You're usually at the mercy of forces beyond your control when your power is out. A big storm, a fallen tree branch, a careless driver — all of the sudden, you're in the dark.
Alexandria, Va. gets 42 inches of rain each year, slightly above the U.S. average of 39 inches. Alexandria usually sees about 15 inches of snow, well below the national average. That doesn't mean the power never goes out in the Port City. In fact, over 3,000 people in Alexandria and Arlington lost power when a pole broke on Feb. 5, 2017, which is a big deal because it was Super Bowl Sunday. Poor timing for an outage, and a reminder that you can find the power is out at anytime.
Do some research beforehand. The Alexandria Fire Department has an emergency management page you should check out. Keep the Alexandria Public Works webpage in your bookmarks. Dominion Energy has a safety section online that you should review.
There are a few more things you should know when the lights go down in Alexandria.
Safety steps when the power is out
1. Check the fuse box or breaker panel.
Unsure of the source of your blackout? Check the the fuse box for flipped fuses. Educate yourself about which fuses connect to which circuits in your home. A local electrician can help your identify and label your circuits in advance of an electrical emergency. Clear any clutter around your fuse box to ensure easy access.
Pro tip: Store flashlights or head lamps with fresh batteries in an easily accessible location to help you find the fuse box in the dark — you don’t want to mess around in the junk drawer when you can’t see. A weather radio is always a good idea for getting updates during outages, too.
2. Unplug appliances.
Avoid frying your electronics and appliances. Disconnect devices when the electricity goes out. Flip the switches on your power strips to the "Off" position. You don't want to buy a new laptop or flat-screen TV when your power comes back on and fries your device.
Installing surge protectors in advance also helps. Having a portable cell phone charger on hand can help keep you connected to important weather updates — and even entertained — for the duration of a power outage.
Pro tip: Avoid opening your refrigerator or freezer for as long as possible. An unopened fridge can keep groceries cold for four hours, and a freezer can stay cold for two days, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Bonus pro tip — don’t eat anything that smells or looks funky after power is restored.
3. Stay aware of smells.
Notice the smell of gas or smoke when the power is out? Evacuate your home. Don’t forget your pets! Contact your utility company as soon as you can. If you observe a live wire, sparks or flames, maintain a wide berth and report the situation to your Dominion Energy and the Alexandria Police Department or Fire Department.
4. Avoid flammable light and heat sources.
Candles, kerosene lamps or other methods of using fire for light or heat during an outage can post a risk — especially using them in the dark. It may be tempting when the power is out to create a romantic mood with a few flickering flames, but it's dangerous. Never use a charcoal grill or other cooking method that relies on flammable fuel indoors.
5. Contact your Dominion Energy.
Dominion Energy is the power provider in Alexandria. Sometimes construction or utility work in the area — or even an ill-fated squirrel — can cause a disruption in service. Let Dominion know if the power is down. If you can access the internet, Dominion also provides an outage map.
Pro-tip: If someone who needs electricity to power medical devices lives in your home, consider installing a standby generator. Contact a qualified electrical repair service that deals with generators for advice on what model makes sense for your home. Never operate a generator indoors.
6. Make alternative arrangements.
Consider finding a temporary refuge if it's safe to be outdoors. Never leave children, the elderly, the infirm or pets in dangerous indoor conditions. Drink plenty of water. Organizations like the Red Cross should provide accommodations for people and pets.
Do you have an electrical problem?
Not every electrical problem is the result of an act of nature. Call John C. Flood when you have electrical issues in Alexandria. We specialize in attic and bath exhaust fans, backup generators, ceiling fans, dedicated circuits and subpanels, fixture replacement, fuse panel replacements, short circuit repairs, smoke detectors, surge suppression and much, much more. Check out our electrical services page or schedule service now.