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Learning Emergency Preparedness from Extreme Experiences

Be Prepared, No Matter the Weather

By: | June 16, 2014 3:28 pm

I’ve always enjoyed reading Storm Is Coming to my kids. The premise is simple. When the old farmer warns that a storm is coming, Dog spreads the word and leads all of the animals to shelter in the barn. Huddled together, they wait anxiously for Storm to come. They believe Storm is a frightening creature but it turns out to be just a passing thunderstorm.


For emergency preparedness, keep this power outage info handy: Xcel Energy’s outage line at 1-800-895-1999.

The paradox is not so foreign to us when it comes to emergency preparedness. After 2013’s record-breaking June storms which clobbered the Twin Cities and hundred year flooding throughout the foothills of Colorado, it seems like Storm was an unexpected and frightening creature. This also makes you wonder about that unlucky 13 thing. Like the farmer, we’ve learned that Storm—be it everyday or epic—is always coming. It’s just a matter of where and when. Remember, should you experience a power outage,  you can Call Xcel Energy’s outage line at 1-800-895-1999 or use our online reporting tool.  Here’s a link to keep current on outages.

Preparation, it’s the biggest part of our planning

Our summer storm planning is enacted year-round. Reviewing how we reacted and responded to previous storm and weather events helps us develop best practices and processes we can implement moving forward. And that means being prepared by leveraging new technology. Our pinging technology allowed us to communicate with our new generation smart meters to determine if a household was receiving electric power. See short video. With this approach, we were able to accurately dispatch crews during our June storms across the Twin Cities which saved at least one million dollars. But best of all, we estimate that the storm recovery time was decreased by 24 hours thanks to this pinging technology.

For you: a personal safety checklist

Always assume a downed wire is energized and therefore dangerous. Call 911 if there is immediate danger. Call Xcel Energy at 1-800-895-1999 to report an electric problem. Here are more contact numbers. Touching a live line or anything near it—such as a fence, puddle, car, etc.—can cause electricity to be transmitted through your body. This usually results in serious injury and sometimes death.

  • If you come across a downed line, leave the area immediately. A live line that has fallen across a car, fence, building or any other object can be dangerous to an unsuspecting passersby. You should never touch a person, vehicle, tree or any other object that is in direct contact with a power line.
  • If a power line has fallen onto a vehicle, stay away and seek help immediately by calling 9-1-1.
  • If you are in a vehicle, wait inside the vehicle until help arrives. You are safe from electrical shock as long as you stay inside the vehicle.
  • If you must leave a vehicle due to fire or other life-threatening reasons, leap clear of the vehicle, landing with both feet together. Don’t hold the door while leaping, and once on the ground, hop away—do not run.
  • Learn more about Emergency Preparedness

For your household, a basic emergency preparedness kit should contain:

  • Water, the general rule, one gallon per person, per day
  • Food non-perishable, easy-to prepare items 2-week supply is best
  • For your refrigerator, fill plastic containers with water and place them in the refrigerator and freezer. Leave about an inch of space inside each one, because water expands as it freezes. This chilled or frozen water will help keep food cold for several hours during a temporary power outage.
  • Flashlights — Avoid candles during a power outage to reduce the risk of fire.
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
  • Extra batteries and simple First aid kit
  • 7-day supply of medications and medical items
  • Multi-purpose tool, dust mask, whistle to signal for help, plastic sheeting and duct tape
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities and can opener
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items like moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties –  diapers, wipes and formula for infants
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list, medical information, deed/lease to home, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Family and emergency contact information and extra cash

Good to know: flood precautions

Since the Colorado floods that created epic damage, we’ve made it a priority to included additional flood preparation and electrical safety messages. It’s important to realize that flooding can present unique safety challenges for electrical service in your home or office. For example, flood waters can short out your service causing immediate damage and physical risk to you. If flooding occurs, (if time allows) unplug your major appliances like washers and dryers first, then disconnect other appliances. But never engage with any of these activities if there is any water or even damp floors. If you think the water might rise high enough to cover your basement electrical outlets, switch off the circuit breakers (or remove the fuses) at the main electrical box. But never go into the basement if there is water already on the floor! Also if it appears the water level will reach the main electrical box or your electric meter, notify Xcel Energy so we can shut off the electrical service to your home completely.

The weather is always on our horizon

You may not realize that Xcel Energy has a full-time meteorologist watching over the eight states where we provide services. By offering more specific forecasts with greater detail, we can more accurately assess the potential of severe weather events. Emergency Preparedness planning starts as soon as we are aware of a weather-related risk; typically two days in advance of a potential storm; however we are nimble enough to react at a moments notice. With impending weather we hold an operations call with key leadership and discuss readiness steps, one of the items is to verbally inform all electrical workers of the threat and to prepare their personal affairs in the event we need them for an extended period of time.

Best laid plans

Robert Burns a Scottish national poet; wrote a collection of poems “The Address to a Mouse” in 1785 which included the famous thought …”The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” It’s why our plans include detailed emergency preparedness. Burns also composed “Auld Lang Syne” the unofficial song of New Year’s Eve. Our hope for 2014 is that our old acquaintances (of 2013 summer storms) will be forgot, but we’ll be prepared for anything nature brings our way.


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