Keeping safe during power outages, winter storms Print E-mail
Thursday, 04 January 2018
By Olaf Jensen
Special to GUIDON

Cold weather brings with it its own fire hazards. Add to the weather downed power lines and long-term power outages, and we have a recipe for disaster.

Home occupants can take several steps toward protecting their homes and Families from fires related to such storms and power outages.


Those using candles should exercise extreme caution and:

— Never leave a lit candle unattended. If you leave the room, are going to sleep or leave the house, blow them out.

— Keep candles out of reach of children and pets.

— Place candles only on non-combustible surfaces in sturdy non-combustible bases that protect the flame from contact with other combustibles.

— Keep anything that can burn at least one foot away from lit candles.

— Refrain from setting lit candles under combustible materials such as wooden shelves or cabinets.

— Trim candle wicks to a quarter of an inch prior to lighting.

— Extinguish candles when they burn to within two inches of their holder.

— Place candles away from windows where they may contact combustible curtains.

The use of candles on post is prohibited in all buildings used for business, office, or assembly except for chapels and Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation clubs.

It is much safer to use flashlights and battery powered lanterns in lieu of candles.


Downed power lines:

— Downed utility lines pose a significant risk of fire or electric shock. Even cable and  telephone lines can deliver a deadly shock if they are in contact with a live power line somewhere else in the system. Downed lines can also “jump” when electricity surges through them or they come in contact with a conductive surface. Stay away from downed lines and report all downed power lines to emergency services.

— If a downed line has partially pulled away from a building, there is risk that damage to internal wiring may have occurred that will later lead to a fire when power is restored. Those who have had electric lines pull free or partially free from their home or building should report them immediately to Directorate of Public Works or their local utility company.

— Fire fighters have been coming across circumstances where one home occupant with power has chosen to help their neighbor who is without power by running extension cords from their home to their neighbors. This is very dangerous and should be avoided.


When using space heaters:

— Place space heaters on sturdy non-combustible surfaces.

— Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away on all sides from space heaters.

— Place them in an area where children and pets cannot access them.

— Keep them out of hallways, doorways and other locations where they may get in the way.

— Use in strict accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

— Use only in well-vented areas and ensure the presence of working carbon monoxide detectors.

— Never refuel a space heater while it is on or hot.

The use of fuel powered space heaters is prohibited inside any building on Fort Leonard Wood, including family housing. Due to the increased risks of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning connected to the use of these heaters, the fire department discourages their use off post, as well.


While using a generator:

— Learn symptoms of carbon monoxide poison. Symptoms include nausea, headaches, and shortness of breath, dizziness, irritability, confusion and memory loss. Officials suggest residents ensure they have a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector installed in their homes.

— Never run a generator inside of a residence.

— Do not run the generator inside a garage, near the residence or near air conditioner intakes. The carbon monoxide can still enter the house.

— Use heavy-gauge extension cords to run power from the generator to appliances.

— If you must to run an extension cord from the generator into the house through an open doorway or window, leave just enough space in the door or window to run the cord then seal the opening by using duct tape and check the taped seal frequently for leaks to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

— Do not connect a generator directly to a household electrical system. It can back-feed electrical current into power lines and cause injury to utility workers.

— Store fuel in a container designated for gasoline or diesel. Store generator fuel away from the generator, and refuel only after the generator has cooled. Use a funnel to prevent spills.

— To prevent creating a dangerous spark when refueling, ensure the fuel can is placed on the ground. Do not refill when the container is in or on a vehicle.

— Allow a generator to run for two to three minutes before plugging in a power cord.

— Turn off appliances before shutting off a generator, to prevent damage to electrical circuits.

— Consult the generator owner’s manual to determine its power capacity. Choose a generator that produces more power than you will need when all  electrical appliances are running.

— Most generators are not strong enough to power an entire house, so you must ration its use to prevent tripping a circuit breaker on the generator.

Each electrical device uses a maximum number of watts. That number usually is found on a manufacturer’s label on the appliance. For example, a 5,000-watt generator can run an average refrigerator, freezer, portable fan and a 60-watt light bulb.

— Always operate a generator in a clean, dry location. A generator produces enough electricity to electrocute you, so do not run a generator in standing water.

Voltage-sensitive appliances such as televisions and computers should not be powered by a generator without some type of surge protection device.

For more information on fire safety, contact the Fort Leonard Wood Fire Department at 573.596.0886.

(Editor’s note: Jensen is a Fire Protection inspector with the Fort Leonard Wood Fire Department.)
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 17 January 2018 )