Massachusetts: MEMA issues power outage safety tips ahead of Sandy

“The severe winds associated with Hurricane Sandy have the potential to cause widespread power outages throughout the Commonwealth,” warned Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Director Kurt Schwartz.

“As we have experienced in recent years with a variety of storms, these strong winds will have the capability to topple utility poles and trees, as well as snap tree limbs causing them to fall on power lines and disrupt electrical service.”

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) has the following tips for dealing with a possible power outage:

  • Check flashlights and portable radios to ensure that they are working, and you have extra batteries.  A radio is an important source of critical weather and emergency information during a storm.
  • If your water supply could be affected by a power outage (a well-water pump system), fill your bathtub and spare containers with water.  Water in the bathtub should be used for sanitation purposes only, not as drinking water.  Pouring a pail of water from the tub directly into the bowl can flush a toilet.
  • Set your refrigerator and freezer to their coldest settings (remember to reset them back to normal once power is restored).  During an outage, do not open the refrigerator or freezer door unnecessarily.  Food can stay cold in a full refrigerator for up to 24 hours, and in a well-packed freezer for 48 hours (24 hours if it is half-packed).
  • If you have medication that requires refrigeration, check with your pharmacist for guidance on proper storage during an extended outage.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines when using a generator.  Always use outdoors, away from windows and doors. Carbon Monoxide (CO) fumes are odorless and can quickly accumulate indoors. Never try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator directly into household wiring, a practice known as “backfeeding.” This is extremely dangerous and presents an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbors served by the same utility transformer. It also bypasses some of the built-in household circuit protection devices.
  • Make sure your Smoke and Carbon Dioxide detectors have fresh batteries and are in working order.
  • In order to protect against possible voltage irregularities that can occur when power is restored, you should unplug all sensitive electronic equipment, including TVs, computers, stereo, DVR, VCR, microwave oven, cordless telephone, answering machine and garage door opener. (Review the process for manually operating an electric garage door.)
  • Be extra cautious when you go outside to inspect for damage after a storm.  Downed or hanging electrical wires can be hidden by trees or debris, and could be live.  Never attempt to touch or move downed lines, and keep children and pets away from them.  Do not touch anything power lines are touching, such as tree branches or fences.  Always assume a downed line is a live line.  Call your utility company to report any outage-related problem.


The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) is the state agency responsible for coordinating federal, state, local, voluntary and private resources during emergencies and disasters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. MEMA provides leadership to: develop plans for effective response to all hazards, disasters or threats; train emergency personnel to protect the public; provide information to the citizenry; and assist individuals, families, businesses and communities to mitigate against, prepare for, and respond to and recover from emergencies, both natural and man made. For additional information about MEMA and Storm Preparedness, go to www.mass.gov/mema.

Also, continue to follow MEMA updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MassEMA; Facebook at www.facebook.com/MassachusettsEMA; and YouTube at www.youtube.com/MassachusettsEMA.

About Garo Hagopian

Garo Hagopian has been a member of the WATD family as a weekend news anchor since 2008, and has been a writer-producer-editor at WBZ in Boston since 1996.