Duke Energy projects possibly widespread outages. Here’s how to stay safe.

Keep that fridge closed and other food safety tips during power outages

Make sure you have a plan that involves proper food safety precautions to take if you lose power.
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Make sure you have a plan that involves proper food safety precautions to take if you lose power.

A half-million or more homes and businesses in the Carolinas could lose power in this weekend’s winter storm, Duke Energy said Friday.

Here are tips from Duke and government agencies on how to stay safe as snow, sleet, ice and freezing rain descend on the region:

“Check and restock your emergency kits with flashlights, batteries, bottled water, non-perishable foods and medicines,” Duke Energy advised in a news release Friday. Have a “portable, battery-operated radio, TV or NOAA radio” in your home.

”If you lose power and heat, make sure you have a (non-electric) portable space heater,” Charlotte Fire Chief Reginald Johnson said at a city of Charlotte storm-preparedness news conference Friday afternoon. “Keep it at least three feet from combustible materials.”

To prevent deadly carbon monoxide poisoning, “never use a gas-powered generator or other fuel-burning appliance indoors or in the garage,” the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services warned in a news release Friday. “Never use charcoal grills or propane stoves indoors, even in a fireplace. Never use a gas oven to heat a home, even for a short amount of time.”

Use flashlights and batteries, not candles, in your home during an outage, Johnson said.

“If a power line falls across a car that you’re in, stay in the car,” according to Duke Energy’s news release. “If you MUST get out of the car due to a fire or other immediate life-threatening situation, do your best to jump clear of the car and land on both feet. Be sure that no part of your body is touching the car when your feet touch the ground.”

Dr. John Jacob Freiberger, anesthesiologist and hyperbaric medicine specialist at Duke, discusses the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning associated with the use of generators.

Check all refrigerated and frozen food when the power goes out before you eat or refreeze it, the health agency also advised in Friday’s news release.

“Frozen, partially thawed food is safe to cook or refreeze if it still contains ice crystals or has not risen above 41 degrees Fahrenheit,” the news release said, citing information from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Keep refrigerated foods at or below 41 degrees Fahrenheit and frozen food at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature,” the news release added. “A refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) and the door remains closed.”

“If you don’t have to be out on the roads, please don’t do it,” Johnny Jennings, deputy chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, said at the city’s Friday afternoon news conference.

Officials at the news conference said if you have to be on the roads, “completely defrost your windows before leaving,” “remove snow and ice from vehicle roofs and windows” and “make sure you have windshield washer fluid and functioning wipers,” according to a city of Charlotte news release Friday night.

Bring outdoor pets inside, advises the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Animal Care & Control Division.

If your animals can’t be taken into your home, have “proper bedding or straw,” including if you put them in an unheated garage or basement, Animal Care & Control said in a Winter Weather Pet Safety bulletin.

Straw is available to Charlotte-Mecklenburg residents at the Animal Care & Control shelter at 8315 Byrum Drive.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067; @jmarusak
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