FEMA Press Release

POWER OUTAGES AND DISASTER PLANNING: Lightening the Load if the Lights Go Out

SEATTLE -- June is National Safety Month, with the week of 19 June set aside to stress the importance of emergency preparedness planning.  That same week is observed annually as National Lightning Safety Awareness Week.  According to FEMA Regional Director John Pennington, while Pacific Northwest communities generally enjoy a pretty robust infrastructure, complacency is a recipe for disaster.

"Our region is prone to a variety of natural disasters, ranging from thunderstorms and resulting lightning strikes, to seasonal flooding, wildfires, earthquakes, and even volcanic activity.  Nor can we rule out the threat of terrorism" warns Pennington. "Power grids, generating plants, transformer stations, power poles and even buried cable are vulnerable.  As families and businesses review their disaster plans and emergency kits, emergency power needs should rank right up there with food, water, first aid kits and shelter."

Candles may add a spark of adventure during power failures but are dangerous.  Flashlights and electric lanterns are safer by far.  Battery operated radios and clocks are other essentials, along with a supply of fresh batteries.  If electric wheel chairs or electric life support devices are part of the equation, consider extra battery packs or a prearranged agreement from local police or fire stations for priority support.

During a power outage, resist the temptation to call 9-1-1 for information -- that's what your battery-powered radio is for.  Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to prevent food spoilage.  Turn off electric appliances to protect against power surges when power is restored.  Turn off all lights but one (to alert you when power resumes).  Plan on cell phones or corded phones for emergency calls-- cordless phones require electricity.  Don't plug emergency generators into electric outlets or hook them directly to your home's electrical system, as they can feed electricity back into the power lines, putting you and line workers in danger.  Keep your car fuel tank at least half-full (gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps).

When the power comes back on, wait a few minutes before turning on major appliances, to help eliminate problems that could occur if there's a sharp increase in demand. If you think that electric power has been restored to your area but your home is still without power, call your local power company.

FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities, works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.