The Do 1 Thing site won the Awareness to Action category of FEMA’s 2014 Individual and Community Preparedness Awards. It’s a 12-month program of small steps that you can take to increase your personal and household preparedness. Throughout 2015, DEM will feature Do 1 Thing items during our weekly blog post series of One Thing Wednesdays. Check back here every week for a new preparedness activity or tip!
We rely on electricity for all aspects of our lives. When it goes away, so do climate control, food storage and preparation, lights, and many forms of communication. Many times, a large-scale power outage is one of several secondary emergencies following a major disaster like a tornado, winter storm, or earthquake. If power lines are down over a large area, it may take days or even weeks for crews to get the power back on (a fact long-time Lexingtonians will recall from the 2003 and 2009 ice storms). Throughout October, we’ll be looking at ways to prepare for power outages and minimize their impact on our safety and comfort.
Perhaps the ultimate in power security (save for a roof full of solar cells and a basement full of deep cycle batteries – we’re looking at you, Elon Musk) is a home or portable generator. A sufficiently large generator can minimize or even eliminate a power outage’s impact on your home. However, this isn’t a cheap solution, and there are several safety factors to consider.
The first step in acquiring a generator is to talk to a licensed electrician. This professional can advise you on costs and benefits, including generator size, fuel type, and whether to go for a permanent installation or a portable generator. Equally important is an electrician’s ability to safely install a transfer switch for powering your house from your generator. Never plug a generator directly into an ordinary wall outlet!
In most cases, powering your whole home from a generator will be prohibitively expensive. A more common solution is to determine the total power requirements of key items, such as your refrigerator, and acquire a generator that can supply those. You may be surprised by the power demands that some appliances make!
You’ll also need to site your generator in a secure location outside your home. Never run a generator inside, as harmful exhaust can build up rapidly. You’ll also want a carbon monoxide sensor in each sleeping area to alert you if fumes do make their way inside. Check back with us next week as we discuss generator safety in greater depth.