How to keep your cool when the power is turned off – Longmont Times-Call

David Kennedy of Los Angeles cools off with a sip of water between calisthenics workouts at Warner Park in Woodland Hills. Summer may be coming to an end, but today a midsummer heat wave is hitting the Southland. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles Times (TNS)

Rising temperatures are once again pushing California’s power grid to its limits.

Meteorologists predict the state will suffer extreme heat this week, ushering in the longest heat wave of the year. Northern California, the Central Valley and the deserts of the Southwest in particular are bracing for dangerous temperatures during the July 4th long holiday weekend and into early next week.

The need for 24/7 cooling could strain the state’s utilities, and the increased risk of wildfires also threatens to force some precautionary power shutoffs. There are plenty of tips online for braving the heat, but many of them involve using electricity.

Here’s how to keep cool before and during a power outage.

How to prepare for a power outage

If you hear about a power outage in advance, try to cool your house as much as possible beforehand and do everything you can to keep it that way, said Joseph Riser, press secretary for the Los Angeles Emergency Management Department. During a Flex Alert, you should set your air conditioner to 78 or higher, or turn it off completely. But before the alert goes into effect, it’s OK to turn it up so the system doesn’t have to work as hard when you should be conserving power. Close blinds, curtains and doors to keep the cooler air in.

A battery-operated or rechargeable fan can be handy. Even a small handheld fan will help you feel more comfortable. Consider adding one to your emergency kit. If you have one that can be charged via USB, you can use power from a charged laptop or power bank to keep the fan running during an extended power outage.

Stay hydrated. Tap water will still be available — power outages don’t usually affect the functioning of the pipes — and is perfectly safe to drink in LA, Riser said. If you prefer water from your refrigerator filter, consider filling a few extra bottles in advance.

Sign up for alerts from your electric provider and bookmark their outage map page for the latest information. In much of Southern California, that’s Southern California Edison, which has an outage map here and allows you to sign up for email, text and phone alerts here. In the city of Los Angeles, you can view the LA Department of Water and Power’s outage map here and click here to sign up for alerts. Here’s where to find the outage map for San Diego Gas & Electric and how to download the app with alerts. And here’s where to find the outage map for Pacific Gas & Electric, which serves much of the rest of California, and where to sign up for those alerts.

How to stay cool during a power outage

Drink, drink, drink. With one big caveat: Ice cold water actually makes your body work harder, causing you to warm up, Riser said. Stick to cool or cold drinks, not ones that are a degree or two below glacial. And don’t forget to offer your pets plenty of water.

Cold compresses on the head and neck and cold showers or baths are other good ways to regulate your body temperature, although again, it’s better to go cool than freezing. If you don’t want to spend all day in the tub, you can put your feet in a bucket of cold water to cool down. If you have a spray bottle, you can fill it with cold water and spray it on yourself.

“Knowing your house” can help you avoid overheating, Riser said. Depending on how long the outage lasts and which direction your windows face, you may want to move to cooler spaces over time. Not many people in California have basements, but if you do, it probably won’t be as warm down there. If your house has multiple stories, the ground floor is better than the upper floors. If you know a breeze will come in at a certain time of day, open your window at that time to help cool your house. If you have a shaded area or even a pool in your backyard, it may be cooler outside than inside.

Keep an eye on the outside and inside temperatures throughout the day. When the outside temperatures drop, do the opposite of what you did before: open all the windows and doors and let the cooler air in. Or take the opportunity to go to a local park or other shady outdoor spot.

Riser also recommends checking to see if local relatives and friends still have power. You may decide to stay with them for a few hours or overnight. You may also consider visiting a cooling center, your local library, or a restaurant or movie theater if you can afford it. Signing up for alerts from your power company will also help you keep track of how long the power is expected to be out and when you might be able to go home again.

What you should not do in the event of a power outage:

  • Imagine an open refrigerator: while it’s understandably tempting, it doesn’t do much to regulate your body temperature and you risk all your food spoiling.
  • Run a gasoline-powered generator indoors: Never.
  • Cooking with gas appliances: Even if you have a working gas stove or oven, avoid cooking inside if you want to keep temperatures as low as possible.
  • Lighting candles: They pose a fire hazard. If you need light, opt for battery-operated sources.

Signs of heat-related illness

If you can’t turn on your air conditioner and it’s sweltering outside, you’re at risk for heat-related illness. Here’s what the signs are, what to do if they occur, and when it’s time to go to the emergency room or call 911. Never hesitate to call emergency services if you’re feeling seriously ill, Riser said, even if it’s another emergency like a power outage.

  • Heat cramps: Heavy sweating during intense exercise. Muscle pain or cramps. What to do: Stop exercising. Move to a cool place. Drink water or a beverage with electrolytes. When to seek help: If cramps last longer than an hour, if you are on a low-sodium diet, or if you have heart problems.
  • Heat exhaustion: Heavy sweating. Cold, pale, and clammy skin. Fast, weak pulse. Nausea or vomiting. Muscle cramps. Tiredness or weakness. Dizziness. Headache. Fainting.What to do: Move to a cool place. Loosen your clothing. Apply cold compresses or take a cold bath. Drink water in small sips.When to seek help: If you vomit, your symptoms get worse, or last for more than an hour.
  • Heat stroke: Body temperature of 103 degrees or higher. Hot, red, dry, or clammy skin. Fast, strong pulse. Headache. Dizziness. Nausea. Confusion. Fainting.When to call 911: Immediately. Heat stroke is a medical emergency. Do not give a person who has experienced heat stroke anything to drink. Move them to a cooler place and use cold compresses or a cold bath to lower their temperature.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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