No power? How to safely stay warm without it
Thousands of people were affected by power outages Sunday and Monday in the suburbs after the snowstorm overnight. So how can you stay warm without power?
If you have transportation, fire officials say, the obvious answer is visiting a friend or a shopping mall during normal business hours.
But if you're limited to your house, it's best to dress in layers and break out your blankets and emergency kit hand warmers for outages up to about six to eight hours, fire officials said.
Prevent heat loss by placing rolled up towels at the bottom of exterior doors and using duct tape to affix plastic or Bubble Wrap to windows for insulation. You also can hang towels or bedding over windows.
Pick a room to be in and close off all other rooms. If you have a fireplace, make sure the flue is open before firing it up. Otherwise, avoid rooms with large windows.
If you have a tent and sleeping bags, use them indoors along with any blankets, especially wool. You can use a propane heater only if the instructions clearly state it's safe to use indoors. Keep it away from anything flammable and crack open a window for extra safety to avoid carbon monoxide buildup.
Power generators are great, but never place them indoors.
Never use kerosene heaters or barbecue grills in the house because they emit carbon monoxide, Elgin Fire Chief Dave Schmidt said.
If you fire up any gas appliances, make sure all vents are open. Don't use gas ovens as a source of heat because they can be a fire hazard, Schmidt said. "If there are open flames, it's possible something could catch on fire," he said.
Using gas ovens for heat also can result in a buildup of carbon monoxide, Bensenville Fire Chief Mike Spain warned. "We've gone in to houses where people are sick, and it was because the house was closed up and the fire from the stove puts off CO as a byproduct, and that can cause death," he said.
Food in the refrigerator should be safe as long as power is out no more than four hours. Discard any perishable food (meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that have been above 40 degrees for more than two hours.
Do five minutes of running in place or jumping jacks to warm up.
Make sure one person stays awake at all times to watch sources of heat.
With current temperatures, Naperville Fire Chief Mark Puknaitis said, health dangers are limited as it is unlikely an insulated house would drop below 50 degrees. But Monday night's temperatures were expected to drop into the teens.
As the temperatures drop, no one should plan to stay overnight in a house they know will not be heated.
"With the godawful temperatures, that can be catastrophic," Spain said.
Sources: libertymutual.com; urbansurvivalsite.com; foodsafety.gov