What to do during a winter power outage and tips for staying warm

Watch for signs of frostbite, hypothermia

(AP Photo/Tom Copeland) (Tom Copeland, Tom Copeland)

There are steps you can take to prepare for power outages during the winter and stay warm and safe.

If you have DTE Energy, you can click here to view their outage map and check for updates. If you have Consumers Energy, you can click here to view their outage map and check for updates.

How to prepare for a power outage

The State of Michigan has the following tips for preparing for a power outage listed online:

  • Check flashlights and battery-powered portable radios to ensure that they are working, and you have extra batteries. A radio is an important source for obtaining weather and emergency information during a storm.
  • Have sufficient heating fuel, as regular sources may be cut off. Have emergency heating source and fuel -- such as a gas fireplace, wood burning stove or fireplace -- so you can keep at least one room livable. Be sure the room is well-ventilated.
  • Make sure your home is properly insulated. Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows to keep cold air out.
  • Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside to provide insulation.
  • Know how to shut off water valves.
  • Never try to thaw a pipe with a torch or other open flame. You may be able to thaw a frozen pipe with the warm air from a hair dryer. Start by warming the pipe as close to the faucet as possible, working toward the coldest section of pipe.
  • Fill your bathtub and spare containers with water if your water supply could be affected, such as a well-water pump system. Water in the bathtub should be used for sanitation purposes only, not as drinking water. Pouring a pail of water from the tub directly into the bowl can flush a toilet.
  • Check with your pharmacist for guidance on proper storage during an extended outage if you have medication that requires refrigeration.
  • Review the process for manually operating an electric garage door.

Read: How to keep your pets safe amid dangerously cold winter weather

What to do during a power outage and tips for staying warm

The State of Michigan has the following tips for what to do during a power outage:

  • Wear several layers of loose-fitting, light-weight, warm clothing, rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Mittens are better than gloves.
  • Wear a hat -- most body heat is lost through the top of the head.
  • Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite: loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in the extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, seek medical help immediately.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia: uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. If symptoms are detected, get the victim to a warm location, remove any wet clothing, warm the center of the body first and give warm, non-alcoholic beverages, if the victim is conscious. Get medical help as soon as possible.
  • Protect against possible voltage irregularities that can occur when power is restored, unplug all sensitive electronic equipment, including TVs, stereos, and computer.
  • Use gasoline-powered generators with caution. Never run a generator inside a house. Place it outside with exhaust facing away from the home.

Read: How to recognize carbon monoxide poisoning: Tips for preventing death, illness this winter

What to do after a power outage

The State of Michigan has the following tips for what to do after power is restored:

  • Be extra cautious if you go outside to inspect for damage after a storm. Downed or hanging electrical wires can be hidden by snowdrifts, trees or debris, and could be live. Never attempt to touch or move downed lines. Keep children and pets away from them. Always stay 25 feet away from downed power lines.
  • Check on neighbors, especially senior citizens and individuals with functional needs.
  • Do not touch anything power lines are touching, such as tree branches or fences. Always assume a downed line is a live line. Call your utility company to report any outage-related problem.
  • Never call 911 to ask about a power outage.

Read: Winter safety tips: How to prepare as dangerous pre-Christmas storm approaches Michigan

What to do if you find downed power lines

Stay at least 20 feet away from downed power lines and keep children and pets inside.

DTE Energy said you should assume that all downed power lines are energized and dangerous.

You can report downed lines to DTE Energy by calling 800-477-4747 or to Consumers Energy by calling 800-477-5050.

If you believe the downed power line poses an immediate danger to the public, you should call 911.

Energized wires that have fallen may whip around, spark or arc as they look for a ground. Energized wires that have found their ground might not move at all or make any sound, but they are still dangerous.

Click here to learn more about electrical safety from DTE Energy.

About the Author:

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.