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Hurricane Preparedness

WCEC Urges Members To Prepare

This Hurricane Season

Hurricane season is upon us, and Wharton County Electric Cooperative (WCEC) urges our member and the public to be prepared this season. Hurricanes can cause devastation during and after they occur. The ability to quickly recover following a hurricane requires a focus on preparedness and advance planning.

Hurricane planning information is plentiful this time of year. Ready.gov offers extensive resources to prepare you, your family and your property in the event of severe weather. Their hurricane guide can be found at: www.ready.gov/hurricanes.

 

WCEC would like to expand on these hurricane planning guides with the following information regarding your electric service and electrical safety. We want you and your family to be safe before, during and after the storm.

 

EXTENDED POWER OUTAGES:

After a storm, extended power outages can impact the whole community. Communication towers may not work and utility services such as water and sewage may not be available. Most businesses will be closed including grocery stores, gas stations and banks. Food spoilage and water contamination can occur, and medical facilities may not be available.

As severe weather approaches, WCEC crews will be staged and ready to respond to power outages appropriately. Depending on the severity of the damage following the storm, we may enlist the help of contract crews or bring crews from other area cooperatives to help restore power to impacted members.

 
While it is our priority to restore power as quickly as it is safe to do so, restoration times will depend greatly on the extent of the damage to our electrical system.  If damage is widespread, restoring power may take some time. We have seen heavily damaged systems take days and sometimes weeks to be completely restored.
During an outage WCEC crews work to restore power to the largest number of people first. After power is restored to the cooperative’s main feeders, the Co-op’s crews then address issues in smaller neighborhoods or at individual homes. See the attached graphic showing the systematic approach to restoration after major damage to our system.

Follow these tips from www.ready.gov to stay safe when a power outage threatens.

 

Before A Storm

  • Take an inventory of the items you need that rely on electricity.
  • Talk to your doctor about a power outage plan for electrical medical devices and refrigerated medicines.
  • Plan for batteries and other alternatives to meet your needs when the power goes out.
  • Sign up for local alerts and warning systems. Monitor weather reports.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors with battery backup in central locations on every level of your home.
  • Determine whether your home phone will work in a power outage.
  • Have flashlights with extra batteries for every household member.
  • Have cash available as credit card machine and ATMs may not be available.
  • Keep mobile phones and other electric equipment charged and gas tanks full.

During A Storm

  • Keep freezers and refrigerators closed. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours. Use coolers with ice if necessary. Monitor temperatures with a thermometer.
  • Maintain food supplies that do not require refrigeration.
  • Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Generators, camp stoves, or charcoal grills should always be used outdoors and at least 20 feet away from windows. Never use a gas stovetop or oven to heat your home.
  • Disconnect appliances and electronics to avoid damage from electrical surges.

After A Storm

  • When in doubt, throw it out! Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40 degrees or higher for two hours or more, or that has an unusual odor, color, or texture.
  • If the power is out for more than a day, discard any medication that should be refrigerated, unless the drug’s label says otherwise. If a life depends on the refrigerated drugs, consult a doctor or pharmacist and use medicine only until a new supply is available.

 

EMERGENCY SUPPLIES

WCEC is asking all members to prepare for the worst. Members should have an emergency kit assembled in the event they are without power for several days. Now is the time to prepare. The American Red Cross recommends these essentials be kept on hand.

 

  • Styrofoam coolers to preserve food
  • Ice to keep food cold
  • Water—one gallon per person, per day
  • Food—non-perishable, easy-to prepare
  • Flashlights
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Medications (7-day supply) and medical items
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Cell phone with charger
  • Family and emergency contacts

 

GENERATOR SAFETY

If used improperly, a back-up generator can make life a lot more dangerous. Every year, people die in incidents related to portable generator use following prolonged power outages. Wharton County Electric Cooperative urges our members to exercise extreme caution when operating portable generators.

 

  • If you plan to use a portable backup generator for temporary electric power, follow the manufacturer instructions to protect you and your family.
  • Never connect a generator to the house wiring unless you have had a qualified electrician hook up a standby electrical system – including the installation of a transfer switch to isolate the generator from the electric utility service. Without the transfer switch, the power from the generator will back feed through the transformer and kill any serviceman trying to restore the power down the line.
  • Keep the generator dry, and do not use it in rainy or wet conditions. Make sure your hands are dry before touching the generator.
  • Never use a generator in an enclosed or partially enclosed space. Operate it on a dry surface under an open, canopy like structure. Generators can produce high levels of carbon monoxide (CO) very quickly. CO cannot be smelled or seen, so even if you don’t smell exhaust fuses you could still be exposed to CO.
  • If you start to feel sick, dizzy or weak while operating a generator, get to fresh air right away. CO can cause incapacitation or death quickly. Call 911 and inform the medical staff that you suspect CO poisoning. Before you return to the property, the local fire department should determine whether it is safe to do so.
  • Never store fuel for your generator inside your home. Flammable liquids should be stored outside of living areas in properly labeled, non-glass containers. Do not store them near a fuel-burning appliance such as a natural gas heater. If fuel is spilled or left in a container that is not properly sealed, invisible vapor from the fuel can travel along the ground and be ignited by the appliance’s pilot light or by arcs from electrical switches in the appliance.
  • Before refueling a generator, turn it off and let it cool down. Fuel spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.

 

DOWNED POWER LINES

One of the greatest dangers following severe weather is downed power lines – they carry extremely high currents and can seriously injure or kill, even if they aren’t sparking or buzzing. Do not assume that just because a line is on the ground it does not still have power running through it. In event of flood: If you see a power line entering the water, do not go near it or the water.

Always avoid downed power lines and remember these safety tips:

  • Report downed power lines immediately to 911 or to the local utility.
  • Warn others away from downed lines until law enforcement or emergency crews arrive.
  • Never try to move a downed power line with a board or stick. High voltage electricity can jump unpredictable distances.
  • If someone is in direct or indirect contact with a downed line, don’t touch them. You could become another victim by trying to help. Call 911 immediately.

OUTAGE UPDATES:

During large outages, phone lines can get very busy. Rest assured that if outages occur, crews will be working to restore power as soon as it is safe to do so. If you are unable to get through to the co-op by calling 979-543-6271, updates from WCEC will also be available here:

 

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