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Expert explains how everyone should prepare and be safe in case of power outage

Three-quarters of these outages are concentrated in the seven counties closest to where the hurricane made landfall, with Lee and Charlotte being the hardest-hit coastal counties, according to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ morning report. Approximately 90% of the area is without power. (Below are guidelines for staying safe during a power outage and for operating portable generators responsibly.)

Crews are prepared to begin damage assessments and repairs, he said, but the scope of the destruction in these and neighboring counties would necessitate extensive rebuilding that might take weeks or more.

And while portions of Florida begin what might be a lengthy road to recovery, its northern neighbors continue to prepare for impact. On Friday, the tropical storm is likely to make a second U.S. landfall near coastal South Carolina, where it is predicted to regain hurricane strength.

Thursday morning, the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for the whole state’s coastline, warning that all “preparations to safeguard life and property should be expedited to completion.”

There are, fortunately, steps you may do to prepare for a power loss. the following guidance:

  • Find alternate power sources, like batteries and portable chargers or power banks, to use when the power goes out. Make sure each member of the household has their own flashlight — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  battery-powered flashlights and lanterns as opposed to candles and gas torches, to minimize fire risk.
  • Disconnect appliances and electronics to avoid damage from electrical surges. Also, install carbon monoxide detectors with battery backup in central locations throughout your home to alert you to possible carbon monoxide poisoning (more on that below).
  • Prepare food and know how to store it. FEMA advises maintaining several days’ supply of nonperishable food and water, and keeping your fridge and freezer closed. It says a fridge will keep food cold for about four hours, and a full freezer will maintain its temperature for about 48 hours — you can use a thermometer to double check, and should toss the food out if the temperature reaches 40 degrees or higher.
  • Know your medical needs and make a power outage plan for any medical devices and refrigerated medicines. Ask your doctor for guidance about life-critical medications, including how long certain meds can be stored at higher-than-recommended temperatures.

If you have a portable generator, you will likely need to retrieve it after the storm has passed.

But don’t do so until you’ve read the safety tips -, which can be lethal within minutes (and kills some 85 people each year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, or CPSC).

In fact, statistics revealed that after Hurricane Laura devastated Louisiana in 2020, it was worse than the storm itself.

Similarly, after Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys in 2017 there were 11 direct hurricane-related fatalities compared to 16 accidental carbon monoxide poisoning fatalities.

According to the CPSC, when it comes to running a portable generator safely:

  • Never use the generator inside a home, garage, basement or shed (even if the windows are open).
  • Only use a generator outside, placed at least 20 feet away from your home and directed so that the exhaust goes away from your home and any other buildings someone could enter. A porch is still considered too close. Any windows and doors in the path of the exhaust should remain closed.
  • Read the labels, instructions and warnings on the generator and in the owner’s manual. You can also watch a CPSC public service announcement on generator safety in  and .
  • Install battery-operated CO alarms on each level of your home and outside separate sleeping areas. If any go off, get outside immediately before calling 911.
  • Recognize the  of carbon monoxide poisoning, which include headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.

And, if you’re going to be buying or replacing a portable generator anytime soon, look for one with a . They’re designed to turn off automatically when high levels of CO are present.

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