Over the holidays, many people throughout the United States were affected by power outages during frigid temperatures made even lower by the windchill. Many folks in Western North Carolina also struggled with cold temps and power outages, as remote power conservation measures took place to lessen the stress on the power grid. Some people were without power for only an hour or so, but others were without power for even longer than that.

During the winter, when the power goes out, it can be catastrophic, with children and the elderly being most likely affected by outages. The incidence of cold-related illnesses and injuries such as hypothermia and frostbite increases during extremely cold weather, which is why it’s important to be prepared if and when another winter power outage strikes. Keep reading below to learn how you can keep your family safe and warm if it happens again.

• Prepare, prepare, prepare.

Many people don’t think about extreme weather events until they happen. However, it’s better safe than sorry to prepare in advance for another winter power outage. Ensuring there are enough blankets, warm clothing layers, non-perishable food, and water supplies, enough medications if applicable, and an emergency plan to seek warmer shelter if the power outage is extended can not only protect you and your family from cold-related illnesses and injuries but possibly save their lives too. Don’t forget about pets either if you have them! Keep devices charged and have a backup power supply for them if possible (battery pack, charging bank, etc) so if there’s an emergency, you can get help and stay in contact with friends and other loved ones.

• Consider alternate places for shelter.

In the event of extreme cold or extended power and water outages, think about other places you and your family could stay temporarily if the power or water goes out. This could be another family member’s home, a friend, or a public heated shelter or neighborhood warming center that may be of great help during extenuating and extended power outages.

• Have at least one carbon monoxide detector in your home.

During power outages, people may use alternative sources of heating if they have them, such as a wood-burning stove, battery or fuel-operated heaters, or something else that could cause carbon monoxide levels in the home to spike if you’re not careful. Install carbon monoxide alarms, especially in areas such as bedrooms where you and your family sleep so if it detects a high amount of carbon monoxide, the chances of you hearing the alarm are greater so it will wake you and your family up before it is too late.

• If you have a backup generator, ensure you have enough fuel so it can keep running throughout the power outage.

If the power outage is widespread in your neighborhood, local gas stations or propane/kerosene fueling stations may be offline too. Part of preparing is to make sure you have backups of supplies, and having enough fuel to run generators is part of it.

To learn more about how to keep your family warm and protect them from the effects of a winter power outage, click here.