If you live in an area that experiences harsh winters, you need to be prepared when ice storms, heavy snow and high winds cause power outages. In addition, old heating systems and defective equipment can fail at inopportune moments. Consequently, it is important for you to know what to do when your heating system stops working during a winter storm.
Contact Proper Authorities and Listen to the News
If you experience a power outage, call your local utility company as soon as possible. Do not call 911 unless there is an emergency. Use a battery-powered radio to listen to the local news to find out about weather conditions. News reports can also inform you of progress the utility company is making on restoring power in your town.
If your heating system fails, call a heating system service with a 24-hour emergency hotline in order to have technicians arrive as soon as possible. However, if your heating equipment fails during the middle of a storm, make sure that you have the resources to stay warm until a technician can get to your house. A company like A Bailey Plumbing may provide an around-the-clock hotline that you can contact for HVAC emergencies.
Dress yourself and your family in warm clothing. Layer the clothing and make sure to wear a warm hat and gloves so you do not lose heat through your head and hands. Do not wear tight clothing that will prevent your blood from flowing.
Stay active as you wait for the heat to return. Physical movement will increase your body temperature. If you have a fireplace, keep a supply of dry wood available throughout the winter. Store the wood in a waterproof container so that it does not get moist or wet.
Gather your family into one room and close the doors of areas of the house that you are not using. When you are not moving around, snuggle up in blankets near each other to stay warm and cozy. Do not try to warm up your house by using camping, barbecue grills or generators indoors or you risk carbon monoxide poisoning.
Recognize the Signs of Hypothermia
Staying warm when there is no heat in your home can help you prevent hypothermia, a significant drop in body temperature due to exposure to cold. However, it is important to recognize signs of the condition so you can take action.
People suffering from hypothermia appear confused and may have a weak pulse. In addition, they may want to sleep a lot and have slurred speech. If a member of your family shows these symptoms, take their temperature. If the reading does not exceed 96 degrees Fahrenheit, call for an ambulance.
Take Care of Appliances and Plumbing
Go through your house and unplug all of your major appliances. This will help to avoid a power surge when the electricity returns. However, you should leave one light switch on so you will know when your utility company restores power.
Avoid opening your refrigerator and freezer. If the outage only lasts for a few hours, your food will stay cold and will not spoil. To protect your home's plumbing system, turn off the main water valve for your home. You should also drain the water from the plumbing system and your hot water tank.
Prepare Ahead of Time
Create an emergency kit so you are prepared for weather catastrophes and heating equipment failure. If crews from your local utility company experience delays in reaching your home or if you have to wait for new heating equipment to arrive, you need to make sure you have enough water, food and other supplies to survive at least 72 hours.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides guidelines on how to assemble an emergency kit. Typical kits include:
- A three-day supply of canned goods plus baby formula if you have an infant
- One gallon of water per person
- Candles and matches
- Battery-powered radio
- Complete change of warm clothing
- Fire extinguisher
- Personal hygiene items
- Important documents such as insurance policies and identification
- List of personal contacts
When the storm passes and your power is restored or your heating equipment is repaired, do not forget to restock your emergency preparedness kit. In addition, if the cause of lack of heat was a power outage, schedule an inspection of your heating equipment to make sure it did not suffer any damage during to the storm.