What to do if the lights go out

The forecast calls for high winds and rain through Tuesday night, and that means power outages are likely when trees or their limbs topple. Power outages don’t seem like a big deal until they happen–then they are a pain in the you-know-what at best, and a serious health hazard at their worst.

Who do I call if the power goes out?

flashlight
Use flashlights, not candles, to prevent house fires.
  • Check your neighborhood to see if others are without power.
  • Call to report the power outage. Call only once to keep the line open for other customers.

For residents of the Seattle area, call Seattle City Light Power Outage Hotline at 206-684-7400.
For other King County residents, call Puget Sound Energy Customer Service at 1-888-225-5773 or report an outage online through your My PSE account at PSE.com.

What should I do when you see damaged or downed power lines in your neighborhood?

  • Don’t get near any fallen or sagging power line!
  • Call the utility company about the line.

What about people who are using life support equipment at home?

  • People who depend on electrical equipment to treat a health problem should have a plan in advance of a power outage.
  • In some cases, this may mean purchasing a back-up power supply such as a generator or going to a health care facility that has back-up power.
  • People who use life support equipment should register with the local utility. When they do this, the utility will make them a top priority for power supply repair and restoration.

How should I use a power generator?

  • For your safety, always follow the manufacturer’s instruction on the use of power generators.
  • Since most generators are powered by gasoline and can generate carbon monoxide gas, run them outdoors where the fumes will not cause illness.
  • Power generators should never be plugged into your home’s main electrical panel as this may result in serious injury or death to utility personnel working to restore power. Instead, plug the generator directly into the appliance you wish to use during the outage.

How long will the food in my refrigerator and freezer remain cold enough to prevent food borne illness?spoiled-food

  • Keep freezer and refrigerator doors closed to prevent the loss of cold air.
  • A fully loaded refrigerator may keep food fresh for about six hours.
  • A fully loaded freezer may keep food frozen for up to two days.
  • If any food in the refrigerator or freezer is warmer than 41° F, throw it out.

My power has been out for a while and my home is too cold. What are my options?

In a severe emergency or disaster, expect electric power to be out for several days. If that happens, consider relocating to a shelter or to a friend’s home where heat and power are available.

And one more important warning:

Never use charcoal, gas, or propane heaters indoors. Odorless, invisible fumes from charcoal, gas, and propane can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Using these heaters indoors can also increase the risk of fire.

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I am a risk communications specialist at Public Health - Seattle & King County.

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