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What to do before, during and after a power outage

What could turn out to be an epic storm is bearing down on Western New York, accompanied by predictions of hurricane-strength winds, downed trees and power outages throughout the region.

New York State Electric & Gas has prepared additional resources, and National Grid has nearly 2,100 line, service and tree workers pre-positioned this weekend, ready to go to work to restore power.

"The best thing to do is be prepared," said National Grid spokesman Dave Bertola. "If you need something, now is the time to find out."

What do homeowners need to do to be prepared? NYSEG has an answer for that. Click on the link to read their lengthy list of suggestions in full; find a sampling of the tips below.

When you're expecting a storm

• Have flashlights, a battery-operated radio or television and batteries on hand.

• Make sure you have a good stash of nonperishable food — and a manual can opener — as well as bottled water for drinking and cooking.

• Set freezer and refrigerator controls to their coldest setting. If power goes out, your food will last longer if it starts out colder.

• If you have a landline, make sure you'll have a telephone that works without power, and make sure that your cellphone is charged.

• If this one matters to you, it really matters to you, so I'll let NYSEG say it: "If someone in your home depends on life-sustaining equipment powered by electricity, call us now. It’s your responsibility to provide an emergency power source during any unplanned power interruption. You should also have a back-up evacuation plan."

If you lose power

• Check to see if power is out to your neighbors. No? Check your fuse box and circuit breakers to see if that's the problem. If power is out to your neighborhood, call your utility.

• Check your local news sources for storm and outage updates. (Here's where that battery-powered radio from above comes in handy. Think you don't have one? If you have a car, you do.)

• Turn off all major appliances to keep circuits from being overloaded when service is restored — but remember to leave a light on so you know when that happens.

• Leave your fridge closed to keep your food as cold as possible for as long as possible.

• Stay far away from downed power lines, even if they look harmless or dead. Report them to utilities as soon as you see them.

• Basement flooded? Stay out and call your utility immediately.

If you lose power in the winter

• Again, this one's important, so straight from NYSEG: "NEVER use a natural gas oven for heating and never use charcoal indoors for cooking or heating. In either case, carbon monoxide poisoning could occur." Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, confusion and blurred vision.

• If power's going to be off for a while, find another place to stay — whether it's with family, friends, a hotel or a shelter.

• Wear layers of clothes and a hat. Use blankets. Whatever you do, keep warm. Hypothermia, caused by exposure to cold, is especially a concern for the very young and the elderly. Warning signs of hypothermia include slurred speech, drowsiness and disorientation.

• Burn wood, and only wood, in your fireplace. And use a screen while you're at it.

• Close off unused rooms and close your drapes to keep heat from escaping your home as much as possible.

• Leave your taps open just a trickle to keep water flowing in pipes and prevent their freezing.

If you use a generator

• Make sure it's running in a dry, well-ventilated area — that's not your garage.

• Don't put too many appliances on one generator.

• Don't let your kids play near your generator.

After power is restored

• Turn appliances on one at a time to avoid overloading your circuits.

• Reset your refrigerator and freezer controls to normal.

• If your neighbors get their power back, but you don’t, report it.

Click here to read the full list from NYSEG.

News Staff Reporter Barbara O'Brien contributed to this report.

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