxide generators produce can be deadly.
As with any emergency, communication is critical.
One of the most important steps Oregonians can take is to update their contact information with their utility service, said Kandi Young, public information officer with the Oregon Public Utilities Commission.
Young said utilities reach out directly to customers via cellphone and email, so it’s vital that information is up to date.
During outages, some utilities offer specialized support services to customers.
That’s the case with Pacific Power, which is offering community resource centers in impacted communities, said Allen Berreth, vice president of transmission and distribution operations.
Berreth said customers will find seating, ice, charging stations, air conditioning, water and food at the centers in Douglas, Marion and Lane counties.
While an outage can be frustrating and dangerous, patience is key.
“It’s important to keep in mind that restoring power might take time as we make sure areas are safe before re-energizing the lines,” Berreth said.
Phelps underscored that the window of time people have to prepare for an outage can close fast, especially during fast-moving weather events that escalate fire danger.
“If you get a notice to evacuate‚ the time to prepare, quite frankly, is over and now it’s time to act,” Phelps said.
Once the power comes back, Phelps said it’s a good idea to check in with neighbors and see how they’re doing.
While emergencies can strain people, families and communities, don’t stress out if you can’t complete everything on your preparedness list. Additional anxiety won’t be helpful in an emergency.
“This is really about doing what you can, where you are with what you have,” Phelps said.