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Pennsylvania State Provides Power Outage Safety Tips in Wake of Latest Winter Storm

HARRISBURG, Pa., Feb. 5, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians without power following the latest round of dangerous winter weather, state officials are reminding affected residents to take basic precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones during and after the outage.

"People should expect power to be out for several days simply because of the sheer volume of power outages and the amount of debris that must be cleared before power crews can access the problem areas," said Glenn Cannon, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

Cannon emphasized that dangerous carbon monoxide poisoning is a real concern during power outages. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas that is found in combustion fumes like those made by generators, lanterns and gas ranges.

  • Don't use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, or garage or near a window.
  • Don't run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.
  • Don't heat your house with a gas oven.
  • If you suspect you've been exposed to carbon monoxide, open the windows if possible, leave the home or building immediately and call 9-1-1 or seek medical attention. Carbon monoxide can incapacitate victims before they're aware they've been exposed.

Department of Health officials say individuals who remain at home without power should be aware of the serious risk of developing a very low body temperature, called hypothermia.  

"Many people think of hypothermia as an outdoor danger, but it can also occur indoors in cool temperatures – particularly during power outages that occur in winter," said Secretary of Health Michael Wolf. "Hypothermia can be deadly because it affects the brain and prevents victims from thinking clearly and moving well, so they may not even know it is happening."

Wolf said babies and older adults are most at risk. Symptoms in adults include shivering and exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss or slurred speech, and drowsiness. Warning signs in infants include bright red, cold skin and very low energy.

If it is believed someone may have hypothermia, take their temperature. If it is below 95 degrees, get them immediate medical attention.

"During and after a power outage, it is especially important to remember key food safety tips," said Agriculture Secretary George Greig. "Simple steps like monitoring the temperature and condition of food can make the difference between safe food and dangerous food, and I encourage Pennsylvanians to follow basic food safety tips to ensure they remain safe."

Greig offered the following tips to help families minimize the potential for food-borne illness due to power outages:

  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain cold temperatures. Each time the door is opened, temperatures rise significantly.
  • Refrigerators will keep food safely cold for about four hours if unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full and the door remains closed).
  • Food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40 degrees or below.
  • Never taste food to determine its safety.
  • Use dry or block ice to keep refrigerators and freezers as cold as possible during prolonged power outages. Fifty pounds of dry ice should maintain an 18-cubic-foot, full freezer for two days.
  • If the power has been out for several days, check the temperature of the freezer with an appliance thermometer or food thermometer. If the food still contains ice crystals or is at 40 degrees or below, the food is safe.
  • If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine its safety. If the food still contains ice crystals, the food is safe.
  • Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items after four hours without power.

The commonwealth's ReadyPA campaign encourages citizens to take three basic steps before an emergency occurs: Be Informed, Be Prepared, Be Involved. More detailed information, including downloadable emergency kit checklists and emergency plan templates, is available online at www.ReadyPA.org.

Media contacts: 
Ruth A. Miller, PEMA: 717-979-6557 
Penny Ickes, Health: 717-787-1783 
Samantha Elliott Krepps, Agriculture: 717-787-5085 

SOURCE Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency

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