Emergency Management

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Power Outages

Power outages are relatively common and can occur at anytime. Power outages can pose serious problems, particularly for those using life-sustaining equipment (LSE), or during extreme temperatures.

If you lose electrical service follow these tips:

  1. Call your utility first to determine area repair schedules. Turn off or unplug lights and appliances to prevent a circuit overload when service is restored. Leave one light on to indicate power has been restored.
  2. To help prevent freezing pipes during cold weather, turn on faucets slightly. Running water will not freeze as quickly.
  3. Protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning:
    • DO NOT operate generators indoors; the motor emits deadly carbon monoxide gas.
    • DO NOT use charcoal to cook indoors. It, too, can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide gas.
    • DO NOT use your gas oven to heat your home – prolonged use of an open oven in a closed house can create carbon monoxide gas.
    • Make sure fuel space heaters are used with proper ventilation.
  4. Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to help reduce food spoilage.

Generator Safety

Electric generators can provide you with piece of mind and convenience when you are faced with a temporary loss of electric service.

Follow these safety guidelines when operating a generator:

  1. Before installing a generator, be sure to properly disconnect from your utility electrical service. If possible, have your generator installed by a qualified electrician.
  2. Run generators outside, downwind of structures. NEVER run a generator indoors. Deadly carbon monoxide gas from the generator’s exhaust can spread throughout enclosed spaces. Install a carbon monoxide detector.
  3. Fuel spilled on a hot generator can cause an explosion. If your generator has a detachable fuel tank remove it before refilling. If this is not possible, shut off the generator and let it cool before refilling.
  4. Do not exceed the rated capacity of your generator. Most of the small, home-use portable generators produce from 350 to 12,000 watts of power. Overloading your generator can damage it, the appliances connected to it, and may cause a fire. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  5. Keep children away from generators at all times.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a silent, deadly killer claiming about 1,000 lives each year in the United States. Such common items as automotive exhaust, home heating systems and obstructed chimneys can produce the colorless, odorless gas.

The gas can also be produced by poorly vented generators, kerosene heaters, gas grills and other items used for cooking and heating when used improperly during the winter months.

  1. NEVER run generators indoors. Open a window slightly when using a kerosene heater.
  2. NEVER use charcoal to cook indoors.
  3. NEVER use a gas oven to heat your home.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include sleepiness, headaches and dizziness.

If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, ventilate the area and get to a hospital.

Fire Safety

Wood-burning stoves, fireplaces and heaters can add a cozy glow, but make sure you are using them safely.

  1. Always keep a screen around an open flame.
  2. Never use gasoline to start your fireplace.
  3. Never burn charcoal indoors.
  4. Do not close the damper when ashes are hot.
  5. When using alternative heat sources such as a fireplace, woodstove, etc. always make sure you have proper ventilation. Keep curtains, towels and potholders away from hot surfaces.
  6. Have your chimney checked before the season for creosote buildup—and then clean it.
  7. Have a fire extinguisher and smoke detectors... and make sure they work! Establish a well-planned escape route with the entire family.

Kerosene Heaters

If you use kerosene heaters to supplement your regular heating fuel, or as an emergency source of heat, follow these safety tips:

  1. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Use only the correct fuel for your unit.
  3. Refuel outdoors only and only when the unit is cool.
  4. Keep the heater at least three feet away from furniture and other flammable objects.
  5. When using the heater, use fire safeguards and ventilate properly.

Remember, the fire hazard is greatly increased in the winter because alternate heating sources often are used without following proper safety precautions.

Power Outage Tips

  • Keep a flashlight and other emergency supplies handy in case of power outages.
  • Check the fuse box to see if there is a blown fuse or a tripped circuit breaker.
  • If you determine that a fuse or circuit breaker needs to be replaced, turn off all large appliances or unplug them before replacing a fuse or a breaker to avoid damage to the electrical system.
  • Check your neighborhood to see if others are without power.
  • Do not call 9-1-1 to report power outages unless a true emergency condition exists.
  • Check refrigerator to ensure that food does not go bad and cause food borne illnesses
  • Discard any food in your freezer that is over 45 degrees.

If you rely on electric medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, ventilators and oxygen compressors, plan ahead by talking to your medical supply company about getting batteries or a generator as a back up power source.

Contact Us

Polk County Emergency Management
1907 Carpenter Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50314
(515) 286-2107

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