What to have handy at home in the event of a power outage during an ice storm

CINCINNATI -- With freezing rain leaving most of the Tri-State under an Ice Storm Warning until Wednesday morning, power outages are a real possibility.

Ice-covered branches may pull down utility wires and cold temperatures could leave residents shivering.

During the winter months, and given enough time, experts advise trimming tree branches to prevent them from falling on power lines. Also, cleaning gutters is key. "Ice dams" can form on roofs and gutters due to freezing temperatures outside mixing with the warmth of your home. Those dams, or pools of frozen water formed above, can fall when slamming a door.

PHOTOS: Snow, ice hammer Tri-State

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says to assemble a disaster supply kit. The kit should have non-perishable food items, water, a first aid kit and other time-sensitive items. FEMA said that this kit should be on-hand year-round. Don't forget about the essentials for babies, the disabled, the elderly and for pets.

It is advised to keep blankets and pillows, flashlights, batteries, medications, cash, tools and extra clothes handy. Keep a portable radio nearby to listen to weather updates and have your cell phone fully charged. On the way home, check your gas tank. Make sure to have at least half a tank of gas in your car.

Fill spare containers with water for washing. Switch off lights and appliances to prevent overloading circuits and damaging appliances once the electricity is restored. 

To prevent pipes from freezing, let water trickle out of the faucet. Close the door to unused rooms to keep heat enclosed in necessary rooms. Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed. If you lose power, frozen food will generally keep for 48 hours. Discard perishable food that has been at 40 degrees for more than two hours. Odor or appearance is not an indicator that food is safe. When in doubt, throw it out, FEMA said.

If you have a generator, never run a generator inside. Always keep running generators in an open and ventilated area. Do not directly connect the generator to your home's wiring. Plug all necessary appliances directly into the generator. When a generator is connected to a home's wiring, it can create a "back feed" into utility lines which can injure anyone who is working to restore the power.

If you use an emergency-heating source such as a wood stove, kerosene heater or fireplace, keep fuels and flammables away from the source and ventilate properly, FEMA said. Use in moderation.

Do not use kerosene, grills or other outdoor heating devices indoors. You'll create toxic fumes or carbon monoxide, which can cause serious injury or death.

"Restoring power after an ice storm can be challenging as travel conditions are poor. Before power can be restored, crews first assess damage and determine what crews, equipment and supplies will be needed to make repairs," said Duke Energy. "Because of this, customers may see damage assessors patrolling their neighborhoods before crews arrive to begin work."

Follow these tips to help ensure the safety of your family from freezing temperatures and the possibility of power outages. Check with Duke Energy for power outages in your area. Customers who experience an outage can call Duke Energy's reporting system.

Duke Energy Ohio/Kentucky: 1-800-543-5599

Duke Energy Indiana: 1-800-343-3525

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