Air pipes

How to prevent pipes from freezing, other safety tips

With the winter storm predicted this weekDuke Energy, AES Indiana and Citizens Energy are warning their central Indiana customers about the risk of power outages and frozen lines.

But as the Hoosiers prepare to retreat, they can take steps to keep their home safe as well as their water and electricity.

Winter weather: A winter storm warning has been issued for central Indiana. Here’s what that means.

Before the storm

While snow alone generally has little impact on the electrical system, Duke Energy said, the addition of sleet and high winds can bring down trees, branches and power lines.

Duke and AES Indiana said crews and contractors are ready to respond to the outages. Duke even brought in 300 additional out-of-state utility workers to supplement local crews. But those workers will also face dangerous driving conditions that could delay their ability to assess storm damage and restore power.

Here are some tips on what you can do before the storm hits:

  • Make sure you have an emergency storm kit ready and available. This kit should include a battery or solar powered radio, mobile device chargers, flashlights, batteries, non-perishable food items, water, face coverings and a first aid kit.
  • Identify alternative housing in case your family is significantly affected by a power outage, especially if a member is elderly or has special medical needs.
  • Bookmark your utility’s outage page on your mobile device, or download the app, for quick access to report outages and get updates.
  • Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they are working properly, and make sure you have both types of alarms on every level of your home.

What to do if your power goes out

In the event of a power outage during a winter storm, don’t panic. We have some tips for you on what to do:

  • The first step is to report the outage immediately, AES Indiana said: “Don’t rely on your neighbors to report your outage.” There are several ways to do this, for example through your mobile utility application. For duke energycustomers can also report a power line outage or outage by texting “OUT” to 57801 or calling 800-343-3525. AES Indiana customers can call 317-261-8111.
  • Turn off all appliances – including your furnace, radiators, water heater and water pump – leaving just one light on to know when power is restored. This will help avoid a circuit overload that can occur when power is restored to all devices at the same time.
  • Keep freezer and refrigerator doors closed. A fully loaded freezer will keep food frozen for 36-48 hours.
  • Stay away from downed and sagging power lines. Consider all lines, and any trees or branches in contact with them, potentially live. If a power line crosses your car, stay inside. If you must get out, jump out of the car and land on both feet – make sure no part of your body is touching the car when your feet touch the ground.
  • Stay patient. Each utility has detailed plans to help restore power as quickly as possible and must follow a process to do so safely.

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How to heat your home safely

Beyond the snow and freezing rain, temperatures are expected to drop below freezing and possibly even below zero overnight. Whether or not you have electricity, you can take precautions to ensure you are heat your home safely:

  • Use only approved fuel-burning space heaters indoors, as they can create deadly carbon monoxide. If you start to feel dizzy, weak, confused or sleepy, it could be a sign of carbon monoxide poisoning — get fresh air immediately and call 911.
  • If you have lost power, do not use grills or other outdoor appliances indoors for heating or cooking. These devices can emit carbon dioxide (returning to the previous tip to make sure your detectors are ready to go).
  • Also, don’t heat your home with a gas oven. Long-term, continuous use can also create a buildup of carbon monoxide in the home.
  • Exercise caution when using any type of heater, creating a three foot safety zone around the heater. Be especially careful to keep it away from anything that burns, such as curtains, furniture, and bedding.
  • If you use kerosene heaters, never refuel inside the house and provide adequate ventilation.

Ways to avoid frozen pipes

As temperatures drop, it also increases the risk of your home’s pipes freezing. However, owners can take certain steps to prevent this from happening.

For prevent pipes from freezing:

  • If the indoor temperature drops to 55 degrees, open your faucets slightly so they drip constantly.
  • If possible, insulate pipes that may be exposed to cold air.
  • Open the cabinet doors under the sinks to allow hot air to circulate around the pipes.
  • Make sure your water meter pit cover is tightly closed. If your water meter is in the basement, make sure the room is heated and check for broken windows.
  • If you have piping in the garage, make sure the garage doors stay closed and try to insulate the pipes.
  • Know where your water shut-off valve is so you can turn off the water quickly in the event of a burst pipe. These valves can be located in a variety of locations, including the garage, basement, utility closet, or the main water line entrance into the home.

In the event that you identify a frozen pipe, here is what Citizens Energy recommends you do:

  • Turn off the water at the shutoff valve.
  • Open the faucet attached to the frozen pipe to allow water to flow and relieve pressure buildup. Running water through the pipe will also help melt any remaining ice.
  • Apply gradual heat to the frozen section of pipe. This can be done by wrapping the pipes in bath towels or using a heater to heat the area where the pipes are. Continue to apply heat until water pressure is restored and water is flowing freely. Make sure to never apply direct heat to the affected area.
  • If a pipe is bulging or you cannot find the location of the blockage, call a licensed plumber.

Call IndyStar reporter Sarah Bowman at 317-444-6129 or email [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook: @IndyStarSarah. Connect with IndyStar environmental journalists: Join The Scrub on Facebook.

The IndyStar Environmental Reporting Project is made possible through the generous support of the non-profit Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.