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Oklahomans don’t have to be left in the dark when the lights go out during a wildfire or other emergency.


“Treat power outages like any other potential emergency by doing as much advanced preparation and planning as possible,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Extension housing and consumer specialist. “Knowing ahead of time what to do and where to go will help you better manage during and after a power failure.”


Start by assembling or restocking an emergency preparedness kit with important supplies such as nonperishable food, a can opener, water, a flashlight, extra batteries, cash and first-aid medical supplies.


Consider electricity-dependent amenities that normally might be overlooked, such as electric garage door openers – find the manual release lever for the mechanism and know how to operate it. As for the car inside the garage, make sure the gas tank is full and all cell phones are completely charged.


“Be sure family members who rely on battery-operated or power-dependent items such as medical devices are included in the emergency plan,” Peek said.


During a power outage, rely on flashlights for emergency lighting rather than candles, which could create additional fire hazards.


Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed to preserve chilled and frozen foods for as long as possible. Most refrigerated food items can be kept safely for about four hours in a closed refrigerator, while food in a full freezer will maintain its temperature for about 48 hours. Other appliances should be turned off or disconnected to guard against potential power surges that could damage them.


Because heat normally rises, during a power outage in Oklahoma’s hot weather it can help to move to the lowest level of the house. Lightweight, light-colored clothing should be chosen for similar reasons. A trip to a shopping mall or other public place with power might be in order.


After the emergency passes, check the refrigerator and freezer for spoiled food items. Perishable food that has been kept at 40 degrees or more for at least two hours should be thrown away. If the food has been exposed to temperatures of 90 degrees or more, it should be discarded after one hour. Also discard any food that smells odd or is an unusual color or texture.


Items in a freezer that are colder than 40 degrees and covered with ice crystals can be safely refrozen, although you may find the quality has deteriorated when they are used.


“Check with your doctor or a pharmacist if you think any of your medications were spoiled or compromised as a result of the power outage,” Peek said.


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