Sunday, August 1, 2021
Aug. 1, 2021

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Energy Adviser: Be ready for winter power outages


Forecasters expect this winter to be cooler and wetter than normal, and that could mean an increase in storm-related power outages.

Clark Public Utilities works hard to keep the local power grid as robust as can be, but sometimes nature’s wrath is too much to withstand.

In the Pacific Northwest, power outages are inevitable, but they don’t have to be unbearable. With a little time and energy, your household can be ready to handle the next one with minimal disruption.

“Everybody should have at least three days’ worth of emergency supplies,” said Clark Public Utilities Safety Manager Justin Zucconi. “If you don’t have an emergency kit already, build one. If you do, this is a good time of year to go through it and see if anything needs to be replaced or replenished.”

When building your kit, start with a communications plan. Make sure everyone in the household knows how to get in contact from school, work, the road or wherever they may be when an outage or emergency occurs. Don’t forget to find ways to be in touch with vulnerable friends or family members who may need assistance.

Before assembling your emergency/outage kit, make a list of any supplies every individual in your household may need over three days. Be sure to include important items such as, but not limited to: medications, first aid, food, water, flashlights, batteries, pet supplies and other important items. After you’ve gathered everything, leave your list with the kit so you’ll be able to refer to it in the future when it’s time to replenish the supplies.

Store your supplies in a sturdy bag or tote and place it in a location that’ll be easy to access in an emergency. Consider covering it in glow in the dark paint or stickers so it’ll be easy to find in the dark.

It’s also smart practice to prepare your home for outages. Protect your electrical equipment, like computers, TVs, stereos and appliances from potentially damaging interruptions with surge protectors. Take a moment to learn to manually open your garage door, if it has an automatic opener. Have a camp stove on hand to cook during a prolonged outage, just remember to use them outdoors to avoid carbon monoxide.

For comprehensive supply lists and additional emergency planning tips, visit or the Red Cross website. If the lights go out, report it by calling 360-992-8000 or using the mobile-friendly reporting tool on the website. Stay at least 30 feet away from downed power lines and any conductive material they may be touching, such as metal fences. Report it to the utility immediately and only call 911 in case of fire, injury or immediate danger.

If you live in especially rural or forested parts of the county, you may own or be thinking about purchasing a generator to help you make it through long outages.

“Generators can help make prolonged outages more comfortable, protect certain investments, and power life-sustaining medical equipment,” Zucconi said. “But for safety’s sake, they require planning and careful operation to keep residents and our line crews safe.”

To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, generators must be operated as far as possible from your home or windows. They should never be used under a carport or in a garage — even with the door open.

They should always be connected directly to the appliances that need to be powered. Never connect a generator to the home’s electric panel.

Portable generators are not powerful enough to support an entire home, and connecting them to the electric panel directly creates a backfeed that is extremely dangerous for utility crews working to restore power in the neighborhood.

Energy Adviser is produced by Clark Public Utilities and relies on the expertise of utility energy counselors and staff, who provide conservation and energy use information. To contact us call 360-992-3355, email or visit