How to deal with electrical outages
Power outages are a common occurrence during wind, snow or ice storms. Electrical power and other utilities are also likely to be off line for days at a time after a major earthquake. Know how to prepare ahead of time by checking with your local electrical utility and following the steps provided here.
Know your power provider
Washington County has three electrical utility providers, each with their own outage notification phone numbers and web sites:
- Portland General Electric– Outage phone number: 503-464-7777 or 800-544-1795
- Forest Grove Light and Power – Outage phone number during business hours: 503-992-3250 and after business hours: 503-412-2444
- West Oregon Electric Cooperative – Outage phone number: 503-429-3021 or 800-777-1276
Avoid downed power lines
- If you see a power line lying on the ground, do not touch it with anything -- stay back.
- Call your utility company immediately using the contact information above. Keep people and pets away.
- NEVER touch a downed power line.
- Electricity can travel through your body, causing serious injury or death.
- If you see a downed power line, take these precautions:
- Expect every power line to be "live." Electricity is invisible. The line does not have to spark or sizzle to carry electricity.
- If a power line is touching someone, stay away -- you cannot help. If you touch the person, you could become a victim, too.
- Call 9-1-1 for emergency help!
- If a power line falls across your vehicle, don't get out! Wait for emergency help to arrive.
Before an outage
- Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash and first aid supplies. Try to avoid using candles if at all possible. Open flames can easily ignite curtains or furniture.
- Make sure you have alternative charging methods for your phone or any device that requires power.
- Charge cell phones and any battery powered devices.
- Know where the manual release lever of your electric garage door opener is located and how to operate it.
- Purchase ice or freeze water-filled plastic containers to help keep food cold during a temporary power outage.
- Keep your car's gas tank full. Gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps. If you use your car to re-charge devices, do NOT keep the car running in a garage, partially enclosed space, or close to a home. This can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Check with your local electrical utility about outage notification procedures.
- If you rely on anything that is battery-operated or power dependent like a medical device determine a back-up plan.
If the power goes out
- Check your fuse or breaker box for blown fuses or tripped circuits. If they are okay, see if neighbors are without power.
- Call your utility provider immediately. You may be asked for information or hear a message if the situation has already been reported.
- Turn off all electrical equipment (e.g., water heater, electric furnace, heaters, stove, washer, dryer, TV) to prevent overloading the system when power is restored.
- Turn on a porch light and one inside light so you and utility crews will know when service is restored.
- Listen to the radio (battery or crank powered) for updates on major electrical outages.
- If your neighbors' power comes back on but yours does not, call your utility company again.
Tips for staying warm
Outages can occur at any time of year but during cold weather, the temperature inside your home can drop rapidly. Tips for staying warm:
- Save Body Heat - Wear a hat, even while sleeping. Wear loose layers of clothing to trap body heat. Use blankets and a hot water bottle if you are able to heat water.
- Lock in Home Heat - Pick one room (on the sunny side of the house) and close it off to keep the heat in.
Other household tips
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. Most food requiring refrigeration can be kept safely in a closed refrigerator for several hours. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours.
- Turn off or disconnect appliances and other equipment in case of a momentary power "surge" that can damage computers and other devices. Consider adding surge protectors.
- If you are considering purchasing a generator for your home, consult an electrician or engineer before purchasing and installing.
- Only use generators away from your home and NEVER run a generator inside a home or garage, or connect it to your home's electrical system.
- Avoid using BBQ or camp stoves indoors.