5 Power Outage Risks You Haven’t Considered

Stuck in the Dark:
Health Dangers When the Power Is Out

This winter has been brutal. Many neighborhoods have been cursed with record-breaking bad weather and many have suffered the thing we most dread: A power outage.

What happens when the power goes out?

No matter what caused the outage, living without power creates real, dangerous health risks that you might not have thought about or prepared for.

What You Need to Know
About Power Outage Risks

Many people rely on power to help manage chronic health conditions. If you fall into this group, you know that a power outage can quickly become a matter of life or death. Whether you require insulin to manage diabetes or you rely on a respirator to help with your breathing, you know how quickly a power outage can turn your world upside down.

If that describes your situation, make sure you register with your local utility company. In the event of a prolonged power outage, you will receive extra assistance if they are able to give it, including help with locating a shelter or facility that has reliable power where you can stay for the duration of the failure. But, even if you’re in good health to begin with, a power outage could put you at risk in a number of different ways.

Exposure: Extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold, can take a toll on anyone. Those most at risk are young children, seniors, and anyone who is already sick or otherwise in a weakened state. In severe cases, exposure to extreme heat or cold can lead to serious health problems that may require hospitalization or that can even lead to death.

Food Poisoning: Lack of refrigeration can quickly lead to food spoilage. Eating foods that have not been stored at proper temperatures can cause food poisoning from salmonella, E.coli, or other bacteria.

Water Hazards: Perhaps one of the biggest dangers during a prolonged power outage is consuming contaminated water. Water treatment plants need power to operate, and while they usually have backup generators that will keep them running during an outage, during a storm or natural disaster, those generators may go out as well. If you don’t know how to treat your water before drinking it, or if you don’t have the correct supplies, you could be exposed to toxins and waterborne illnesses.

Injury: During a power outage, you may be called on to do things that you wouldn’t normally do, like operate a generator or clear heavy debris from around your home. Injuries suffered during a power outage are more dangerous than usual because the medical system is already stretched thin. This could delay your treatment, and exacerbate your injury.

Supply Interruptions: You normally rely on regular trips to the grocery store for the supplies you need to maintain hygiene and sanitation as well meet your other basic needs. Power outages can lead to serious supply disruptions that could compromise any one of these areas… and that in turn could compromise your health.

Backup Power Plans:
More Important Than Ever

Perhaps you don’t live in hurricane territory and tornadoes are just something you see on the national news. You may be thinking that these power outage risks don’t really affect you. Not so fast.

The risk of long-term crippling power outages is higher than ever. And storms are only one of the causes. A terrorist attack on the power grid could cut you off from electricity for weeks without any warning. A direct hit from a solar storm could also bring our power grid to its knees – it has happened before, back when we didn’t rely so heavily on electricity. A similar event today would be devastating.

But the most likely cause of a prolonged power failure is the grid itself – it’s aging and every year it is less able to keep up with the growing power consumption of our society. Now more than ever, you need to consider a backup power plan to keep you and your family safe from the health hazards associated with power outages. The simple ability to keep food and medicines cold, to power a hot plate to boil water and make it safe to drink, or to temporarily power a medical device in a crisis while you figure out your other options could help you and your family come through a power outage safely.

One last note: One of the biggest health risks during a power outage is carbon monoxide poisoning from improper use of a gas generator. If you have a gas-powered generator, make sure you know how to use it without endangering your health. Another option might be to go with a solar powered generator. For quiet, clean backup power, it can’t be beat. Having access to a reliable supply during a power outage may seem like a mere convenience, but access to electrical power can protect your health and could save lives.

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