ESCANABA - With the arrival of winter, several downstate communities are thawing out from a major ice storm and lengthy power outages. If this happened in the Upper Peninsula, would we be prepared?
Though major power outages are not common in the U.P. during the winter, Delta County Emergency Management Coordinator Bob Berbohm says there are plans in place to provide backup power and shelter in the event of an emergency.
In most cities, there are buildings designated as emergency shelters, which are equipped with generators, he said.
In Escanaba, the Ruth Butler Building at the U.P. State Fairgrounds is one such place. The county courthouse building and city hall also have emergency generator systems. The hospital and other medical buildings have backup generators, also.
"Depending on the severity of a power outage, we would identify the needs of the region," Berbohm explained. "Our first concern would be the homebound people with special needs."
Emergency personnel would contact home health care providers to determine which patients would require immediate care if power was out for some time, he said.
Individuals who are on oxygen have a 24-hour backup system already. They would be assisted if the power outage was expected to last longer than a day, said Berbohm.
If the community is without electricity for an extended time, emergency personnel would look to the media to inform the public where to go for shelter, he said. People would also be asked to check on neighbors, especially the elderly, he added.
The likelihood of a lengthy power outage occurring in the U.P. cannot be predicted because of different factors causing and correcting such an event, said the emergency coordinator.
Main power feeds, the weather, repairs, and other variables play a role in a winter power outage emergencies, he said, complimenting utility personnel for their dedication to making repairs.
Berbohm also gives credit to residents for being aware of and prepared for winter emergencies.
"Throughout the U.P., Yoopers are really self-sufficient and resilient when it comes to emergencies," said Berbohm.
During power outages, some people have friends or relatives' homes they can go to for warm shelter, said Berbohm who has a battery for backup power at his home. Other residents have camps they can go to, he added.
For those who find themselves stranded at home without heat and power, Berbohm recommends staying in one room with warm blankets. If using candles, make sure they are extinguished when unattended.
Other necessities to have on hand in preparation for a winter power outage include an AM-FM radio and a flashlight, both with working batteries, said Berbohm. A supply of food and water is essential, he added.
Wood stoves, fireplaces, gas heaters, and gas stoves should not be used without great caution if fan systems are not powered, he said. Ventilation is important because carbon monoxide poisoning can occur when burning flammables inside.
Berbohm said a generator should never be run inside a building because of the exhaust. He also recommends backup generators be installed with a transfer switch to prevent the possibility of backfeed reaching linemen working to restore power.
In preparation of power coming back on and possible voltage problems occurring, Berbohm suggests power cords to electronic equipment be unplugged during an electrical outage.
Additional winter power outage tips include: fill the tub with water to use to flush the toilet; know how to manually operate an electric garage door; let faucets drip a little to avoid freezing; and open fridge and freezer doors as little as possible.