The following tips offer advice on preparing and “weathering” a New England storm and its aftermath. We recommend you print a copy of this page and keep it with your emergency supplies.
Before a Storm
- Maintain a landline as a backup because most cordless phones won't work if the power goes out.
- Have a portable radio, flashlights, and a supply of batteries available. Flashlights are always safer than candles, especially around small children.
- Keep extra blankets or sleeping bags handy.
- Keep a supply of bottled water on hand, especially if your water supply depends on electricity (e.g., a private well). Also, keep spare containers ready to fill if a severe storm is forecast.
- Keep a three-day supply of canned or dried foods on hand. These can be heated easily and many can be eaten cold; however, you will also need a hand-operated can opener because an electric unit won’t work if the power goes out.
- Keep a supply of canned fuel (e.g., Sterno®) on hand if you cook with electricity. Never use a camp stove, charcoal or gas grill indoors because of the risk of fire and carbon monoxide buildup.
Snow and ice can damage gas meters and pipes. Use a broom to keep gas service equipment clear during the winter. Chimneys and vents for gas appliances must be cleared following a major snow or ice storm to ensure proper venting and prevent carbon monoxide build-up inside your dwelling.
- Do not use a shovel to keep equipment clear of snow and ice because it can damage the meter.
- Do not shovel snow up against the meter or vent pipe.
- Remove icicles from overhead eaves and gutters to prevent dripping water from splashing and freezing on the meter or vent pipe.
- Do not kick your gas meter to break or clear ice
- Do not plow snow or ice against your meter
During a Storm
- Monitor your emergency supplies and equipment to ensure that you are prepared for an extended outage.
- A full freezer will keep food frozen upwards of 36 hours if the door is kept shut.
- A half-full freezer will keep its contents frozen for about 24 hours.
- Limit the opening of your freezer or refrigerator door when the power is out.
- Keep warm by covering your head, hands and feet. Several layers of light clothing work better than a single heavy layer.
- Do not use an unvented kerosene space heater inside your dwelling. A fireplace or additional layers of clothing are better alternatives for staying warm during a power outage.
- Do not use a gas range to heat your home.
Hypothermia is a serious medical condition with symptoms that include confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. It is caused by exposure to the cold, most often, because of inclement weather. Several factors contribute to how well your body maintains its normal temperature – air temperature, wind, clothing, intensity of activity and the body’s ability to adapt to compensate for the cold environment. If you begin to experience these symptoms seek medical attention:
- Get in out of the cold
- Remove cold, wet clothing
- Use warm blankets to begin restoring the body’s temperature to normal
- Replenish fluids
- Shut off or disconnect most of your lights and all of your appliances which will automatically be energized once the power is restored. If many appliances come on at once, an electrical overload of your circuits may occur.
In the event of a flood, if your basement or other enclosed space has standing water, shut off power to all appliances in that location but ONLY if you can do so safely. A safety hazard exists when your service panel is either surrounded or affected by standing or running water. Contact a qualified electrician immediately to respond to the electrical concern with a flooded space.
Ensure that wetted appliances or electrical equipment are dry by having a qualified electrician inspect them prior to reuse.
Do not use fishing waders, rubber boots or household rubber gloves to insulate you from electricity. These do not provide a sufficient insulation value to protect you from electric shock.
Do not turn on the power until the space is emptied of water.
Never attempt to remove fuses, switch open circuit breakers or operate switches while standing in water.
Be aware of the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning from gas appliances.
- Home appliances make our lives easier, but they must be properly installed and maintained to keep you and others in your dwelling safe. Gas appliances that are not getting a sufficient supply of air can release carbon monoxide, a dangerous gas. Watch for things like yellow flames, flickering flames or soot that might indicate an appliance with a problem. Installing a carbon monoxide detector can help detect this odorless and colorless gas before it becomes a dangerous concern.
- Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
- Heart flutters
- If you experience symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, take the following actions immediately:
- Open the windows to ventilate the dwelling.
- Turn off any gas appliance that is operating improperly.
- Contact your local fire department.
For more information on gas safety, please contact us at 866-933-3820 888-301-7700 866-933-3821.
Emergency generators can be a helpful tool by providing electricity during a power outage.
- Have your generator installed by a licensed electrician qualified to do so, and have the work reviewed by the local municipal wiring inspector. Improperly installed generators can energize lines outside your home believed to be inactive by utility workers. The back-up generator should be installed to receive power from either your utility or the generator, but never both at the same time.
- Check the operation, adequacy and maintenance (e.g., fuel supply, filter, coolant levels) of your emergency generators and battery systems. To identify potential problems before the time of need, test emergency generation under full-load conditions.
- Generators should be located outside and have appropriate venting because generators exhaust carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a deadly, silent, odorless gas. Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home and be alert to the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, which are sudden nausea, cherry red lips or headaches. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, leave the area to get fresh air.
Portable Space Heaters
Portable space heaters can provide comfort during an outage, but need to be treated safely. When buying and installing a small space heater choose thermostatically controlled heaters, since they avoid the energy waste of overheating a room and won’t tax a generator.
Select a heater of the proper size for the room you wish to heat. Do not purchase an oversized heater, as it may be a fire hazard for your home. Place the heater on a level surface away from foot traffic, and be especially careful to keep children and pets away from the heater.
Life Support Customers
As part of our storm or scheduled outage planning, Unitil makes special efforts to communicate with customers using life-support equipment. This will include a notification to you that we anticipate adverse weather or a scheduled outage which may result in a power outage. You should have a backup plan prepared to respond to an extended power outage.
Make sure you have contacted Unitil and relayed the type of life-support equipment in your dwelling as well as submitted a completed Physician's Certification Form. Also, whenever there's a change in life-support information, contact Unitil as it happens so that we revise our records appropriately.
During a power outage, customers depending on life support equipment should follow these tips:
- Contact Unitil to notify us that you have no power
- Inform Unitil of any special problems or concerns
- Use your backup plan, if needed