Sandy: Surviving a Long Power Outage

Parsippany Police and state officials offer advice regarding generator use, food safety and staying safe.

State officials have lots of advice for residents wondering how to endure the long electrical outage left in Superstorm Sandy's wake.

Generator Use

New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard E. Constable III Wednesday reminded residents about potential dangers regarding the use of portable generators as a result of power outages and encouraged safety precautions during their operation.

"In these cases, there have been a number of tragedies from the use of portable generators, candles and people coming into contact with downed power lines," said Constable.  "It is very important that people heed these precautions to ensure they do not become a victim of a preventable accident."    

State Fire Marshal William Kramer Jr. warned that gasoline and diesel powered generators release a large amount of carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas.

"Running generators within a basement, garage or any enclosed or partially enclosed structure will lead to a dangerous - and often fatal - accumulation of carbon monoxide," said Kramer. "Because the gas is odorless and colorless, its' effects are not recognized and people will either fall asleep or not wake up. When this happens, it is usually too late for them to survive."

The state Division of Fire Safety recommended that generators only be used outdoors and well away from any structure.  In addition, generators should never be connected to a building's electrical system unless done so by a licensed electrician as this can cause backfeeding into the areas electrical grid re-energizing downed wires.

Looking for Light

When electric power is out, many people turn to candles for light, which is dangerous, said Parsippany Police Chief Anthony DeZenzo in a statement.

Candles are meant for effect and smell, not for lighting, he stated. They should never be left unattended, placed in areas where children or pets could knock them over, and or placed near combustible materials such as curtains.

Live Wires

It is not unusual during episodes of high wind for power lines to be blown down or taken down by falling trees, said Fire Marshal Kramer.

The Division of Fire Safety warns that every downed wire should be considered energized. People should stay away from them and contact their electricity provider.

"Even if you know that the downed line is not electric, it could be wrapped around and energized by a live wire. Stay away," Kramer said.

For Patients Who Need Power

If someone in the home is on life-support or otherwise electric-dependent due to a disability, immediately notify Jersey Central Power and Light at 888-544-4877 and the Parsippany Police Department at 973-263-4300.


Food Safety

Here are tips for eating safely during a blackout from Parsippany Police:

  •  Always remember: Food that has not been refrigerated can cause severe health problems. 
  • Items in a full freezer will stay frozen for about two days with the door 
  • If there is space in your refrigerator or freezer, consider filling plastic containers with water (remember to leave half an inch of space inside each container, because water expands as it freezes).
  • These containers of chilled or frozen water will help keep food cold by displacing air that can warm up quickly.
  • Refrigerated foods can keep for up to four hours during a blackout.
  • Discard any perishable refrigerated foods that have been above 40 degrees F for more than two hours.
  • Discard any food with an unusual odor, color or texture. Remember: "When in doubt, throw it out."

General Blackout Survival Tips for the Public

  • Listen to your battery-powered radio or television for updated information, and for any directions from public safety officials.
  • Remember: A battery-powered radio is a key part of your Emergency Supply Kit.
  • Use only a battery powered light, such as a flashlight, for emergency lighting! Due to the extreme risk of fire, DO NOT use candles during a power outage.
  • Turn off or unplug lights and appliances to prevent a circuit overload when the power returns. Leave one light on to let you know when power has been restored.
  • Protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning:
  • Do not operate generators indoors.
  • Do not use charcoal to cook indoors.
  • Do not use your gas oven to heat your home.
  • All of these activities can cause a deadly buildup of carbon monoxide gas. Use space heaters with proper ventilation.
  • Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to avoid food spoilage.
  • Be sure to check on neighbors, especially the ill, those with electric-dependent medical needs and the elderly.
  • If it is cold outside:
  • NEVER use your oven as a source of heat!
  • If power may be out for a prolonged duration, plan to go to another location that has heat to keep warm.

Police again caution the public: Only call 9-1-1 if you have a legitimate emergency situation.


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