Don't be (totally) in the dark; Tips for when the power goes out

As the National Weather Service forecasts devastating winds, rain and the possibility of snow for parts of Pennsylvania as a result of Hurricane Sandy, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today provided tips for those residents who may lose electrical power.

When the lights go out

•Call your utility. Don't expect that others in your neighborhood have already called. Due to the severity of some of the damage, some areas may be without power until the weekend. Your utility can provide you with the most up-to-date information on when to expect power to be restored. •

Check on elderly neighbors and those with special needs who might need additional assistance. •Use a phone that does not require electricity to work. A cellular phone or corded phone on a landline will work. Remember a cordless phone won't work without electricity. •Turn off lights and electrical appliances except for the refrigerator and freezer. When power comes back on, it may come back with momentary "surges" or "spikes" that can damage equipment. After you turn the lights off, turn one lamp on so you will know when power is restored.

Wait at least 15 minutes after power is restored before turning on other appliances. •Only use a flashlight or battery-operated lanterns for emergency lighting. Do not use candles. •Avoid opening the refrigerator and freezer. Food can stay cold for a couple of hours if the doors remain closed. For longer outages, plan to place refrigerator and freezer items in coolers with ice. If in doubt, throw it out. The state Department of Agriculture has more information on food safety. •If you are going to use a generator, do not run it inside a home or garage. If you use a generator, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect a generator to a home's electrical system. Generators also should not be run near any open windows or other areas where carbon monoxide may travel into the home such as air vents. Driving during a power outage

•Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic signals will stop working during an outage, creating traffic congestion. If traffic lights are out, treat all intersections as four-way stops. It's required by law for safety. •Stay away from downed power lines and sagging trees with broken limbs. Downed power lines

•Don't touch or get near any fallen lines. •Stay away from objects or puddles in contact with downed power lines. •Notify the utility company. •Never try to remove trees or limbs from power lines. Flooding and electric power

•Avoid downed utility lines and standing water because "hot wires" could exist below the water line. •If your home has sustained flood or water damage, and you can safely get to the main breaker or fuse box, turn off the power. •Do not turn off the power if you are wet or standing in water. •If electrical service has not been disconnected at the home, avoid standing water – again there may be some hot wires below the water line. •Submerged fuse boxes and all of their contents must be replaced. Allow time for drying and then spray them with contact cleaner or lubricant. •Don't turn the electricity back on until the whole system has been checked by a licensed electrician. Flooding and natural gas safety

•If your house has flooded and any of your natural gas appliances (including furnaces, boilers, water heaters and dryers) have been affected, they may not be safe to use. Contact a licensed gas technician or HVAC contractor for an inspection. •If you smell gas, or if flood waters have risen above your gas meter and regulator set, leave your house and call 911 or your gas company immediately. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities to ensure safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protect the public interest; educate consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; further economic development; and foster new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner. For recent news releases, video and audio of select Commission proceedings or more information about the PUC, visit our website at